why dog heavy breathing

Breathing heavy is a normal response for dogs, especially in hot weather or after exercise. But if your dog is breathing heavily while at rest, it’s best to see a vet as soon as possible.

A full physical examination will help the vet determine if your dog’s breathing is affecting their heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head or some other area. Depending on the underlying cause, your pup may require medications or other treatments.

Anxiety or Stress

If you’re wondering why your dog has been breathing hard and is struggling to catch his breath, it might be caused by anxiety or stress. It’s important to identify the source of your dog’s distress to get the best treatment for your pup.

For instance, a sudden exam that your dog doesn’t like could be causing your pup to breathe harder and pant. It may be a temporary issue, but it is something that you should take your dog to the veterinarian for.

Respiratory Illness

Heavy breathing in dogs can be caused by respiratory illness, including kennel cough and pneumonia. This infection typically affects the nose and sinuses but can also affect the trachea, the windpipe that carries air into the lungs.

Respiratory illness is very contagious and can spread easily among dogs and people in boarding kennels, day care facilities, and shelters. These diseases are often caused by viruses and bacteria.

If your dog’s breathing becomes heavy or labored, it may indicate a severe respiratory disease that needs prompt veterinary treatment. Signs include lethargy, coughing, eye or nose discharge, bluish gums, collapse, and weakness.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is caused when your dog’s body temperature rises above the normal set-point. It’s usually developed during exercise but can also happen when a dog is stuck in hot weather.

Despite their limited ability to sweat, dogs get rid of a lot of heat by breathing out through their nose. Brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs are particularly susceptible because their noses don’t have much room to release heat.

If your dog is suffering from heavy breathing or panting, it’s a medical emergency and you should take them to a vet right away. They’ll need to be cooled down, and early intervention can prevent life-threatening complications like seizures or organ damage.


Heartworms are a parasitic worm that can infest your dog’s heart and lungs; they are spread by mosquito bites. In severe infestations, your dog may breathe heavily and cough.

Infection can also cause fluid buildup in the lungs and surrounding blood vessels. Once this happens, it’s difficult for your dog’s lungs to oxygenate the blood.

Fortunately, heartworms can be prevented with a year-round medication that is administered by your vet. Tests should be performed each year to ensure that the preventive program is working effectively.

Once heartworms are confirmed, your veterinarian will develop a treatment plan that involves several steps. The treatment should begin as soon as possible after the diagnosis is made.


Many dogs breathe quickly and heavily when they are stressed, anxious, or excited. This can be a sign of a health problem.

If your dog is panting and breathing fast, you should take them to the vet immediately. They will perform a full physical exam to determine what’s causing their breathing problems.

The most common cause of labored breathing in older dogs is fluid in the lungs or chest cavity that is related to lung or heart disease. A foreign object, such as a toy or food, can also cause labored breathing.

If your dog is having trouble breathing, a vet will examine them to check for obstructions in their airway. They may also administer oxygen therapy.