Why Is My Dog Breathing Heavy?
Heavy breathing in dogs and puppies is characterized by rapid, laboured, or struggled breaths. Although this is a normal response if your dog has been playing or is trying to cool down, there are some situations where it can be concerning.
Fast and heavy breathing may be a sign of another serious health issue, or if severe enough, can be a sign that your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen to their tissues and organs.
What Causes Heavy Breathing In Dogs?
Since dogs can’t sweat, panting helps keep them cool after exercise or when they are in a hot environment. Certain dog breeds like french bulldogs and pugs may breathe heavier due to their shorter snouts.
However, there are certain conditions and illnesses that can cause heavy breathing in dogs, such as:
- Respiratory conditions, including chronic bronchitis
- Fluid in lungs or lung cavity
- Heart failure
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Poisoning from consuming a toxic substance1
- Side effects of medications
Heavy Breathing Vs. Normal Breathing In Dogs
In healthy dogs, normal breathing shouldn’t be laboured. A normal rate of breathing for dogs is between 10 and 35 breaths per minute, and the average dog takes about 24 breaths per minute at rest.3 If your dog displays consistently heavy breathing at rest, it may be indicative of a serious health issue.
Heavy Breathing In Puppies
In general, puppies have higher respiratory rates and heart rates compared to adult dogs. A normal breathing rate for a puppy is between 15-40 breaths per minute.4
Puppies tend to breathe more rapidly when sleeping which is likely a response to what they are dreaming about. This usually happens in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of the sleep cycle, and may be accompanied by whimpers or leg movements—all of which are completely normal.5
Younger dogs are at a higher risk of developing infections and disease that affect the respiratory tract, so if you suspect your puppy’s breathing is outside of the norm, take them to the vet as soon as possible.6
When To Be Concerned About Your Dog’s Heavy Breathing
It’s normal for dogs to pant or breathe heavily after exercising (walking or running), playing, or if they are in a hot environment where they need to cool down. In most cases, it is no cause for alarm.
However, you should be concerned about your dog’s breathing if:
1. Your dog is breathing heavy at rest
If your dog is breathing heavy at rest, it can be a red flag for a number of serious health issues. Keep an eye on your dog’s breathing, and if the problem seems persistent, take them to the vet.
2. Your dog is displaying pale or blue gums while breathing heavy
If your dog’s gums are pale or turning blue, seek medical attention right away. This is a sign that your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen and can be a life-threatening situation.
3. Your dog is panting with a closed or partially open mouth
While panting is normal in dogs, if your dog is breathing heavily with a closed mouth or just a partially open mouth, it can be a sign of something more serious and should receive medical attention.7
4. Your dog is coughing and breathing heavy
If your dog is coughing and breathing heavy, it may be a sign of chronic bronchitis or another serious respiratory issue.
5. Your dog appears to be in distress
A dog in distress may be restless, have little to no appetite, and try to hide. Your dog may show other signs of stress such as tucking the tail between the legs and ears that are pinned back rather than being relaxed.8
If your dog is breathing heavy in addition to showing signs of distress, take them to the vet as soon as possible.
6. Your dog is making other noises while breathing heavy
If your dog is having difficulty breathing, they may also make other noises such as snorting, wheezing, or retching. These are common symptoms associated with other respiratory conditions like chronic bronchitis.
Treatment For Heavy Breathing In Dogs
Treatment for heavy breathing in dogs will vary depending on the underlying cause. Listen to your vet’s advice and administer treatment to your dog as instructed.
For dogs with respiratory problems, they may require special medications like corticosteroids and/or bronchodilators to help them breathe easier and manage their symptoms. Your dog may need oxygen therapy to stabilize their condition and ensure they are getting enough oxygen to their organs.
The AeroDawg* Chamber is specially designed to administer aerosol bronchodilators or corticosteroids for dogs with chronic bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, collapsed trachea, or other respiratory conditions.
Pay Attention To Your Dog’s Breathing
Although it’s completely normal for dogs to pant and breathe heavily from time to time, it can be a sign of a serious (and even life-threatening) issue. Pay attention to your dog’s breathing and look for other signs that may indicate a more serious issue.
Take the Canine Bronchitis Assessment to see if your dog could have chronic bronchitis.