Why Is Your Pitbull Breathing Heavy? The Main Causes and Treatment

Pitbulls will pant and breathe heavily for various reasons which can be concerning for many pet owners.

Most of the time, heavy breathing is nothing to worry about as it could be a result of your dog playing too hard. However, there are some cases in which heavy breathing might be a symptom of a more severe health condition.

So, why is your pitbull breathing heavy? Your pitbull might be breathing heavily because of various health conditions like respiratory disorders, heart failure, Cushing’s syndrome, poisoning, or heat strokes. Other reasons include anxiety, excitement, or simply old age. It’s important to determine the cause to ensure your dog is healthy

Keep reading to learn more about what’s considered normal breathing for Pitbulls, what causes them to breathe heavily when to be concerned, and how to get treatment.

What Is Considered Normal Breathing for Pitbulls?

pitbull panting to answer why is your pitbull breathing heavy

In healthy adult Pitbulls, the normal rate of breathing is between 10 and 35 breaths per minute. Pitbull puppies, on the other hand, have a higher breathing rate compared to adult dogs so their normal breathing rate is between 15 and 40 breaths per minute.

It’s perfectly normal for active dogs to breathe heavily. However, if the dog displays consistent heavy breathing when it’s at rest, it may be might be a symptom of a more severe health condition.

So, it’s very important to be able to differentiate between normal breathing and heavy breathing as well as understand what causes Pitbulls to breathe heavily.

When to Be Concerned About Your Pitbull’s Breathing?

Most owners can easily tell when their pitbull’s breathing is not normal. There are some clear signs to be concerned about as they might be symptoms of severe health conditions.

So, you should be concerned about your pitbull’s breathing when:

  • Your dog is breathing heavily when it’s doing simple activities or at rest
  • Your dog’s gums are turning pale or blue while breathing heavily
  • Your dog is breathing heavily or panting with its mouth closed or partially open
  • Your dog is coughing excessively while breathing heavily
  • Your dog is making other noises such as snorting, wheezing, or retching noises while breathing heavily
  • Your dog appears to be in an overall state of distress or pain

If you notice any of these signs, it’s highly recommended to seek veterinary medical attention as soon as possible.

What Causes Pitbulls to Breathe Heavily?

As mentioned before, it’s important for pet owners to understand the cause behind their Pitbulls breathing heavily to ensure they’re perfectly healthy.

So, let’s take a closer look at the common causes for heavy breathing in Pitbulls:

Respiratory Disorders

Pitbulls are prone to several respiratory disorders including laryngeal paralysis, pneumonia, and lung tumors.

All of these disorders will lead to heavy breathing or panting along with other symptoms like excessive shivering and trembling, watery eyes, coughing, gagging, nasal congestion, and lack of energy.

Heart Failure

Pitbulls can suffer from heart failure which is a serious condition where the heart cannot adequately pump blood out to the dog’s lungs and the rest of the body.

This will put pressure on the lungs and prevent them from inflating all the way causing the dog to breathe heavily to compensate.

Cushing’s Syndrome

Pitbulls are prone to suffer from Cushing’s syndrome which is a condition where the dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol.

This will lead to heavy breathing or panting along with other symptoms such as excessive hunger and thirst, uncontrollable urination, and hair loss.

The treatment for Cushing’s syndrome can vary from adrenal-suppressing drugs to surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.


Pitbulls might be breathing heavily as a reaction to poisoning or exposure to toxic materials.

Other symptoms of poisoning include irregular heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and in some cases nosebleeds

If you suspect that your pitbull has been poisoned, it’s highly recommended to take it to a vet immediately to stabilize its condition and give it the proper treatment.

Overheating or Heatstroke

Most dogs, including Pitbulls, have trouble with regulating their body temperatures as they don’t have sweat glands. This causes them to be more prone to overheating and heat strokes which can be a serious concern.

Overheating and heat strokes will lead to heavy breathing or panting along with other symptoms including irregular heart rate and lack of energy.

If you notice any of these symptoms you need to help your pitbull cool down immediately by moving it to a cooler area, making it drink cold water, and covering it down with a wet towel. You can learn how to handle overheating in my pitbulls and how to prevent in this article on how can Pitbulls handle hot weather.

Anxiety or Fear

Pitbulls can be sensitive, especially when they’re young. They might start breathing heavily or panting in certain situations because it’s having a strong emotional reaction like anxiety or fear.

Other signs that your dog is feeling anxious or afraid include pacing, trembling, excessive barking and whining, hiding, cowering, and avoiding eye contact.

It’s very important to understand your dog’s body language and keep it away from stressful situations to prevent its behavior from escalating to aggression.

A very common cause of anxiety is being left alone, but there are things you can do to help your dog be less anxious when they are left alone. You can learn how to train your Pitbull to be left alone here.

Happiness or Excitement

Having a strong emotional reaction is not always negative, so Pitbulls might also start breathing heavily or panting in certain situations because they just can’t contain their happiness or excitement.

Other signs that your dog is feeling happy or excited include loud barking, dilated pupils, running around, jumping, and spinning in circles.

Old Age

The average lifespan of a pitbull is about 12 or 13 years, and with proper care and good living condition, they might live as long as 14 or 15 years.

By the time your Pitbulls reached 10 years of age, they will start displaying various signs of old age more often which includes heavy breathing and panting along with overall lack of energy, weakness in muscles and bones, and Oversensitivity to stimuli.

At that age, it’s important to take your dog to the vet for regular check-ups in order to prevent or treat any health problems.

How to Treat Your Pitbull’s Heavy Breathing?

If your dog is breathing heavily and you cannot determine the cause, it’s highly recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Once the dog arrives at the vet’s, it will be placed in an oxygen chamber or given “flow by” oxygen to stabilize its breathing, then it will be examined to determine the underlying cause and given the proper treatment.

The treatment for heavy breathing in dogs will vary depending on the cause.

Related Questions

Is Reverse Sneezing Common in Pitbulls?

Reverse sneezing is common in Pitbulls, especially smaller-sized ones. This condition is a respiratory response to the dog inhaling an irritant or getting too excited which causes it to make a stereotypical honking sound. It’s not a serious condition and tends to come in short, spasm-like episodes.

What Are Other Health Problems That Pitbulls Are Prone to Have?

Other health problems that Pitbulls are prone to have include allergies, skin conditions, eye diseases, hip dysplasia, cerebellar abiotrophy, and parvovirus. They are also prone to obesity if they don’t get enough exercise. You need to take your dog to a vet for regular checkups to ensure it’s healthy.

Helpful Resources 

Why Is My Dog Breathing Heavy?

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