Animals with respiratory distress are – regardless of the underlying cause – emergency patients and the initial approach to these patients determines their prognosis and survival. Animals with respiratory distress are stressed which makes most diagnostic procedures either impossible or contraproductive. By localizing the respiratory problem using the initial clinical examination of the animal, the clinician can narrow down the causes of the respiratory distress. Looking at the type of respiration and dyspnoea as well as using auscultation results and information from the animal’s history, the problem can be reduced to one localisation, thereby limiting the possible differential diagnoses. This allows the clinician to institute not only supportive measures such as oxygen supplementation, stress-free handling or analgesia, but also a more specific therapy of the problem causing the respiratory distress. The stabilised animal can then undergo further diagnostic procedures and receive specific treatment.