We have all seen a dog breathing heavily after they have just done some exercising or if they have spent some time in the hot sun. This is completely normal, but what about dogs that are breathing heavily for seemingly no reason at all?

In many cases abnormal and unexplained heavy breathing in dogs is a sign that something is wrong with them. This can often be a sign that a dog is experiencing pain or difficulty breathing as a result of a serious medical condition.

In this article we will be describing some of the most common causes for heavy breathing in dogs that seem to be abnormal and unexplainable. In addition to this, we will also be explaining when you should see a vet about your dog’s heavy breathing. Let’s get into it.

Causes For Abnormal Heavy Breathing In Dogs

There are many possible causes for heavy breathing in dogs. Many times a dog will breathe heavily simply because the weather is hot or because they have just undergone some physical activity. However, heavy breathing with no known cause can be a sign of a health problem such as heat stroke, heart failure, or respiratory related illnesses. In addition to this, unusually heavy breathing in dogs can sometimes also be a sign of pain. Here are some of the possible causes for abnormal and unexplained heavy breathing in dogs.

Dog Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a life threatening condition in dogs that occurs when their body temperature gets too high. Some dogs are more at risk for developing heat stroke than others, particularly dogs that have short noses like Bulldogs. In addition to heavy breathing and excessive panting, there are some other symptoms of heat stroke that dog owners should look out for. These symptoms include:

  • Collapse
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting (may be bloody)
  • Diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Urine containing blood
  • Seizures
  • Skin abnormalities like red spots or bruising
  • Elevated body temperature

When it comes to heat stroke you will likely need to take action to cool the dog down before making the trip to the emergency vet. It is recommended that you call your nearest emergency vet immediately for instructions on how to get your dog’s body temperature down to normal.

Heavy Breathing Can Be a Sign of Pain

In some cases heavy or labored breathing and excessive panting can be a sign that they are in pain. Dogs may or may not exhibit other signs of pain such as limping, trembling, whining, or hiding. Due to the fact that heavy breathing can sometimes be the only sign of pain in dogs, it is best to take your dog to the vet for unexplained heavy breathing, even if they are not exhibiting any other unusual symptoms.

Ingesting Something Poisonous

Sometimes heavy and labored breathing can also be a sign that a dog has eaten something poisonous. This can include ingesting poisonous chemicals or ingesting poisonous foods like chocolate or grapes. Some other signs of poisoning in dogs include but may not be limited to:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea (may be bloody)
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures
  • Tremors and difficulty walking
  • Unusual bruising

Poisoning is also a potentially life-threatening condition in dogs. As a result, it is important that you call your emergency vet or a poison hotline immediately if you suspect that they have eaten something toxic. Calling before making the trip to the emergency vet can allow you to make some potentially life saving steps before making the trip.

Respiratory Problems

Sometimes unexplained heavy breathing in dogs can be a sign that they have a respiratory problem or condition. This heavy breathing is often accompanied by other symptoms like voice change, coughing, wheezing, and snoring. Here are some respiratory conditions that can cause unexplained and abnormal heavy breathing in dogs.

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome
  • Illnesses like kennel cough, dog flu, and bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Lung cancer
  • Laryngeal paralysis

As you can imagine, some respiratory conditions on the above list are much more serious than others. Still, it is always a good idea to take your dog to the vet if they are experiencing unexplained heavy breathing. This way they can get the treatment that they need in a timely matter.