Bernese Mountain Dog Breathing Heavy: Should I Worry?

Heavy breathing or panting can be described as rapid labored breathing by a Bernese Mountain Dog which is not a normal breathing pattern.

The average breathing rate of a Bernese Mountain Dog is between 15 to 35 breaths per minute while at rest and a breathing rate higher than this translates to heavy breathing.

It is normal for a Bernese Mountain Dog to breathe heavily or pant after exercising, playing, walking, or during hot weather. 

However, generally, dog breathing should not be difficult and you need to differentiate when it’s normal and when you need a visit to the veterinarian.

So what causes heavy breathing in Bernese Mountain Dogs?

In this article, we will dive into the reasons why Bernese Mountain Dog heavy breathing occurs, the complications, and when to seek help.

Why is my Bernese Mountain Dog breathing heavy?

A Bernese Mountain Dog breathing heavily occurs due to various reasons including illness, anxiety, pain, heatstroke, medication, smoke inhalation, and vigorous activity. Panting helps a dog to cool down but it can also be due to an underlying health condition.

Bernese Mountain Dog braething heavy

Common Reasons for Bernese Mountain Dog Breathing Fast


Heavy breathing can be due to an underlying health problem that causes a Bernese Mountain Dog to have rapid breathing.

Respiratory disorders, Cushing’s disease, and heart failure are diseases that cause heavy breathing along with other symptoms.

Respiratory disorders include respiratory infection, tracheal collapse, and laryngeal paralysis.


When a Bernese Mountain Dog is stressed or anxious they tend to be restless, irritable, and have an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath.

Common reasons for anxiety in Bernese Mountain Dog include fear, abandonment, trauma, travel, loud noise, new environments, people, or other pets.


Trauma or injury can lead to a Bernese Mountain Dog breathing heavily because of the pain experienced. The injury could be external or internal causing discomfort and pain.

An injured Bernese Mountain Dog will also show other signs indicating they are experiencing pain such as loss of appetite, restlessness, enlarged pupils, reluctance to be touched or to lie down, licking of the injured area, and anxiety.

Related: Why is my Bernese Mountain Dog shaking?


Panting or heavy breathing can also be due to overheating. This occurs when a Bernese Mountain Dog’s temperature rises due to extreme heat from its environment.

This leads to heat stroke which is fatal. Signs of a Bernese Mountain Dog with heatstroke include heavy breathing, drooling, glassy eyes, weakness, increased heart rate, increased body temperatures, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.


If a Bernese Mountain Dog is under medication, some medication can lead to heavy breathing.

Smoke inhalation

Smoke inhalation occurs when a Bernese Mountain Dog inhales smoke from products on combustion. The smoke inhaled causes inflammation of the lungs and airways which swell and prevent oxygen uptake. 

This leads to respiratory distress and a Bernese Mountain Dog breathing heavy in an attempt to breathe to get more oxygen 

Vigorous activity

It is normal for a Bernese Mountain Dog to breathe heavily after exertion from vigorous activity such as exercise or from playing.

During these activities, the muscles of a dog require more oxygen, therefore, the heart pumps faster to supply more blood to the organs and the lungs supply the oxygen, which results in heavier breathing and rapid heartbeat.


Heavy breathing for a Bernese Mountain Dog is not normal and should always be taken as an emergency especially when it’s not due to normal activities such as exercise or hot weather.

Because breathing heavily can be caused by various conditions that can be life-threatening it is important to seek medical help. 

If left untreated, the condition can lead to fatal outcomes and even death.

What To Do When Your Bernese Mountain Dog is Breathing Fast

Pay attention to your dog’s breathing and assess if it is due to normal vigorous activity or due to hot weather when they are cooling down.

Look out for the following signs which are a cause of concern that mean medical attention is required:

  • Rapid breathing with no reason for it such as exercise playing running or being in hot weather
  • Excessive drooling
  • Heavy breathing especially while sleeping or resting
  • Shallow rapid breathing
  • Rapid breathing without their tongue sticking out
  • Heavy breathing while standing and unwillingness to lie down
  • Difficulty in breathing (being out of breath)
  • Production of other sounds (squeaks or grunts) when breathing
  • Pale or blue-tinged gums
  • Rapid breathing that also engages the stomach muscles

The veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination of your dog and also different diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the heavy breathing.

Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause. This includes the administration of medication to treat stress or other illnesses.

Oxygen therapy may also be recommended or hospitalization in severe cases.

Recommended reading: Why does my Bernese Mountain Dog get hiccups?


Panting or heavy breathing is normal in all dogs. However, in some cases, it can be due to medical conditions.

When you notice that your Bernese Mountain Dog is breathing heavily, assess the factors that might be causing it whether it is due to vigorous activities such as exercise or hot weather.

If you cannot pinpoint exactly what could be the cause of the heavy breathing, always contact your veterinarian to determine the cause because it can be due to a serious underlying illness.