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As dog owners, we are always keeping an eye on our dogs and making sure that we read their body language really well. Sometimes, we can get concerned for no reason while other times, something we notice might be a bit more serious. For example, what can be the reason for my German Shepherd breathing fast?

This is a valid question because seeing your GSD heavily breathing can look really scary.

We are here to help you out, and give you all the possible reasons for your German Shepherd breathing fast.

12 Reasons For Your German Shepherd Breathing Fast

A dog’s breathing is not something that we, as dog owners, check often. Their breathing rate can change numerous times a day, but when you actually notice that your dog is breathing fast, you will get concerned.

There are a lot of reasons for your German Shepherd to be breathing fast. Some might be very scary and serious while others can be easily fixed.

Here are the potential reasons

1. Heatstroke

Sheep dog enjoying grassy green garden in summerSheep dog enjoying grassy green garden in summer

If you and your German Shepherd are living in an area that has high temperatures, you need to be careful. Dogs sometimes can’t handle the heat and get a heat stroke, especially if they are in direct sunlight.

If you notice your dog heavily panting, it just might be suffering from a heatstroke. Heavy breathing is not the only symptom of heatstroke.

Here is the list of signs of heatstroke that you need to know in order to know that your dog is dealing with heatstroke:

– Increased drooling



– Increased heart rate

– Increased body temperature (higher than 104 F)


You can also notice your dog’s paws being pink. Some dogs can have pink paws, and in this case, they can turn red. This is because of the hot concrete.

If you notice these symptoms with your German Shepherd, you should immediately contact the vet and start cooling your dog down. The vet will most likely tell you to come in as soon as possible so they can give your pooch proper treatment.

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Make sure that you are not taking your dog out while the temperatures are really high, and that your dog is staying in places that are cooled down. Direct sunlight is a big no no for dogs like German Shepherds, and… well, any other dog breed.

2. Your Dog Is Not Getting Enough Exercise

German Shepherds are known for being dogs with medium to high energy levels. This means that these pooches need a lot of exercise a day. If they are not getting the proper amount of exercise, they can have a lot of problems, both physical and mental.

If your dog is not used to being active, sometimes a simple walk can make him or her breathe fast.

You will need to get your dog more active, and it will take some time. Do baby steps so they can adjust over time.

3. Health Issues Or Injury

cute shepherd dog lying on the grass and showing her tonguecute shepherd dog lying on the grass and showing her tongue

This is one of those factors that are serious, and can be really scary and dangerous for your dog. Health issues or injuries are one of the most common causes of your dog’s heavy panting, especially if the heavy breathing is going on for a long period of time.

Here are some of the medical conditions that can cause your GSD to breathe fast:

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease happens when too much cortisol is being produced by the adrenal glands. Heavy breathing is not the only symptom that can occur when it comes to this medical issue.

Some other symptoms are:

– Hair loss (dog losing hair around the eyes, body, legs, etc.)

Your dog being very thirsty all the time

They will have a pot-bellied look to them

If you notice any of these alongside your dog’s heavy breathing, you should contact the vet so they can start with treatment. ACE inhibitors, along with some medication, are treatments for this medical condition.

Heart Disease

Heart problems can be very dangerous, just like they are with us. When a dog has this health problem, you will be able to notice them breathing heavily while they are sleeping as well. Coughing and fatigue are also symptoms of heart problems.

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Heartworm disease and dilated cardiomyopathy are just some things that can be wrong with a dog’s heart.

This can be very hard to detect, but the longer the problem stays, the more complications can occur. This is the reason that when you notice your dog’s heavy breathing, take him to the vet as soon as possible just to be sure if there is not anything wrong with the heart.

Respiratory Problems

When the respiratory system is in distress, you can expect your dog to have problems breathing. Respiratory distress is something that needs to be taken seriously. Some of the things that can cause a problem in the respiratory tract are quite serious, and those are:



Fluid in the lungs

Fungal infection



Some of the symptoms of respiratory problems are:


Your dog not being able to exercise even for a short amount of time

The dog’s nose might be constipated

As we saw, some of the lung diseases are serious, and sometimes they are really hard to solve and can be fatal for the dog. Other problems are easier to heal, but are still dangerous.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is something that can be caused by various bacteria and viruses. The good thing is that this can clear on its own within two weeks or more. The best would be that your dog gets some kind of treatment, but if not, it can go away by itself.

As the name says itself, the dog will be coughing a lot, and because of that, it will most likely breathe heavily.

4. The Dog Is Being Overexercised

Just like we humans, if dogs are being overexercised, they will get tired, and most likely start breathing faster than normal. You will be able to see them drool as well, and they will just look for a place where they can rest.

Even though these dogs are active and can be on the move for a long time, do not overdo them. There is a limit to everything, and sometimes they will try to break that limit themselves.

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You need to assess the situation and make your GSD take well-needed breaks.

5. Allergic Reaction

German Shepherd portrait with open mouth and protruding tongueGerman Shepherd portrait with open mouth and protruding tongue

Sometimes, we tend to forget that dogs can be allergic to certain things, and that these allergies can influence their health in a bad way. This is one of the reasons why a German Shepherd is breathing faster than normal.

The allergies can be various things, but one that can be the most dangerous is allergies to certain dog food ingredients.

Allergies can be hard to detect, and they can manifest in many different ways, including their respiratory rate being higher than normal.

If you want to prevent your German Shepherd from getting allergies, you need to expose it to different materials, foods, environments, etc.

6. Temperatures Being High

Living in places that are generally warmer can cause your dog to breathe faster. What can you do in those situations? Well, it is similar to the things we mentioned when explaining heatstroke.

You need to make sure that your dog is not out for a long time when the temperatures are the highest, avoid exposing your dog to direct sunlight, and make sure that your dog is cooled down at all times.

This does not necessarily mean that your dog is suffering from a heatstroke, but that it is only trying to cool down a bit from the heat. If you do not follow the things that we mentioned, they might get a heatstroke.

7. Your Dog Is Excited

german shepherd breathing fresh air in the woodgerman shepherd breathing fresh air in the wood

German Shepherds are extremely loyal dogs, and they love their owner with all their heart. It is not really that difficult to make them excited. You can be giving them just a bit of your attention and they will feel very happy.

If they didn’t see you for a long period of time because you were at work, you coming back home will make them extremely excited and happy. They will start pacing around the house and not lay down.

In these moments, they might start breathing heavily because they can’t contain their emotions. However, this is nothing to worry about.

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In fact, we think that this is really cute, and can make every dog owner’s day.

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8. Anxiety Or Stress

These dogs might look dangerous, and for that reason, some people might think that German Shepherds are aggressive, but this is far from the truth. These pooches are super emotional, and they feel our emotions very well.

If there is anything that messes with their routine or if they do not get enough attention or exercise, they can develop anxiety, stress, and even depression.

Some of the signs of these mental disorders are heavy breathing.

Stress can be caused by a lot of things, and some of those are:

– Loud noises

– A new pet in the house

– A new baby

– Being alone a lot

– Moving into a new house

These are just some of the things that can put a German Shepherd in distress. Life happens, and you can’t control everything, but you can make sure that your pooch is handling any given situation well.

Try to make them as comfortable and as safe as possible. This way, you can prevent anxiety, stress, and depression from getting the best of your dog.

9. Side Effect Of Medication

German Shepard Dog breathing with her mouth openGerman Shepard Dog breathing with her mouth open

It is a known fact that a lot of medication can have some side effects. Some are more serious while others might not even be that noticeable.

However, one of the side effects is increased heart rate. When the heart rate gets increased, the breathing paste will increase as well.

Keep a close eye on your dog when you get it on medication. Something simple like fast breathing can be a sign of illness that can be either very dangerous or easily solvable. Whatever the case is, always take your dog to the vet.

10. Your Dog Was Active Recently

We mentioned that the dog can either be overly exercised or not exercise enough, and because of that, they can breathe heavily. In this case, the situation is neither – it is actually the right balance of exercise.

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No matter how much energy and stamina the dog has, it can get very tired at some point. When they get to that level, they will most likely start to breathe fast. If your dog just had a bit more intense exercise, it will most likely have a faster rate of breathing.

This is nothing to be considered about, but you need to monitor your dog. If it all of a sudden starts breathing fast after an exercise, you should be on the lookout.

It can mean that the dog has developed some kind of health issue, or it can just mean that the dog is getting older and can’t keep up with that type of exercise anymore.

11. Indigestion

beautiful german shepherd lying on the grassbeautiful german shepherd lying on the grass

Dogs tend to eat whatever crosses their path, and this can be quite dangerous. German Shepherds tend to do this as well, and this is something you need to teach them not to do while they are puppies.

The danger lies in if they eat some food that has gone bad and catch food poisoning.

These dogs also have strong bites, and can crush almost anything, but sometimes it can happen that a big chunk gets into their mouth and they swallow it whole.

If this happens, your dog can have problems breathing, and sometimes if the chunk is sharp, it can damage their stomach. These pieces are very hard to digest, so the best option is to take the dog to the vet.

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12. Smoke

A lot of dog owners smoke, and they do it in the house. A lot of dogs will not have problems with that, but we for sure think that the dog should be removed from the room where people are smoking.

German Shepherds can also have a problem with smoke. They might not react to it in the beginning, but after a while, they will start showing signs, and one of those signs is breathing heavily.

If you notice this, you should make sure that your dog is not around while you are smoking.

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What Are The Treatments For A GSD Breathing Fast?

german shepherd lying in the parkgerman shepherd lying in the park

Now that we saw the reasons for your German Shepherd breathing fast, you can conclude that some might need serious treatment while others do not need any treatment.

For example, your dog does not need any type of treatment for either being exercised a lot or not being exercised enough. The only thing that can be done is for you to improve the physical activity of your dog.

If your pooch unfortunately has some kind of medical issue, then treatment will be needed. Here are some of the treatments that your vet can give:


Changing to new medication

Oxygen therapy

Supplements for improvement of lung function


These are just some of the things that a vet can do to help your dog. It really depends on the problem, and the severity of the problem.

Sometimes, they might also use X-rays or ultrasound to figure out what could be causing your dog to breathe fast.

This all can be very scary, but you did your part. You brought your dog to the vet as soon as you noticed something was wrong. The next things you can do is keep up with the treatment that the vet prescribed, and be there for your dog.

To Sum It All Up

Seeing that something is a bit different and even wrong with your dog is the scariest thing. Something like your German Shepherd breathing fast can really be frightening, especially when you do not know the thing that is causing it.

We listed all of the possible reasons why your German Shepherd might be breathing fast. As you could see, there are some reasons that are really dangerous for the dog, while others can be solved easily, and don’t cause any threat to the dog.

Whatever the case might be, we hope that it will not stress you out a lot, and that the problem will be solved as soon as possible.

By Andy Marcus

Hello, my name is Andy Marcus, and I am a passionate dog lover and enthusiast. For me, there is nothing quite like the joy and love that a furry friend can bring into our lives. I have spent years studying and learning about dogs, and have made it my mission to share my knowledge and expertise with others through my website. Through my website, I aim to provide comprehensive information and resources for dog owners and enthusiasts. Whether it's training tips, health and nutrition advice, or insights into dog behavior, I strive to create a platform that is accessible and useful to everyone who loves dogs.

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