It's a lazy Sunday afternoon and you've just settled down atop the sofa to read a book. As predicted, your dog jumps up next to you, circles around once, lays himself down, and then releases a great big sigh before closing his eyes. Is this a happy sigh of contentment or could it be something else?
Why Do Dogs Sigh?
If your dog is prone to letting out a few extended exhales every now and then, you may have wondered if dog sighs could possibly convey the same feelings that people sighs do, or if it's a cause for worry. Dogs can sigh for a variety of reasons, but the main reason they sigh is to signal that they are relaxed. However, deep and frequent sighing can indicate that your pet is in pain or suffering from illness.
A sigh can also mean that your pup is calm, content, and entering a deeper state of relaxation — indicated by eyes that are half-closed, according to The Happy Dog Spot. Just as you would let out a long breath after your chores are done and you've sunk down into a comfy chair with a glass of wine in hand, your dog could be unwinding after a long hard day of running around with his furry friends at doggie daycare. In an Ask the Vet column in the San Francisco Chronicle, dog trainer Pat Engels says, "My own unscientific observation is that dogs usually sigh while resting...These sighs seem to mark a physiological transition into a deeper state of relaxation."
Sighs as a Symptom
Unfortunately, deep sighing could also indicate a health issue. Frequent sighing accompanied by groaning could indicate that your pet is in pain, so take him to the vet immediately. Also, what you think may be sighs could in fact be wheezes, a symptom of respiratory illness.
Pet MD also reports that deep sighing can indicate that your pet is lethargic. If the sighing is accompanied by unusual behavior such as no longer wanting to play, refusing to eat, and no longer responding, this could be a sign of a much larger health problem and you should consult with a veterinarian immediately.
Dogs can sigh for a number of reasons; it could be a symptom of pain, in which case you should seek expert help. However, usually sighing indicates that your dog is calm and relaxed, not bored stiff by your dull company — so you can breathe a sigh of relief.