Medically Reviewed

15 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Breathing Fast

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Margarita Boyd
Reviewed by: Dr. Margarita Boyd, BVSc MRCVS
Is your dog breathing faster than usual? Is it normal, or you should contact your vet? In this article, you will find 15 possible reasons that could be behind dog's fast breathing.

Dogs breathe fast from time to time but is this occurrence normal, or you should be worried about it?

This article provides all the info that you need on dog breathing, why dogs breathe fast, and in-depth knowledge about the dog’s respiratory system. Let’s get started!

Have you heard of tachypnea? If not, do not worry, as this is just another term for fast breathing in dogs.

What about dyspnea? Are you familiar with it?

This term stands for shortness of breath or difficulty breathing in dogs, and both dyspnea and tachypnea may affect your dog.

These conditions may appear in dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages.

To fully understand these conditions you will need the right kind of knowledge on the dog’s respiratory system, how it works, and what the normal breathing rate in dogs is, and we will elaborate on that one later on.

First, let’s see what is the normal respiratory rate and what are the most common reasons behind dogs breathing fast.

Normal Respiratory Rate In Dogs: Basics

The normal respiratory rate for dogs is between 10 to 35 inhalations and exhalations per minute. This is the rate that your dog experiences while he is resting, for example.

If your dog is on the move, walking or running, you can expect a higher respiratory rate.

When panting dogs can have 10 times higher respiratory rate than when resting. When panting dogs may inhale 100 to 350 times per minute! But…

Is All Panting In Dogs Bad?

Not all panting is bad. Panting in dogs is a very normal occurrence, and crucial when it comes to regulating a dog’s body temperature.

Panting helps dogs cool down on hot days, or helps them breathe easier when the humidity is high.

Did you know that panting allows the evaporation of water and heat from the tongue which is why dogs actually must display panting?

Since they cannot sweat as we do, they use fast breathing to cool down.

Good to know: Puppies might breathe faster when sleeping and in most cases that is normal occurence.

Dog Breathing Fast After Exercise – Is It Normal?

Simply said, yes. After an intense walk or exercise time, you will notice the dog breathing fast.

Usually, this isn’t something to be worried about, as this is your dog using panting to get back to a normal temperature. However, if you notice panting when your dog moves from floor to couch, you might want to contact your veterinarian.

SUMMARY: A normal breathing rate for dogs is between 10 to 35 inhalations and exhalations per minute. When a dog is panting, the breathing rate can go up to 100 to 350 times per minute.

Therefore, we can put fast breathing under two categories: normal and abnormal.

Normal And Abnormal Panting In Dogs

Dog breathing fast is something that every dog will experience, from time to time.

When it is normal panting, like when they use it to cool themselves, there are no reasons to worry.

However, abnormal panting is something to be worried about.

Here is how to tell the difference:

Normal Panting

This panting occurs when the dog’s body is overheating, and the dog uses it to regulate his body temperature. This is a temporary change in breathing rate and should go back to normal when the dog rests and cools down.

Abnormal Panting

This panting usually indicates a physical or an emotional problem. Abnormal panting occurs when your dog isn’t warm and there is no need for body temperature regulation. This panting is a bit louder than normal panting and sounds a bit different and your dog may seem as if he is putting extra work into panting.

If you notice these signs and if you spot your dog breathing fast in situations he normally doesn’t, you should take your dog to the vet and get a check-up.

As a responsible dog owner, you want to get answers to questions such as – why is my dog breathing fast, is a dog breathing fast something to be worried about, and is the dog breathing fast while sleeping normal or not…

Below you will find the answers to these questions and much more.

Let’s see what are the most common reasons for dogs breathing fast.

15 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Breathing Fast

You have noticed your dog breathing fast out of the blue, and you start wondering. “Why is my dog breathing fast? Why is my dog breathing so heavily? What could be causing this?”

Let’s discover some of the possible reasons why your dog could be breathing faster and heavier than normal.

1. Overheating

Heatstroke in dogs is a serious and life-threatening condition.

It most commonly happens if a dog is left in a closed car or walked on a very hot day.

Signs of heatstroke include:

  • High body temperature (more than 40 °C/104°F)
  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Bright red or purple-tinged gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Distress
  • Collapse

Heatstroke leads to body cells dying, brain swelling, seizures, ulcers, and kidney damage caused by dehydration.

All of this happens rapidly and it’s often too late to do anything. This is why you have to do everything you can in order to prevent overheating.

If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, then it is best to go to the vet clinic ASAP.

Here is what you can do to cool your dog down on your way to the clinic:

  • Place cold towels over your dog
  • Offer him water to drink
  • Turn on the air conditioning in the car

All in all, when it comes to heatstroke you should do your best to prevent heatstroke from happening.

If you are taking your dog to the beach, make sure that you prepare your dog well, provide shade, and have fresh water just for your Fido.

SUMMARY: Overheating is a serious condition that can cause panting and fast breathing in a dog. Walking your dog on a very hot day or leaving him in a closed, parked car, may lead to fatal health issues such as a heat stroke.

2. Exercise

Dogs will breathe faster after exercise. This is why panting will occur as a way of calming their body temperature.

If a dog has recently been exercising, panting will be present.

Based on your dog’s fitness level or if he is overweight it may take a few minutes or longer for his breathing to come back to normal.

Depending on your dog’s fitness level or if he is overweight it may take a few minutes or longer for his breathing to come back to normal.

Do not over-exercise your dog in the summer, or any other hot day, as it may lead to heat exhaustion.

On hot days keep exercise moderate and think about indoor games that will keep your pooch busy.

SUMMARY: Exercise usually causes an increased breathing rate. Keep your dog fit by providing just the right amount of exercise.

3. Breed Predisposition

Some breeds are more prone to panting than others.

Brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs, Boxers or French Bulldogs, are more likely to breathe faster.

These breeds are extremely sensitive to hot weather and heavy air, so on hot days walk them early in the morning or late at night.

They have short noses and narrow windpipes, which means they often have breathing difficulties when compared to other breeds of dogs.

dog panting and shaking

Brachycephalic breeds do not breathe efficiently, usually have a faster breathing rate, and may experience heavy breathing.

As such they are at a higher risk of heatstroke.

As they have a faster ”normal” breathing rhythm you should react as soon as you notice any faster breathing in your dog.

SUMMARY: Some breeds such as French bulldogs, English bulldogs, and Pugs, are more prone to having respiratory difficulties compared to other breeds.

4. Pain

No one wants to see their dog in pain.

The best way to know when your dog is in pain is to know his normal behavior.

Panting in dogs is a normal occurrence, but there are moments when this may be overlooked or interpreted wrong.

In some cases, a dog breathing fast may mean discomfort in a dog or that your dog is in some kind of pain.

When panting can be a sign of a painful situation? If panting is followed by excessive vocalizations and constant localized licking it may mean that your dog is in pain.

Good to know: If you notice panting occurring during odd times or without a reason, you should visit your veterinarian.

SUMMARY: Pain can often cause faster and heavier breathing. If your dog barks a lot or licks himself excessively all of a sudden, it is quite probable something is causing him pain.

5. Heart Disease

This may be hard to hear, but dogs experience panting when their heart is in poor health.

A heart that isn’t working well isn’t able to pump blood around the body efficiently, which leads to a lack of oxygen reaching the organs.

When this happens it may lead to diseases such as:

  • Heartworm
  • Heart valve disease
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
  • Congestive heart failure

dog at vet

Therefore, your dog will increase its rate of respiration and might have more shallow breaths than usual as it tries to compensate for the lack of oxygen.

Other signs of heart disease may include:

  • Coughing
  • Tiring easily
  • Reduced appetite
  • Swollen abdomen

You should seek veterinary advice if you are concerned your dog has heart disease.

SUMMARY: In some cases fast breathing can be caused by the heart’s inability to pump blood efficiently. Older dogs are more prone to developing heart diseases and should therefore be checked regularly for any potential health conditions.

6. Lungs Disease

When a lung disease occurs, it means that the lungs cannot expand normally or transfer oxygen to the blood efficiently.

The lack of oxygen puts extra pressure on the heart and other organs in the body, resulting in heavy panting in dogs.

Commonly seen lung diseases in dogs are:

  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Lung cancer
  • Lungworm

Common symptoms of lung disease, next to panting, include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing noises when breathing
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Lethargy
  • Labored breathing
  • Reduced appetite

SUMMARY: If the fast breathing is abnormal and is accompanied by a wheezing noise and coughing, chances are a dog has a lung disease.

7. Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease occurs when adrenal glands produce too much cortisol.

As a hormone, cortisol is responsible for many body functions, but it still may cause problems if produces excessively.

Cushing’s Disease isn’t something that should be ignored, or taken lightly as it demands serious treatment and a recovery process.

Some of the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Skin changes
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of body muscle leading to a “pot belly” appearance

SUMMARY: When excessive panting is followed with increased thirst and appetite, a dog should be checked for Cushing’s disease

8. Anemia

Just like humans, dogs may experience anemia.

In dogs, anemia occurs when there is a lower-than-normal level of red blood cells in the body.

Red blood cells contain hemoglobin which is necessary to transport oxygen to all the organs in the body.

When there is a lack of oxygen faster breathing will occur.

Some of the common symptoms of anemia in dogs include:

  • Weakness
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Pale colored gums
  • Lethargy
  • Mental confusion

SUMMARY: Anemia is the lack of red blood cells that disables the normal functionality of transporting oxygen to the body. Therefore, it can also lead to frequent panting and decreased energy.

9. Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis is a condition in which the laryngeal cartilage at the entrance to the windpipe doesn’t open as it should, making breathing difficult.

A dog with this condition will often make strange noises when breathing in, and breathe faster than normal and with more effort.

Some dogs may need surgery to correct this problem.

SUMMARY: Laryngeal Paralysis is a condition in which the windpipe and respiratory organs are not functioning properly. The fast breathing will be followed by strange noises. This condition can sometimes need surgery.

10. Behavioral Panting

When stressed for any reason, dogs may experience additional panting.

Anxiety, stress, fear, and different phobias can all cause a dog to breathe faster than normal.

Dogs may experience psychological problems and fast breathing may be a sign of these issues.

Next to dog fast breathing some other symptoms that dogs may experience:

Fast breathing in these cases can be a normal reaction to a difficult situation and help the dog deal with it’s anxiety and stress.

However, if the breathing does not return to normal or becomes a chronic or recurrent problem then it’s best to seek professional advice.

SUMMARY: Fast breathing can also be caused by excessive stress, anxiety or fear.

11. Traumas Or Accidents

When anyhow injured, dogs will breathe faster. Even when they are fine stress can lead to faster breathing.

Traumas or accidents often offer a combination of pain, shock, and/or direct injury to the airway or lungs.

This happens when dogs are under shock because their blood pressure and blood flow drop to very low levels, making the body’s requirement for oxygen much higher.

As a result, dogs tend to breathe faster. They will do so to compensate for the low oxygen levels.

SUMMARY: After an accident or injury, a dog might start to breathe rapidly as a result of stress and pain.

12. Acid-base Disorders

The blood in the body needs to be maintained at a certain pH for all the organs to function properly.

The lungs and kidneys are crucial for keeping the normal acid-base balance and allowing the body to respond and correct any disturbances.

Many diseases or problems can cause a change in the pH of the blood, making it too acidic or alkaline.

Often one of the first signs of an acid-base disorder in dogs is an increased breathing rate.

An acid-base disturbance can be confirmed from blood tests including a blood gas analysis and a chemistry panel.

SUMMARY: In some cases, fast breathing could be caused by acid-base disorders of the blood. In order to rule out this condition, it is necessary to do a blood analysis.

13. Tick-borne Diseases

Ticks can create many health-related issues. The number of dogs that are affected by ticks daily is huge.

Ticks are small parasites that attach themselves to dogs and feed on their blood.

They transmit many diseases, ranging from mild to severe, including:

  • Lyme disease
  • Canine ehrlichiosis
  • Canine anaplasmosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Canine babesiosis
  • Canine bartonellosis
  • Canine hepatozoonosis

Every type of tick disease starts with an increased breathing rate and a fever as the first symptoms.

SUMMARY: Different diseases transmitted via ticks can cause panting and rapid breathing.

14. Milk fever

Intense panting may be a result of Eclampsia, also called milk fever.

It is a serious condition caused by the life-threatening, sudden drop in calcium levels in pregnant or more commonly nursing mothers.

Signs may include increased breathing rate, tremors, weakness, or inability to stand or walk.

If your dog is pregnant or has just given birth, it is important that you pay her close attention and also bring her to the vet for a check-up when necessary.

SUMMARY: Some nursing mothers or pregnant dogs can develop a milk fever that can cause an increased breathing rate

15. Ingestion of Poisons

It’s not a secret that dogs love chewing on all kinds of things, especially the ones they shouldn’t be touching.

However, this can be very dangerous if they get a hold of something toxic, for example, human medications, forbidden food or cleaning products.

Clinical signs will vary depending on what the dog has eaten and may include excessive salivation, dullness, increased breathing rate, and increased heart rate.

In order to prevent this, you have to teach your dog what’s forbidden and hide the things that could be dangerous.

SUMMARY: An increased breathing rate can also be caused by poisoning. It is therefore crucial to know which foods are toxic to dogs and keep them out of your dog’s reach.

Having listed all these possible reasons, the logical question is:

How Do I Determine Why My Dog Is Breathing Fast?

In order to determine what’s behind rapid breathing, it is often a good idea to visit your veterinarian.

Once there, your vet will probably ask you different questions about your dog and will ask you to report any previous history of medical problems.

After that, the vet will complete a full physical examination including listening to your dog’s lungs and heart with a stethoscope.

That way he or she will be able to hear if there is a heart problem or any strange lung sounds.

Besides the physical exam, X-rays and ultrasounds may also be recommended in order to get clear images of the heart, lungs, and abdomen. X-rays can help check for problems such as lung tumors or fractured ribs.

Blood tests may also be necessary to check your dog’s organs are functioning correctly, to check for anemia, and acid-base balance, and to help pinpoint the problem.

Last but not least, don’t forget the psychological aspects mentioned above and check for stress or anxiety.

Your dog can’t tell you about its feelings, so you have to look for signs and do what you can to help your pet.

How Should Fast Breathing Be Treated?

The treatment course will depend on the underlying cause.

Antibiotics will be prescribed for a lung infection, anti-inflammatories and pain relief will be given if the dog has been in an accident or is in pain, a dehydrated dog will require fluid therapy and an anaemic dog may require a blood transfusion.

A dog with eclampsia will require intravenous fluids with calcium supplementation and a dog with heart disease will usually require medications to help his heart work better.

If a dog’s breathing problems are due to anxiety or stress, then measures should be taken to identify the problem or phobia and reduce his stress levels.

This may be done through special training, medication to help reduce anxiety, or with the help of a certified dog behaviorist.

Most importantly, whatever the cause, oxygen therapy and rest will also be required.

Most dogs will be allowed to be at home while the treatment is going on, in a well-known and relaxed environment.

Know that in some cases, dogs may need to be constantly monitored all the time, and hospitalization at a vet hospital may be the best and safest solution.

SUMMARY: Depending on the condition causing your dog to breathe rapidly, the treatment can be quite different. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, or painkillers.

Know that in some cases, hospitalization might be necessary to treat more serious health problems.

Do you want more info on dogs and breathing? Check the section below.

The Respiratory System

Dogs have pretty much the same respiratory system as people.

The most important parts are the nose, the throat, the windpipe, and the lungs. Breathing is made up of inspiration and expiration.

The process of taking air into the lungs is known as inspiration.

After the inspiration, the oxygen in the lungs is transferred to the red blood cells which then carry the oxygen to other parts of the body.

At the same time, carbon dioxide is transferred from the red blood cells to the lungs and is then carried out in a process called expiration, in other words, the process of exhaling.

This is how the respiratory system should ideally work. Therefore, when a dog is breathing fast or with difficulty it’s a sign that something isn’t working as it should.

Dog Breathing Fast: To Sum Up

As mentioned earlier, a dog’s rapid breathing is usually marked as panting.

So, when the dog is panting, his breathing rate can go up to the dog’s respiratory rate 100 to 350 times in just one minute.

Panting is a form of breathing that dogs use to ease something that bothers them, such as hot temperatures or intense and long exercise.

In most cases, they just need a couple of minutes to get their breathing back to normal.

Know that if you notice that your dog is breathing fast and shallow you should monitor his behavior and contact your veterinarian if it takes too long.

This can also be connected to your dog’s breed and can indicate breathing problems if your dog has a short face, such as Pug.

In addition, if your dog breathing fast but acting normal, contact your veterinarian.


As you can see, fast breathing can be normal or can be an indication of an underlying problem.

If it is for the purpose of temperature regulation, then fast breathing can be completely healthy.

However, if it occurs in unusual situations or during rest you should pay close attention to your dog’s breathing.

Considering your dog isn’t able to tell you explicitly what’s wrong you have to monitor him for signs and try to understand if your dog is hurt, under stress, or showing signs of disease.

Don’t ignore the signs if you notice abnormal panting, take your dog to the vet for tests to identify the cause, so that proper treatment can start if necessary.

To sum it up, fast breathing can be normal in certain situations, but if it’s followed by other symptoms or doesn’t improve with rest it really should be looked into.

Frequently Asked Questions On Why Your Dog Is Breathing Fast

1. Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast While Resting?

Your dog just might have a nice run around the block hence the fast breathing.

Another common reason for fast breathing in dogs may be linked to excitement.

When super excited dogs tend to jump and be energetic resulting in fast breathing. This is the case in most situations.

Beware, because in some cases, fast breathing may be a result of heatstroke or underlying health issues.

2. Should I Be Worried If My Dog Is Breathing Fast?

Fast breathing in dogs is something that often dogs display after a nice run, or to show you that they are in some sort of pain or stress.

When fast breathing in dogs becomes too intense, or too frequent, you should take your dog to the vet’s office.

Do not forget that flat-faced dog breeds are more prone to breathing issues, so make sure that you know what their ‘normal breathing is.

3. Why Is My Cockapoo Breathing Fast?

Cockapoos have flatted rib cages and underbites, which directly affect their ability to nurse and even breathe.

As result, they may breathe faster. Cockapoos are also prone to arthritis and are likely to have breathing difficulty at some point in their lives.

4. Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast But Acting Normal?

When dogs tend to breathe faster than usual suddenly they may suffer from tachypnea.

Another common reason for dogs breathing fast but acting normal is asthma. Also, squish-faced breeds may breathe fast and still act normal.

5. Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

When a dog is breathing fast while sleeping, he may be going through some sort of respiratory distress.

If you notice your dog engaging stomach muscles while sleeping makes sure that you contact your veterinarian.

If your dog tends to breathe fast while sleeping and is reluctant to drink water, eat or even move, contact your veterinarian.