Dogs can make all sorts of noises besides barking. These sounds can have different meanings, especially when taken in the context of other behavioral cues your dog is exhibiting. One such sound your dog may make is sighing, and there are a few reasons why your dog may sigh. Being able to determine the underlying reason requires you to read your dog's body language as a whole.
What Is Sighing in Dogs?
This may seem like a silly question, but it's important to know the difference between a sigh and other, low-level noises your dog may make like moaning and groaning. A sigh isn't actually a true vocalization. Rather, a dog sigh is essentially just a deep exhale. A moan and a groan may have a bit of a whine to it as your dog vocalizes with their vocal chords as they exhale.
Why Do Dogs Sigh?
When it comes to dog behavior, a lot of the research revolves around body language. This is because we can actually tell a lot about how a dog is feeling emotionally and what a dog is trying to say based on their body language. But there are sounds and vocalizations dogs make to communicate as well. When your dog sighs, they are trying to communicate with you. What they are trying to tell you can depend on what is going on in your dog's environment and dog's physical, emotional, and mental health.
Feeling Content and Relaxed
A dog may sigh out of contentment and relaxation. This is usually a long sigh while your dog is laying down. Your dog may even seem to be sleeping or napping when they sigh out of contentment. Sometimes a dog will sigh with contentment after interactive play with their owner or it can just be when their owner is also relaxing. A dog that is sighing because they are content and relaxed will have a 'soft' face. This means their eyes may be half open and their ears will be relaxed. Usually your dog will be laying down when he sighs with contentment.
A dog may also sigh out of exasperation. Maybe you've finished playing with your dog but your dog doesn't want it to be over yet. An exasperated sigh will be paired with open eyes, often looking at whatever your dog is exasperated about—if your dog wants to keep playing, it may be you. A dog that sighs out of exasperation may be laying down but usually they are sitting up and their ears are forward and alert.
When a Sigh Could Mean More
A sigh by itself is nothing to worry about. Puppies may pair sighing with low moaning and this also means they are content and happy. An adult dog sighing in conjunction with moaning or groaning, however, may be trying to tell you that something is wrong. A dog that moans or groans while sighing may be feeling pain or discomfort. There are plenty of conditions that can cause pain and discomfort for your dog, including arthritis, stomach upset, or even growing pains. If these moans and groans are also accompanied with your dog being more lethargic, they may have a metabolic issue such as a diabetic crisis, liver disease, or even a heart problem. If your dog moans and groans while sighing, a vet appointment may be in order to ensure there isn't something more going on.
Sometimes sighs can have a sort of whistle to it. This would be indicative of some sort of airway obstruction. This can be congestion from an upper respiratory infection, a growth in the upper airway or nasal passages, or even a foreign object that may have been accidentally sniffed up. A sigh with a whistle to it may require more emergent veterinary medical attention if your dog is actively in respiratory distress of if their gum or tongue starts to turn blue.
Sighing can give you a lot of insight into what your dog is thinking, whether they are happy and content or frustrated and exasperated. Usually sighing is not indicative of anything medically wrong but, just like reading your dog's body language takes a whole picture approach, if a sigh is accompanied with other vocalization such as moans or groans or non-specific symptoms such as lethargy, your dog might actually be trying to say they need to go see the vet.
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