8 Reasons Your German Shepherd Is Breathing So Fast

If your German Shepherd seems to be breathing very fast all of the time, then this is definitely something you’ll want to investigate. In this article, we’ll give you some possible causes, as well as tips on what you can do and how to accurately check your dog’s breathing rate.

German Shepherds are a large and active breed, so it may be that their breathing speed is simply required for their current level of activity. That said, let’s take a look at some of the causes of German Shepherd’s breathing too fast so that you’ll know what to look for when there may be a problem.

Why Is My German Shepherd Breathing So Fast?

There are a number of reasons why a German Shepherd is breathing fast, and most of them are going to be fairly easy to manage. It’s all a matter of knowing what to look for, so let’s talk about some common reasons for fast-breathing Shepherds.

Your Dog Might Not Be Getting Enough Exercise

German Shepherds are very large and active dogs, which means that they need a lot of exercise in their lives. Typically, you are looking at a minimum of 2 hours of exercise a day for adult Shepherds, and young pups between 3 and 5 months old are typically going to need 30 – 45 minutes a day.

Take note of how long the fast breathing lasts, and if your dog gets it under control fairly quickly then, insufficient exercise might be the culprit.

It Could Be a Sign of Illness or an Injury

Dogs don’t always let us know when they are hurting, so another possibility is that your Shepherd has injured themselves or they are feeling ill. Heart problems can cause fast breathing and a number of diseases, so if the behavior has started fairly recently, then a vet check-up is a good idea at this time.

It Could Be the Heat

If you’ve been outside in the sun with your Shepherd for a while, fast breathing may result from the heat. A little time in the shade and some water should help you to see if this is the case. However, if you see signs like drooling, diarrhea, or even seizures, it could actually be a heat stroke!

Try to help your German Shepherd to cool down, and then you’ll want to get them to the vet right away.

Your German Shepherd Might Have an Allergy

Dogs like to eat things that they find, and we don’t always catch them doing it. Signs of an allergic reaction may include hives, inflamed skin, diarrhea, and vomiting. If you believe that your dog is having an allergic reaction, then you’ll definitely want to bring them in for a check-up.

German Shepherds Are Active Dogs by Nature

Your German Shepherd might simply be breathing fast because their body requires that. Shepherds are very active dogs and generally on the large side, so they are going to require more oxygen when they are out and at play. Unless this behavior is very new, then there might not be a problem at all.

Is Your German Shepherd Overweight?

If your German Shepherd is a little on the overweight side, then a bit of fast breathing is to be expected. Your vet can help you measure your Shepherd, and if their body fat is above 20%, then your vet will order some changes in exercise and diet to ensure that your Shepherd is healthy.

Reaction to New Medications May Cause Heavy Breathing

If your vet has recently prescribed some new medication for your dog, then this might be the culprit. Check the side effects associated with the medication, and then you will want to contact your vet. They may be able to prescribe a different medication or a specific regimen for your dog while they are taking it.

Your German Shepherd might have Asthma

If your dog’s heavy breathing is accompanied by loss of appetite, pale gums, and an excessive amount of panting, then this might be a sign that your dog is suffering from Asthma. While it’s uncommon, this can occur with Shepherds, and your vet will be able to rule this out at a check-up.

german shepherd panting

How Can I Tell If My German Shepherd Is Breathing Fast?

There are a number of ways to determine if your German Shepherd is breathing a bit on the fast side. One of the first things you should do is try counting their breaths while they are sleeping. This helps to give you a baseline rate with which to compare.

If your dog is breathing fast, listen for any sounds that might give a clue to the reason behind it. Wheezing, for instance, may be a sign of allergies, and high-pitched sounds may indicate an obstruction located in the upper airway.

As far as your dog’s normal breathing rate, it is generally going to be between 15 – 35 breaths per minute when at rest or sleeping, while an actively playing dog can fall anywhere in a range of 15 – 60 breaths per minute.

When Should I Contact My Vet About My German Shepherd’s Breathing?

In some cases, your Shepherd’s breathing is going to warrant immediate attention, so we’ve compiled some red-flag symptoms that you can watch for that indicate you should visit the vet right away. Contact your vet if you encounter any of the following systems.

Gray or Blue Gums and Tongue

Signs of very serious respiratory distress include when your dog’s tongue or gums appear to be turning gray or blue. If you see this, an immediate vet visit is required, and your dog will likely be placed in an oxygen chamber in order to get their breathing under control so that the source of the issue can be identified.

If Your Dog Is Vomiting

If your dog is panting fast and includes vomiting, you will want to contact your vet for further investigation. It could be an allergic reaction (which we will detail a bit more shortly), or if it is very hot outside, then you might be seeing signs of heatstroke.

A little shade and a wet towel can help you cool down your dog, and then you will want to get in touch with your vet immediately.

Sudden, Excessive Drooling

Excessive drooling is another sign to watch out for. While it is one of the symptoms of heatstroke, it may also indicate an abscessed tooth that your vet will need to deal with to get your dog feeling better and breathing more normally.  

If You See Signs of an Allergic Reaction

Signs of an allergic reaction include itching, hives, skin discoloration, and in some cases, vomiting, sneezing, and diarrhea. It could be that your dog has eaten something or may have been stung by an insect, and they are reacting to this. Your vet will be able to run some tests and confirm if this is the case.

Signs of Heat Stroke

Drooling, diarrhea, and seizures are all warning signs that your dog may be having a heat stroke. Cooling down with a wet towel, along with some shade, can certainly help, but you’ll want to get your Shepherd in for a follow-up with the vet in this case.

Stomach Muscle Clenches With Breathing

If your dog seems to be using their stomach muscles heavily while breathing, then this is a definite sign of respiratory stress, and you’ll want to get your dog to the vet immediately. An X-ray and a number of tests will be required to see what is causing this distress, but this is definitely a sign that you do not want to ignore.

How to Get Your German Shepherd to Stop Breathing Fast

There are a few things you can do to help your German Shepherd breathe a little better. While you’ll want to pay close attention to what is happening when the behavior is occurring, let’s look at a few general strategies that can help.

Keep Your Dog Cool

Be sure to pack plenty of water and some towels that you can get to help your Shepherd keep cool. This is important on days when it is very hot out, as these large dogs can quickly overheat if you are not careful.

Pick a nice spot in the shade and try to keep exercise to a minimum to help ensure that your Shepherd doesn’t get too hot outside.

More Exercise Might Be the Answer

If your adult Shepherd is not getting 2 hours of exercise a day, then it is a good idea to change your daily routine for some extra trips for walking or playing outside. Shepherds are very active dogs, so this daily exercise is an important part of keeping your dog happy and healthy.

If your dog is a friend of one of your neighbor’s dogs, this is a great and easy way to get them a little extra playtime with minimal management required on your part.

Consider a Visit to the Vet for a Checkup

With fast breathing, the easiest way to get to the bottom of the issue is always going to be your vet, so don’t hesitate to take advantage. Sudden, fast breathing that was not occurring before may be caused by a number of things, and testing with your vet can help rule out any illness or injury.

See if It’s Occurring Around Particular People or Situations

Sometimes fast breathing can be caused by anxiety. This is especially common with rescue animals who may have undergone trauma before you took them home. If you think that this might be the case, your vet can help you determine the best medications and training strategies to help your dog with this.

Want To Train Your Dog With Peace Of Mind?

If you haven’t trained your dog properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs, you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases, it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to trust your dog completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT.

And the best part is it also has a 60-day money-back guarantee! So there’s no reason not to give Brain Training For Dogs a try!

So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

(You can also check out a full review here to learn exactly what the course has to offer!)


Below, we have answers to some of the most common questions we receive regarding German Shepherds and their breathing patterns.

What is a German Shepherd’s normal breathing rate?

A healthy adult Shepherd will have an average rate of 15 – 35 breaths per minute while at rest. If your Shepherd is breathing at 40 breaths per minute or higher when at rest, then you will definitely want to check with your vet to investigate and determine the cause.

Why is my German Shepherd breathing fast at night?

If your Shepherd is breathing fast at night, in some cases, they might just be dreaming. If the fast breathing is fairly consistent, however, this is a definite reason for a check-up with your local vet to determine what is going on.

How can I take my German Shepherd’s temperature, heart, and breathing rate?

To take your dog’s pulse, you can feel for their heartbeat at the left side of their chest. Count the beats for approximately 15 seconds and then multiply this number by 4. This should give you the number of beats per minute.

For temperature, the easiest method is a thermometer treated with water-based lubricant so that you can check the inside one of their eyes. Finally, for the breathing rate, you should be able to simply count the breaths per minute, and if they are over 40 when the dog is at rest, then you should be concerned.

In Conclusion

Today we’ve explored the question ‘Why is my German Shepherd breathing so fast?’ and as you can see, a number of possibilities exist for this. Start off your investigation by determining the actual per-minute rate and rest, and if it’s over 40, then a vet visit is a good idea.

Make sure that your dog is getting at least 2 hours of exercise per day and be sure to be careful outside when it’s very hot – Shepherds are big dogs and very active, so you’ll want to keep them cool and monitored.

Finally, if you see more extreme signs of respiratory issues, such as the tongue changing color, drooling, diarrhea, or signs of allergy, then you’ll want to get to the vet right away to determine what specifically is occurring with your dog.