Why Is My Dog Breathing Heavy?
Has your dog been breathing heavy, and you don’t know why? Find out why your dog’s panting is a little more than normal with this guide from Finn.
We’ve all heard our doggos panting heavily after a session of extreme zoomies at the local park. It’s a raspy and exerted breath that’s typically the result of a bout of exercise, warm weather, or even a little stress. But when should your dog’s heavy breathing raise a red flag?
Fortunately for you, Finn put together a guide on all things heavy breathing, like causes, when you should be concerned, and what to do if your dog is panting heavily.
What Are the Common Causes of Heavy Breathing in Dogs?
There are several reasons why your dog might be breathing heavily. You’ll want to pay attention to what’s going on environmentally when your dog starts to pant. If you notice your doggo panting for an abnormally long period or out of the blue, call your pup’s vet.
Warm or Humid Weather
Your dog’s heavy breathing could simply result from hot weather. Since dogs can’t sweat, heavy panting helps to keep them cool. The rapid inhaling allows them to humidify and then exhale the air, which can cause water to evaporate from your dog’s nose and lungs. That evaporation of water then cools their bodies from the inside. Pretty neat, huh?
Don’t be alarmed if you catch your dog panting excessively on a hot summer day. Just make sure to provide them with plenty of fresh water to quench their thirst and make up for the water that they’ve used up. If possible, set them up for success with a shaded area where they can get some relief from the sun if they want it.
Dogs breathe heavily after exercising, just like humans. They’re simply just trying to catch their breath. This type of heavy breathing is not typically cause for concern.
If your dog is running around at a park, make sure to supply them with moments of rest and plenty of water. You’ll want to make sure your doggo is getting an opportunity to cool down.
To help your dog cool down, consider the following:
- A pat down with a moist, cool towel
- Moving your pup into a shady area
- A slow walk to lessen their body temperature and slow their heart rate
- Water in small increments at a time, as big gulps could lead to bloating or vomiting
- A muscle rub-down
Dogs express their excitement through panting. It’s a completely normal behavioral response.
Generally speaking, you might see your canine companion start to pant when you show up to their favorite park, they’re greeted by another furry friend, they’re given their favorite plush toy, or they’re about to eat a meal. This type of panting is typically not a reason to call your vet.
As cute as those squished faces can be, certain breeds like the French bulldog and pugs are prone to heavy and sometimes difficult breathing. Brachycephalic dogs (short-snouted breeds) have shorter breathing airways which can cause heavy, labored breathing.
Because of their narrowed nostrils, palate size, and abnormally small windpipes, brachycephalic breeds sometimes experience partial obstruction of the upper airway, which makes breathing difficult.
On a serious note, your dog’s heavy breathing could be the result of something more urgent. A heavy pant can indicate that your dog is overheating or experiencing heatstroke.
Other symptoms of heatstroke are glassy eyes, weakness or disorientation, a quickened heart rate, drooling, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, or a fever. If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms directly correlated with a heavy pant, consult your vet.
To prevent heatstroke, follow some of the tips and tricks from above. Make sure your dog takes a break from the sun and drinks plenty of cool water.
If your dog is sick, it can typically cause a heavy pant. Here are some examples of illnesses that could be the reason behind your doggo’s heavy breathing.
Heart Failure: Symptoms of heart failure are difficulty breathing, reduced exercise tolerance, and coughing.
Respiratory Issues: Respiratory disorders like laryngeal paralysis, pneumonia, and other lung issues frequently lead to heavy breathing. Be on the lookout for wheezing, blue gums, gagging, and nasal congestion in addition to a heavy pant.
An injury might also be the reason that your dog is breathing heavily. Since dogs can’t properly communicate to their pet parents when they’re experiencing tension, it comes out in other ways.
Tail-wagging, heavy breathing or panting, a reduced appetite, and restlessness could all be signs that your dog is in distress. Licking or biting at the site of discomfort is also a strong tell that your dog needs veterinary attention.
Heavy breathing is sometimes a side effect of certain pet medications. Prednisone, specifically, will lead to panting in your pet. Make sure you read up on the side effects of your dog’s medication before giving it to them, so you’re not caught off guard. Discuss these side effects with your vet as well.
Heavy Breathing vs. Normal Breathing
Let’s discuss what normal breathing is compared to heavy breathing.
Obviously, normal breathing shouldn’t be labored at all. It should be a consistent breath, just like breathing in humans. Dogs’ normal breathing rate is between 10 and 35 breaths per minute, and the average dog takes about 24 breaths per minute at rest.
If your dog is resting but breathing heavily, consult a vet. This could be a sign of an underlying medical issue.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Breathing Heavily
If your dog is breathing heavy, don’t freak out! As we’ve mentioned, there are plenty of reasons why your dog might be panting. It’s normal for dogs to breathe heavily in warm weather, after exercise or play, and out of excitement.
It’s not normal for dogs to breathe heavily if they’ve been resting for a while, are simultaneously displaying pale or blue gums, have a closed or partially closed mouth, appear to be anxious, or are making other types of noises like snorting, wheezing, or retching. If this is the case, take your dog to their vet or an emergency clinic and get to the bottom of what’s going on.
If you’re on your way to help, there are things you can do in the meantime. If you’re in the car, make sure you pump the AC to cool your pup down. Provide your pup with small amounts of water to keep them hydrated. You can even place a cold towel on your dog’s neck, chest, and head. Give them a few ice cubes to lick while you’re in transit or another frozen treat to keep them comfortable.
To conclude, heavy breathing in dogs can be both normal and abnormal.
- A normal pant can result from warm weather, excitement, exercise, play, and genetic predisposition.
- A troubling pant can result from heatstroke, illness, injury, or a medication side effect. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.
If your dog is experiencing a heavy breath and you can’t tell why, take them to a vet. In the meantime, keep them cool and hydrated, and make sure the water you’re providing them isn’t ice cold, as cold water can restrict their blood vessels.