My Puppy Is Breathing Fast While Sleeping (Should You Worry?)

My puppy breathing fast while sleeping

It is always a beautiful sight to see our dogs having a peaceful sleep, but have you ever encountered instances of a puppy breathing fast while sleeping? This might even cause you to worry, but should you?

In most cases, it is normal when a puppy is breathing fast while sleeping. This may happen if it just came from playing, is feeling warm, is in a deep sleep, or is experiencing anxiety. However, if it is breathing abnormally fast and persists for more than ten minutes, call a vet immediately.

This article aims to widen your understanding of rapid breathing in puppies, including its normal and abnormal causes, how to measure their respiratory rate, and how to respond to this occurrence. Read along to find out more.

What Breathing Rate Is Considered Normal for Puppies?

Puppy sleeping on a dog bed breathing fast

To determine abnormal breathing or when a puppy is breathing fast, we need to first understand what a normal puppy’s breathing rate is.

The normal respiratory rate of a healthy puppy at rest should be between 15 and 40 breaths per minute. Meanwhile, an adult dog would have a slower breathing rate, which is 10 to 30 breaths per minute.

Puppies breathe faster than adult dogs because they are still growing. They need enough oxygen for their quick metabolism and for their cells to develop properly.

Even for adult dogs, sleep is the time when their bodies recover from physical activities like running and playing. During this time, a dog’s body requires more oxygen, which it acquires through faster breathing.

On the other hand, expect a puppy or even an adult dog to breathe faster to recover after playing or exercising; hence a rapid respiratory rate should be natural during this period and is not a cause for concern.

For example, when puppies pant, they may reach 100 breaths a minute until they cool down. Moreover, if they sleep right after vigorous exercise, their fast breathing may even reach 200 to 400 breaths per minute.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Breathing Too Fast?

As mentioned, a healthy puppy’s respiratory rate should be somewhere around 15 to 40 breaths per minute, while for adults, it should be about 10 to 30 breaths per minute.

Anything higher than these may be categorized as rapid breathing. But how do you measure dog breathing? The first thing you need to consider is to make sure that the dog is resting and in a relaxed state.

Follow these steps to tell if your dog is breathing too fast:

  1. Place one hand on top of your puppy’s chest and watch it rise as it inhales and fall as it exhales.
  2. Set a timer for 30 seconds. 
  3. Begin counting the breathing. One count is equal to one rise and fall of the puppy’s chest.
  4. Once 30 seconds have elapsed, get the total number of breaths and multiply it by two. This is your dog’s breaths per minute count.

Once you get your puppy’s breathing rate, you can now determine if it falls within the normal range or if it is going through rapid breathing.

Additionally, you may also need to be watchful of these other signs of a puppy breathing fast, even if they are resting:

  • Use of stomach muscles to aid in breathing
  • Hesitation to eat. drink, or move
  • Blue-tinged, brick red, or pale gums
  • Drooling or salivating
  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Loud, fast, and heavy breathing
  • Swollen belly

If you observe these in your puppy, then it might be experiencing respiratory distress or breathing problems, making them breathe fast.

Meanwhile, watch this short clip to see what a puppy breathing fast looks like:

Puppy breathing fast

Why Is My Puppy Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

Three Siberian Husky puppies breathing fast

Now that we can tell the difference between normal breathing patterns and a dog breathing fast, it is time to be familiar with the reasons behind a puppy’s rapid breathing.

This would help you decide whether you can relax and just wait for your puppy to wake up or you need to go to the vet immediately because of a more serious condition.

Normal Causes of Fast Breathing in Puppies

Some causes of a puppy’s fast breathing are normal, and pet owners can take comfort in the fact that these may happen to any dog. In fact, fast breathing is common in breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog (GSD). 

The following are some natural causes that may lead to a puppy breathing fast:

1. Recent Physical Activity

The most common reason for a puppy breathing rapidly while sleeping is when it has just come out from extensive physical activity or exercise. 

As it recovers from running or playing, it needs more oxygen to replace the carbon dioxide and replenish the cells in the body. This occurrence will trigger rapid breathing in the puppy.

This fast breathing should normalize within the first 10 to 15 minutes, starting from the moment your pup rests.

2. Temperature

A higher body temperature also results in panting or breathing fast in puppies. This may happen when your dog has been out playing in the sun or has been in an area where the temperature is higher than usual.

If this is the reason for the puppy’s fast breathing, additional action must be given to bring down the puppy’s body temperature and prevent possible heat stroke.

This may be done by bringing them to an air-conditioned area, providing ventilation, or giving them water or ice cubes. You should keep your dog away from hot environments until it gets back to its normal temperature.

3. Deep Sleep

When your puppy is dreaming, it has reached its deepest level of sleep, which is called rapid eye movement or REM sleep. 

This stage of sleep is also accompanied by an increased heart rate, fast eye movement behind closed eyelids, leg movement, and rapid breathing.

There is no need to interfere whenever you see your dog breathing fast while dreaming. It should go back to breathing normally once it snaps out of the dream. However, it is recommended to keep an eye on your dog briefly.

4. Psychological Factors

A new puppy adjusting to a different environment, the introduction of a new companion, or stressful events are a few examples of situations that may trigger your pup to experience stress, fear, or anxiety.

When puppies go through these psychological factors, their bodies release cortisol, which is also known as the fight or flight hormone. This causes an elevated heart rate, leading to rapid breathing.

However, if this is the cause of your puppy’s fast breathing, it should not take more than a few hours to return back to normal. It is also best to relieve the puppy of what triggers its discomfort, if any.

Abnormal Causes of Fast Breathing in Puppies

Some reasons why puppies breathe fast may be critical in nature and may require bringing them to a veterinarian immediately.

Below are some of the abnormal causes of why puppies may breathe fast:

1. Pain

Given their small size, puppies have a higher chance of getting hurt physically compared to adults. Puppies in pain tend to breathe more quickly since this gives them stress and anxiety.

If this is the reason for your puppy’s rapid breathing, consult with vets so they can prescribe pain relief medicines that are safe for your puppy. 

2. Heart Disease

A congenital heart defect in a puppy may be of different forms, yet all may contribute to a puppy breathing rapidly.

It could be because of an unclosed hole between the chambers of the puppy’s heart, signaled by a heart murmur. It may also be in the form of narrow blood vessels or leaky and weak heart valves.

These diseases affecting a dog’s heart result in a faster heartbeat, which in turn leads to a faster respiratory rate for the puppy.

A puppy with heart disease is usually weak and gets tired easily. Close monitoring by a veterinarian is required for this condition.

3. Respiratory Conditions

Due to their sensitive nature, puppies are more susceptible to respiratory illnesses compared to adult dogs, especially snub-nosed or brachycephalic dog breeds.

These brachycephalic breeds have narrow nostrils and smaller airways that give them trouble breathing. They also don’t do well in high temperatures and are more prone to heat stroke. This makes them breathe fast and loudly.

Meanwhile, regardless of breed, some puppies can be vulnerable to conditions such as pneumonia or chronic bronchitis, influenza, kennel cough, and upper respiratory tract infection (URTI).

A puppy with lung disease suffers from a hampered exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in its body. This, in turn, leads to reduced oxygen intake and causes irregular breathing in the puppy.

They may also show other signs of illnesses, such as lethargy, coughing, nasal discharge, and lowered appetite. 

A full physical examination must be done by the vet to have an accurate diagnosis of what causes quick breathing in these puppies. This is critical for them to get the right treatment and reach a healthy respiratory state.

4. Trachea Problems

If your puppy’s trachea or windpipe collapses or experiences too much pressure, you may also catch it breathing quickly. 

This is also usually accompanied by a dry cough and is more common in senior dogs, but it may also happen to puppies.

5. Anemia

Anemia is a condition where the puppy does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen and distribute it around its body. 

Due to this, the heart and lungs need to work harder to circulate the red blood cells faster, which causes the puppy to breathe fast. Anemia is deadly when left untreated, so immediate veterinary consultation is required.

6. Severe Dehydration

When a puppy becomes dehydrated, its blood does not contain enough volume of water to circulate the red blood cells and circulate oxygen throughout the pup’s body.

Hence, the puppy will need to breathe rapidly to catch up on the body’s oxygen needs. 

Further, if you see a heavily panting puppy that did not come from any physical activity, that may also indicate severe dehydration. 

Meanwhile, illness, heat, hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, and heavily active sweat glands may make dehydration even worse. To prevent this, ensure that your dog has a steady supply of fresh drinking water.

7. Diaphragmatic Hernia

A diaphragmatic hernia is an injury on the dog’s diaphragm which causes abdominal organs to move into the puppy’s chest.

This occurrence compresses the lungs of the puppy, leading to breathing problems that do not resolve even for prolonged periods. This may be congenital in nature or caused by physical trauma.

8. Food Poisoning

If your puppy has ingested any harmful food for dogs, such as chocolate, garlic, onion, avocado, xylitol, or coffee, a possible sign of toxicity is rapid breathing, among others.

If this happens, the best course of action is to bring your puppy to the veterinarian immediately. Further, ensure to always keep these unsafe foods out of reach from your canine companions.

9. Side Effects of Medication

Certain medications like dog-formulated sedatives and pain relievers are generally safe for puppies. 

However, in cases where a dog may have certain sensitivities or illnesses that may cause adverse reactions to these drugs, labored or fast breathing may be one of its possible side effects. 

What to Do If Your Puppy Is Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

The very first thing to do when a puppy is breathing faster than usual while sleeping is to monitor the situation further.

Using the correct method to measure breathing rate, count the puppy’s number of breaths per minute. If it goes beyond the normal rate of 40 breaths per minute, check if it slows down after 10 minutes. 

If the rapid breathing goes beyond 10 to 15 minutes, check for any physical signs or symptoms of an underlying medical condition, especially warm body temperature and pale gums.

In the case of high temperatures, move them to a cooler area and give them access to fresh, clean water.

On the other hand, if you notice pale gums in your puppy, check for additional signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, pain, limping, loss of appetite, or a bloated abdomen.

If you observe any of these symptoms, this should be your signal to bring your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

When Should I Contact My Vet About My Dog’s Breathing?

Puppy during vet consultation

Once you observe a prolonged period of rapid and heavy breathing in your puppy, along with possible signs of abnormal causes, bring it to the veterinarian immediately.

Even if your dog reverts back to normal breathing when it awakes, it is still recommended to have it checked by the vet to come up with the right diagnosis.

X-rays may be done to examine the condition of the heart, lungs, and abdomen and check for issues, such as lung tumors or broken ribs, among others.

Depending on the factor that is driving the puppy’s fast breathing, your vet may also do oxygen therapy, inject intravenous fluids, prescribe medicines, or do a suitable treatment for its current disease or condition. 

Final Thoughts

It is always an uncomfortable feeling seeing our furry friends go through unusual conditions, such as rapid breathing while sleeping. However, you can take comfort in the fact that this is normal for most puppies.

On the other hand, as pet owners get used to counting the breathing rate of dogs and are able to recognize the abnormal causes of fast breathing, they should be able to clearly identify when it is time to go to the vet.

Have you seen your dog breathing fast and laboriously? Leave a comment below if you have had any experience with a puppy breathing fast while sleeping.

Leave a Comment

You may also like