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Why is Your Dog Breathing Heavily?

Should You Worry If Your Dog Is Breathing Heavily?

Disclaimer: Our content is always reviewed and approved by a professional veterinarian. However, we recommend always reaching out to your dog's vet for any advice regarding your pup.

Do you often feel your dog breathing heavily?

Dogs can breathe heavily for many reasons. Some of the most common are heat, fatigue, anxiety, respiratory infections, and heart disease.

But don’t panic! In this post, we’ll explore why dogs sometimes breathe heavily and what you should do if your dog starts breathing this way.

Why Dogs Breathe Heavily

Dogs breathe fast and heavily (panting) when they’re excited or have just finished exercising.

This is normal behavior! So, before you start imagining 1001 different illnesses your dog can be suffering from (I’m super guilty of this myself, my dog is my baby and I worry all the time), think about it for a second:

Do the circumstances ask for heavier breathing? Have you been playing with your pup, or has he been running around for a bit?

If so, it’s nothing to worry about. Also, if your dog is older, lighter forms of exercising like a simple walk outside can be tiring and cause that faster breathing. Keep this in mind.

If, however, you feel like there’s no reason why your dog’s breathing should be altered, then it’s time to examine what could be causing that heavy breathing.

There could be different causes for this behavior.

Some are more serious than others, so it’s a good idea to take your dog to the vet if you feel like he’s been breathing heavily for a while now and for no apparent reason.

But let’s take a step back for a moment.

What causes dogs to breathe heavily? There are many possible reasons for this behavior but some of the most common reasons can be:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Respiratory Disorders
  3. Heart Conditions
  4. Heatstroke

1. Anxiety

Dogs often breathe heavier when they’re anxious or afraid.

If your dog is panting, it may be because he’s stressed about something in his environment.

If your dog starts breathing heavily, look for signs of why he might be anxious, and see if you can remove the cause of his anxiety.

If he’s anxious about a person or animal in your house, for example, it might be because they’re there without permission. Try to see what you can do about that.

Also, try to comfort your dog with affectionate patting while talking softly until he calms down.

If anxiety is a recurring problem with your furry friend, you should consult a vet to see what can be done to help your pup be less anxious. If you’re interested, you can try talking to your vet about natural remedies to help with anxiety like CBD.

2. Respiratory Disorders

Many respiratory disorders can cause heavy breathing in dogs, like asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and laryngeal paralysis.

If your dog is breathing heavily for no reason or has difficulty getting his breath back after a few minutes of heavy panting, he might have one of these disorders.

Get him to the vet if you think this could be why he’s having trouble breathing!

3. Heart Conditions

Heart failure is a serious condition! And heavy breathing could be a sign of that.

When the heart isn’t functioning right, oxygen distribution to all the major organs is impaired. Dogs feel this and breathe heavier to compensate for the lack of oxygen they are receiving.

If along with heavier breathing, your dog is coughing, it could be a sign of heart failure, and you need to take him to the vet asap.

4. Heatstroke

Possibly the most dangerous cause. Heatstroke happens fast and needs to be dealt with ASAP.

Heatstroke is a condition in which a dog’s body overheats to a point when the dog is no longer able to cool himself down and self-regulate his temperature.

This might come as a surprise (or not), but dogs don’t sweat! Panting is their way of cooling down their bodies.

So when it’s too hot, you’ll notice your dog panting more or breathing heavily to cool down. This is normal as long as it’s not excessive.

If by observing your dog, you feel like he’s not being able to cool down or he’s experiencing symptoms like excessive drooling, mental dullness, and in some cases loss of consciousness and collapse, he might be suffering from a heatstroke.

You’ll need to take your dog to the vet urgently. Heatstroke can be fatal.

Before you leave the house, make sure to wet a bunch of towels and put them over your dog on your way to the vet to help the body temperature drop.

Also, make sure to remove the towels once they start to get warm. If you don’t, the warm towels will end up adding to the problem because they will create a heat barrier.

Should You Worry If Your Dog is Breathing Heavily?

You should definitely worry if there is no apparent reason for the heavy breathing.

By this I mean, if your dog has been sitting still for a while and if there is nothing around him that could be causing anxiety.

If he starts breathing heavily out of nowhere and it’s a behavior that doesn’t seem to stop, there could be a serious condition causing it.

What To Do If Your Dog Breathes Heavily

So, what should you do if your dog starts breathing weird?

First of all, do you notice any other symptoms that could help you zone in on a cause?

Is your dog coughing or drooling excessively? Does he seem a little out of it, or is he acting completely normal?

Depending on that, you can either take your pup straight to the vet if – you feel like something serious is going on – or give your vet a quick call and ask for advice on what to do first.

Just remember that if it’s heatstroke (or if you suspect it to be), you need to take your dog to the vet URGENTLY!

Closing Thoughts

Dogs pant naturally to cool themselves down or when they are being active, just like humans. It’s completely normal behavior.

Exaggerated panting and heavy breathing, though, is a sign that something else is going on with your pup, and you have to investigate.

Asking your vet for help might be the way to go if you’re unsure what to do or if you feel like there’s something seriously wrong with your furry friend.

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