Common Types of Dog Breathing Problems and What to Do

Summary: In this blog, you’ll discover the three most common types of breathing issues in dogs! We’ll learn what the symptoms are, the causes of these breathing problems, and how you can help. Read on to find out more about breathing issues in dogs…   Finding your pup panting away after you’ve been out for […]

Sep 26, 2023·6 min read
Common Types of Dog Breathing Problems and What to Do

Summary: In this blog, you’ll discover the three most common types of breathing issues in dogs! We’ll learn what the symptoms are, the causes of these breathing problems, and how you can help. Read on to find out more about breathing issues in dogs…


Finding your pup panting away after you’ve been out for walkies or breathing fast whilst they’re sleeping can all be put down to very normal behavior. But, as puppy parents, it’s our job to know when the panting and fast breathing is something more than just ‘normal’.  

What Is Normal Breathing?

First things first – we need to know when your dog is breathing normally or if there is something to worry about. 

Typically, your dog should breathe at a rate of 20 – 35 breaths per minute, completely uninterrupted – without gasping, or struggling to breathe in or out. Every now and then, just like us humans, you may notice your pup exhales deeply – similar to a sigh. This is completely normal and isn’t anything to worry about (it just might make you think your dog is bored of your company!)

It’s when your pup begins to struggle or has labored breathing – that’s when there could be a problem…

What Are The Common Types of Breathing Problems?

Labored Breathing In Dogs

Labored breathing is one of the most common types of breathing problems in dogs. Also known as dyspnea, labored breathing is very much what it says on the tin, difficulty breathing in or breathing out – sometimes occurring with both…

So, what causes labored breathing? Well, there isn’t just one answer, as your pup’s breathing difficulties could be caused by trauma, a foreign object creating a blockage or, in some cases,  disease; nose, throat or windpipe, and lung disease. 

Labored breathing in dogs is very noticeable and easy to detect. You may hear them trying to pull breath into their lungs, whilst their chest and abdomen rise and full more than normal. Your pup may also lower their head, trying to get as much air into their lungs as possible, accompanied by an open mouth and large, flared nostrils.

a brown headed, white with black splodges Jack Russell dog sits on their front on a sandy beach in sunlight


As said above, finding your pup panting after you’ve been out for a walk or during a hot, summer day is completely normal. Particularly when your dog is hot, they pant to help cool their bodies down as they can not sweat like us. 

If you suddenly notice irregular panting, followed by shallow, fast breathing, it could be a sign of a more serious issue. 

Panting will need to be checked over by your vet if you find the extreme breathing is accompanied by a high fever, labored breathing (above), rapid breathing, or pain. Also, if your pup is overweight or suffers from high blood pressure, this type of intense panting should be treated as urgent and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Fast Breathing In Dogs

Rapid, fast breathing in dogs, also known as tachypnea is not the same as panting but is commonly thought of as the same. What’s the difference you may ask? When your dog is panting, they will often have their mouth wide open, tongue hanging out, whereas, fast breathing happens with the mouth either shut or slightly open. Each breath is normally shallow and quick – a lot faster than 20-35 breaths per minute.

Similar to the above two, rapid breathing can be caused by a multitude of reasons; a result of dyspnea (labored breathing), low levels of oxygen in the blood, or a blood clot. 

What Causes Breathing Problems In Dogs?

a brown Boston terrier sits on green grass surrounded by trees, panting


If something has lodged itself in your dog’s windpipe, it will cause breathing, problems such as dyspnea. Our pups love to chew on lots of different things like sticks, toys, and socks – and sometimes, those foreign objects can find their way into your dog’s throat, blocking the airway…

Also, many dogs love dinner time, which unfortunately can lead to them gobbling up their food far too quickly, resulting in some of the bites getting stuck, obstructing their airway – causing them to struggle to breathe.


There are lots of different diseases and illnesses that can cause your dog to struggle with breathing issues, many affecting the lungs, windpipe, and throat;

  • Lung disease can be another culprit causing difficulty breathing. This serious disease can be a result of infection, fluid in the lungs, heartworm, or heart failure.
  • A disease of the windpipe or throat can be the result of a damaged windpipe, tumor, or a long soft palate. 
  • Pneumonia
  • Kennel cough


Some breeds are more prone to breathing difficulties; Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, and Pugs. All these breeds have one thing in common… they’re Brachycephalic breeds. The bones in their skull are shorter in length, giving the ‘flat face’ appearance and a short snout. 

Brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS) is a difficulty that the above breeds can suffer from, causing their breathing and airways to become abnormal.


It may surprise you to know that heatstroke or heat exhaustion can have a huge impact on your dog’s breathing and respiratory health. Heatstroke can be extremely dangerous for dogs and can even be fatal in some cases.

Why Is Your Dog Breathing Fast? How You Can Help

Labored breathing, panting, and rapid breathing are the three most common breathing difficulties – all can indicate something more sinister, that may need medical attention. If you notice your pup suffering from shallow or fast breathing, there are a few things you can do as their doggy parent before you take your pup to the vet…

Particularly with fast panting, get your pup to a cool place, where they can try to relax and get comfortable. This will hopefully help ease their breathing if heat or overexertion is causing the problem. Try to keep your pup as calm as possible, as they may begin to panic if their breathing does not get easier.

The best thing you can? Get your dog to the vet as soon as you’re able. As mentioned above, the cause of their labored, fast or rapid breathing could be due to an obstruction in their windpipe or a serious illness. Once the vet has checked them over, you can begin to help to ease the cause and get your pup back on their feet.

Becca TriggB

Becca Trigg

An all round animal lover, who absolutely adores writing and researching anything puppy! Over the past few years, I have been able to gain ample pet knowledge; specifically joint health and dental hygiene. When I'm not typing away in the office, I can be found sitting in a country pub or growing chillies

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The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
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