Dog Breathing Heavily: 8 Reasons & What to Do

If you have noticed that your dog seems to be breathing heavier than usual and their labored breathing is not directly related to exercise or play, then it could be cause for concern, as it could be something more sinister, such as heat stroke, an allergic reaction, a blood disorder, lung disease, respiratory problems, or even something trapped in the dog’s mouth. There is a huge difference between normal panting, which is a dog’s equivalent of sweating and heavy breathing, especially when it seems to be almost continuous.

In order to figure out whether or not your dog’s heavy breathing or rapid breathing should be cause for concern, you need to compare it to his normal breathing rate. Generally speaking, a dog’s regular and normal breathing rate will be somewhere between 10 and 35 breaths per minute. And this is what healthy breathing will look like when a dog is at rest. If your dog is running around, chasing squirrels or playing, then understandably his breathing rate will increase quite significantly immediately afterward and may have some difficulty breathing. But even a panting dog will normally not take more than 100–300 breaths per minute and that will only be when the weather is hotter than usual, or they are engaging in some kind of activity.

Heavy breathing in dogs can be a real worry for dog owners and murphy’s law seems to dictate that canine issues always seem to rear their ugly heads right in the middle of the night when the veterinary office is closed until the morning. Fortunately, heavy breathing can be rectified quickly and effectively as soon as any potential underlying causes are pinpointed. Treating the source of this concerning symptom is going to be your key to success with regards to providing your dog with a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Here are eight possible reasons why your dog could be breathing heavy and what you can do to offer him relief.

Anxiety and Stress

Canine anxiety is something that is overlooked way too often but could lead to difficulty breathing or similar breathing problems. Even though we can sense so many similarities between our pets—and ourselves—we often forget that any puppy too can suffer from human problems like insomnia, stress, and anxiety. It seems almost comical that our pampered pooches can ever experience anxiety, especially when they spend most of their time snoozing on our laps without a care in the world,  but more dog owners every day are noticing anxious or nervous behavior in their dogs and one of the main symptoms is heavy breathing! Using homeopathic remedies like CBD dog treats can soothe anxiety or CBD oil, as well as doggy approved essential oils and herbs.

Excess Weight

If your furry friend is an older dog and overweight then he will understandably be more sluggish and less active than he once was. Just as humans who are overweight tend to have a lower tolerance to heat and will, therefore, sweat more, dogs that are on the heavier side will also get rid of any excess heat by panting and breathing heavier.


As your dog gets older, they will feel less energetic and weaker. This is unfortunately just part of the natural aging process. Their immune systems can become weaker in older dogs and moving around becomes more of a chore. You will often notice elderly dogs gaping or breathing rapidly as it is more of an effort for them to absorb oxygen into their bloodstream.


Certain breeds like pugs, or French bulldogs have flatter faces, which makes it harder for them to breathe, especially in warmer climates. Their short noses and narrower windpipes mean that they are prone to respiratory issues and they breathe faster and more noisily than other breeds of dogs.


When a dog is in pain, he is unable to directly tell us. He also can’t just reach for the medicine cabinet or head down to the drugstore to find something to make him feel better. So, when a dog is in pain, what he will do instead is find internal coping mechanisms that are self-soothing. One of the biggest indicators of a dog who is in pain is labored breathing. If you suspect that your dog’s heavy breathing could be related to underlying pain then you should visit your vet to rule out any trauma-related injury and you can complement any recommended treatment with natural CBD dog treats.

Heart Disease

Very sadly, heavy breathing can sometimes be an indicator of serious illness in dogs. One of these more sinister ailments is heart disease. If your dog’s heart isn’t pumping oxygen around the body like its supposed to, then heavy breathing will be his way of trying to get some relief from being short of breath all the time.

Behavioral Issues

If you have a fearful dog and he has episodes of heavy breathing, then you need to do your best to calm him down as quickly as possible. Dogs can experience panic attacks just like humans can, so it’s important to take this possibility seriously. Heavy breathing can also be a primary indicator of fear aggression, so be vigilant of any other behavioral changes that appear to be manifesting at the same time.

Respiratory Infections

Some respiratory infections will obviously cause your dog’s breathing to become heavier while he is not feeling well. Dogs can catch anything from a common cold to a more serious condition like kennel cough, especially in colder climates. Usually, a respiratory infection will be accompanied by other symptoms like coughing or hacking, so a trip to the vet is in order to rule out every possibility if you suspect this could be the case with your pup.

What to Do if Your Dog Is Breathing Heavy

It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health and this is why if you notice that your dog is suddenly breathing heavy, you should make an appointment to see a vet as soon as possible. It is also a good idea to look out for any additional symptoms. For example, if your dog seems to be in good health and behaving normally aside from his heavy breathing, you could consider that anxiety is responsible for his excessive panting. Regardless of the cause, there is usually a solution and remedy for heavy breathing in dogs, providing you get a diagnosis sooner rather than later.

This article by Jennifer is originally published at FOMO Bones.

Author bio: Jennifer is the voice behind the FOMO Bones blog. She’s pretty sure in her past life, she was a Great Dane. However, we peg her as more of a labrador. Regardless of her breed, she’s a dog enthusiast who has 15 years experience training dogs and owners.