Why Is My Dog Breathing Hard? 5 Possible Reasons

It is not uncommon for dogs to breathe heavily and in most cases, it is quite normal. Sometimes, shortness of breath is also a warning sign that can indicate illness or pain.

Usually, in dogs, shortness of breath serves two purposes: it lowers body temperature and supplies them with oxygen. Her mouth is parted and her tongue is almost sticking out.

But you may have already noticed that your dog was breathing heavily in different situations:

Dogs Choke to Cool

When people are hot, we sweat. Sweating is, so to speak, our built-in air conditioner: moisture evaporates in the air, and this has a cooling effect. Dogs can’t sweat as we do.

Dogs breathe heavily when they get warm, but also after exercise. On especially hot days, excessive shortness of breath can be a warning sign that your four-legged friend can overheat, which can be extremely dangerous. So make sure he can cool in the shade and drink enough. If your dog also experiences symptoms such as drooling, redness of the tongue and gums, dilated eyes, and weakness, you should see a veterinarian immediately.

Stress and Excitement

Regardless of the heat or strain, dogs breathe heavily in situations that cause them stress, fear, or anxiety. These can be car trips, as well as a visit to the veterinarian or New Year’s fireworks. Oftentimes, the dog will show other signs of stress or fear. It then helps bring him back to a calmer and safer environment where he feels less dangerous.

Dogs Breathe Heavily While Playing

When aroused positively — for example, when fiddling with other dogs — many dogs also breathe heavily. You can tell that your four-legged friend is currently happy by a generally relaxed posture and a happily wagging tail. Even after the game, some dogs like to lie relaxed with their eyes half-closed and gasp gently. They seem to be smiling blissfully.

Pain or Illness

Unfortunately, less pleasant reasons can also cause shortness of breath. For example, pain or illness. This often occurs in conjunction with other signs such as vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, limping, or behavior changes. And of course, if you suspect your dog is not feeling well, he should see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Shortness of breath can also be a reaction to general physical disturbances. For example, short-nosed dogs breathe especially frequently because their narrow airways prevent them from getting enough oxygen into their nose. This applies, for example, to French Bulldogs or Pugs.


Obesity in dogs can lead to a variety of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. In addition, overweight dogs are especially prone to shortness of breath. Namely, when they cannot provide their organs with enough fresh, oxygenated blood.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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