Why Does German Shepherd Breathe Heavily While Sleeping?


Just like any other humans, dogs are especially prone to heavy breathing, especially after they went out for a walk or what we call their ‘exercise’. Dog’s regular heartbeat rate varies depending on their sizes and age.

As for the German Shepherd, which is considered as a large-sized dog, 60 to 100 heartbeat per minute is normal. But the little the guys, the faster their pulses. The real question is, ‘what if your German Shepherd is still breathing heavily even when at rest?’

The funny, primary reason is that they’re dreaming. We won’t know what or who exactly are they dreaming of. Still, it definitely has something to do with them being really excited or even scared at the same time. Who knows, they might be dreaming of chasing a squirrel?

It’s normal for a German Shepherd or any dogs to breathe heavily, even when sleeping. We don’t need to worry about anything since it could be a sign of deep sleep and relaxation where they’ll be needing to take lots of oxygen.

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But what are the common reasons why dogs breathe heavily, and when would be the time to worry?

Why Does German Shepherd Breathe Heavily While Sleeping?

4 Major Reasons Why German Shepherds Breathe Heavily

Not only German Shepherds experience heavy breathing, panting, and even wheezing. This is also well-fitted for any other dog.

They could be energetic, excited, or even tired from running around. However, loud, heavy breathing or panting with shortness of breath is quite alarming.

The primary reasons for this are:

  • Temperature
  • Medical Condition
  • Indigestion or Poisoning
  • Stress or Anxiety

To elaborate on these factors further, let’s dig it up one by one.


Dogs have different natural habitats. What’s suitable for German Shepherds aren’t suitable for dogs that don’t live in residential areas. But they are highly adaptive!

Your German Shepherds don’t usually cool down the same way we do. Their sweat glands are located only on their foot-pads. This is why it’s normal for them to breath or pant heavily when they feel hot.

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Their average body temperature falls within 100 to 102.5 °F or 38 to 39.2 °C. If the dogs’ temperature exceeds these numbers, you might want to take them to a veterinarian immediately. This may call for a life-threatening case, such as dehydration and heatstroke.

These GSD, which is also called Alsatian, can tolerate both hot and cold weather as they have their standard stock coat. But not too hot nor too cold.

They can survive in hot weather only if they have a place to drink cold water, and shade is accessible. But be informed that they dig up in frozen dirt during the summer season to cool themselves. Likewise, they can survive in a cold-weather just don’t leave them outside 24/7.

Medical Condition

One Veterinarian advises that if the owner tried everything already and the dog (any breed) still breathes or pants heavily and continuously, this may mean that they have a particular chronic health issue that needs to be treated right away.

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Some medical risks are the:

  • Respiratory Conditions such as asthma, fluid in the lungs, bronchitis, fungal infection, Cushing’s disease (excessive amounts of this hormone called cortisol or endogenous steroid), or Hyperadrenocorticism, and anemia.
  • Cardiovascular conditions such as heartworm disease, heart problem, and Dilated Cardiomyopathy or Heart Disease (caused by insufficient blood and oxygen pumped to the body where the heart becomes enlarged, build up fluids in the lungs, and thinner ventricular and chamber walls).

For some time, observation is much needed. However, if the obvious signs or complications arise, take them already to the vet!


Have you even notice your GSD eating or biting almost anything they see! Whether it’s real food or not, sometimes, there’s no excuse!

I don’t know if they see everything as food to chew. Nonetheless, these can cause reasons for indigestion or even obstruction.

Your German Shepherds might have eaten something that was spoiled already. They might have eaten something that they weren’t supposed to such as the household liquids. You can also say that they might have eaten big chunks of bones or objects that were stuck down to their throat.

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If any of these happen, don’t try to be a veterinarian. Just bring them to a real vet for a faster and effective treatment!

Stress or Anxiety

This might not be news to you, but German Shepperd is a social dog that can be usually found in the residential area. They are loyal and close to humans. That’s why you tend to see them as a companion and guard dog. This is also a reason why they can get separation anxiety.

They breathe slowly and loudly once they experience stress or anxiety. It is advisable to pet a GSD only if you’re a home bud who travels frequently.

This is because when they are left alone, they become really stressed. But only because they have this love and desire to keep their owners safe and close.

Another cause of their stress that can make them pant heavily is noise pollution. This includes the sound of fireworks, thunderstorms, heavy speakers, and basically noise everywhere!

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It is best to let them adjust to different sorts of people, experiences, and environments as much as possible to reduce the risks of getting stress and/or anxious. If not, this can shorten their life expectancy.

What You Can Do?

As we’ve gone through all the details about our German Shepherd and the reasons for their regular and heavy panting, it’s safe to say that we’ve learned a lot of things that can help reduce their heavy breathing as well as our personal concern.

There’s no need to worry if you notice them breathing heavily or panting, especially when asleep. Let them enjoy the exciting moment in their dreams! Who wants to get woken up by someone if you’re having the time of your life while asleep, right?

Before getting a GSD, make sure that you know the basic facts about them and, most importantly, their medical condition.

Be cautious at all times and treat them as a real family. If you observe anything unusual, researching or asking an expert is recommended, yet going to the veterinarian clinic would be the best option to choose.

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How Can I Know If My German Shepherd Breathes Heavily?

You should be aware of the signs that were showing heavy panting nor breathing.

If your German Shepherd

  • have shortness in breath,
  • loudly breathes as if they’re catching up oxygen,
  • panting is loud and intense,
  • they look like they’re in pain,
  • and if lasted for several minutes (preferably 10 to 15 minutes for a German Shepherd).

Related Questions

What is the dog’s normal resting heart and temperature? The normal heartbeat of dogs is between 60 to 140 beats per minute. (60 to 100 large-sized; 100 to 140 for small ones).

As for German Shepherd, the former applies. On the other hand, their average body temperature is 100 to 102.5 °F or 38 to 39.2 °C. Anything that made it less or exceeded is dangerous.

How can I take my GSD’s temperature, heart, and respiratory rate?

For Temperature For Heart Rate For Respiratory Rate
Apply a water-based lubricant on a thermometer and stick it inside their ear. You can also use the digital rectal thermometer. Feel your dog’s heartbeat on the left side of their chest. Count their heartbeats for 15 seconds, and you can multiply it four times to get the pulse per minute. Check and count your dog’s chest movement for a minute. 10-15 minutes should be normal.
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