Understanding Dog Diarrhea And Heavy Breathing: Causes + What To Do

Dog diarrhea and heavy breathing are symptoms that sometimes occur together. While diarrhea is common in dogs, it is important to understand what causes these two symptoms and when to seek veterinary care.

We outline the potential causes of dog diarrhea and heavy breathing, along with the associated symptoms and when to seek help. 

Here’s why dog diarrhea and heavy breathing occurs

Dog diarrhea and heavy breathing are symptoms that can be caused by underlying disorders which include illness, poisoning, gastrointestinal infection, stress, and medication side effects Heavy breathing is also a sign that a dog is in pain, due to underlying health problems.

Dog diarrhea and heavy breathing

Dog diarrhea and heavy breathing

Dog diarrhea in dogs is characterized by the production of loose and watery which is passed more frequently than normal. 

Occasional episodes of diarrhea in dogs are common and normal, however, frequent diarrhea as well as other concerning symptoms can be a sign of a serious underlying problem.

When dogs breathe heavily, their breathing is rapid and shallow.

Heavy breathing or panting in dogs can be due to underlying medical or behavioral problems including illness, anxiety, and as a way to regulate their body temperature during hot weather.

Diarrhea and heavy breathing occurring at the same time can be due to a variety of reasons. In most cases, these symptoms are accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, or fever.

Is it normal for dogs to diarrhea and breathe heavily?

It is not normal for dogs to experience diarrhea and heavy breathing. While occasional episodes of diarrhea and heavy breathing may be normal for some dogs, in some cases they can be caused by a variety of underlying health issues.

It is therefore important to pay attention to the frequency and severity of these symptoms and also note if your dog is experiencing other additional symptoms.

Possible causes of dog diarrhea and heavy breathing

Heavy breathing is a symptom that sometimes occurs alongside dog diarrhea. A dog may experience both diarrhea and heavy breathing as a result of an underlying condition. 

The possible causes of diarrhea and heavy breathing are:


Diarrhea and heavy breathing can be symptoms of a wide range of illnesses in dogs, including viral or bacterial infections, gastrointestinal disorders, and systemic diseases.

When a dog is ill with an underlying condition that causes diarrhea and heavy breathing,  a dog may breathe heavily due to:

  • A fever causes an increase in body temperature, which can cause them to breathe heavily.
  • A respiratory problem that makes it difficult for the dog to breathe therefore heavy breathing can be a way for a dog to compensate for the difficulty in breathing.
  • Pain caused by the illness also helps to distract the dog from the pain and reduce their stress levels.

Related: Dog diarrhea and shaking (Explained)

Gastrointestinal infection

Gastrointestinal infection by bacteria, intestinal parasites, or viruses also leads to diarrhea and heavy breathing in a dog.

Gastrointestinal infections can cause heavy breathing when a dog suffers from diarrhea and/or vomiting, which can lead to dehydration. When a dog is dehydrated, they may breathe heavily or pant due to thirst and an urge to drink water to rehydrate.

Abdominal pain or discomfort caused by these infections can also cause a dog to pant excessively.

Fever is a common symptom of gastrointestinal infections, therefore it can cause a dog to breathe fast as a way to regulate their body temperature.


A stressed dog also experiences diarrhea including heavy breathing, which may appear at the same time. 

Stress and anxiety also cause a variety of symptoms including pacing, licking, drooling, yawning, crying, barking, and hiding.

Stress can come from a variety of sources such as a change in their environment or routine, new people or pets, loud noises, and other fear-related stressful situations.


Poisoning in dogs can lead to a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea and heavy breathing. This is because many poisons and toxins can cause gastrointestinal upset and different effects of the toxin on a dog’s body.

Some toxins can cause an elevated body temperature in a dog, which leads to excessive heavy breathing as they try to cool down. 

Other poisons affect the respiratory system which causes difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, which lead to heavy breathing.

Heavy breathing with diarrhea may be a sign of anxiety or stress caused by the poisoning, because a dog may become agitated or restless when they feel unwell.

Dogs may accidentally ingest toxic substances such as household cleaners, contaminated food or water, pesticides, insecticides, poisonous plants, or human medications, which can cause diarrhea and other symptoms.

Side effects of medication

Medications can sometimes cause side effects in dogs, including diarrhea and heavy breathing which may happen at the same time.

The side effects can occur due to irritation of the digestive tract, and allergic reaction which causes diarrhea.

In addition to causing diarrhea medications can cause heavy breathing to occur as well. The ways in which medications cause heavy breathing varies depending on the specific drug and its mode of action. 

Some medications affect the respiratory system which causes shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, which leads to heavy breathing. 

Other medications may cause a change in a dog’s body temperature causing fever, which can also result in heavy breathing.

Also, certain medications that cause gastrointestinal upset can lead to dehydration and loss of electrolytes which causes heavy breathing due to thirst and an urge to drink water in order to rehydrate.

Dog diarrhea and heavy breathing: What to do

If your dog is experiencing both diarrhea and heavy breathing, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. 

Here are  other signs that indicate that you should see a veterinarian immediately:

Severe or bloody diarrhea: If your dog’s diarrhea is severe or if there is blood or mucus in the stool, this could be a sign of a serious underlying condition and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Other symptoms: Other symptoms may accompany diarrhea and heavy breathing, such as vomiting. If your dog is vomiting along with diarrhea, this can lead to dehydration and other complications which require immediate medical attention. 

Other symptoms to look out for include lethargy, lack of appetite, breathing difficulties, signs of pain or discomfort, fever, and signs of dehydration, such as a dry nose or mouth and sunken eyes.

Suspicion poisoning: If you suspect that your dog has been poisoned, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

If your dog is a puppy or an older dog: Puppies and older are generally more vulnerable than healthy adult dogs so delaying treatment could result in their condition worsening or becoming more difficult to treat. Therefore, it is essential to seek immediate medical care.

Key Takeaway: Dog diarrhea and heavy breathing

Diarrhea and heavy breathing in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors.  While occasional diarrhea is normal in dogs, persistent diarrhea alongside other symptoms such as heavy breathing requires veterinary attention.

If you notice your dog showing these symptoms suddenly or for extended periods of time, consult with your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

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