Why Is My Puppy Breathing Rapidly While Asleep?

Watching our adorable pups sleep is one of the most heartwarming moments for us as pet owners. Their cute and sometimes funny sleeping positions melt our hearts. But did you know that observing their breathing patterns during sleep can actually be quite beneficial? It allows us to identify any potential breathing issues that may be present. In this article, we will explore why puppies breathe rapidly while asleep and when you should be concerned.

What is Considered a Normal Breathing Rate for Puppies?

Puppies tend to have slightly faster breathing rates compared to adult dogs. While adult dogs usually take between 10-30/35 breaths per minute, puppies can take about 15-40 breaths per minute. However, it’s important to note that the normal breathing rate can vary for each individual pup. If you want accurate information about your furry friend, consulting a veterinarian is always a good idea.

How Can You Determine Your Pup’s Breathing Rate During Sleep?

Determining your pup’s breathing rate during sleep is actually quite simple. One method is to set a timer for 30 seconds and count the number of breaths your pup takes (one inhale and one exhale count as one breath). After the 30 seconds are up, you can multiply the number by two to determine the breathing rate per minute. Another easier method is to count your pup’s breaths for 15 seconds and then multiply that number by four.

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Possible Reasons for Fast Breathing in Puppies

There are three main categories of reasons for rapid breathing in puppies: physical-related causes, psychological causes, and underlying medical issues.

Physical-related causes are quite normal and nothing to worry about. These include physical activities such as playing, which naturally increase a pup’s breathing rate. So if your pup has been active and is breathing faster while asleep, it’s completely normal.

Psychological causes can also contribute to faster breathing rates during sleep. Stress triggers, like experiencing a rapid change in the environment (such as moving to a new home) or introducing a new pet or baby to the household, can lead to increased breathing rates. It’s important to give your pup time to adjust to these changes and provide them with a safe and comfortable space at home.

Underlying medical issues, such as heart failure, respiratory problems, or Cushing’s disease, can also cause rapid breathing in pups. If you suspect that a medical condition might be the cause, it’s essential to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Image: Puppy sleeping

Your Pup is Breathing Fast While Sleeping – When Not to Worry

There are situations where rapid breathing in a sleeping pup is considered normal and not a cause for concern. Here are a few examples:

Your Pup Cools Off

If your pup has been extremely active throughout the day, running, playing, and exploring, it’s natural for them to breathe fast even while taking a nap. Rapid breathing helps them cool down and regulate their body temperature. However, if you suspect your pup might be overheated, it’s important to move them to a cooler area and provide fresh water. Avoid draughty areas, as they can make your puppy sick. Remember, heatstroke is as dangerous for dogs as it is for humans.

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Your Pup is in a REM Stage

During the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep, puppies may experience rapid breathing. This is completely normal, as their eyes move quickly behind closed eyelids, their heart rate increases, and their breathing becomes irregular. Since a puppy’s lungs are not fully developed yet, rapid breathing during sleep can occur.

Psychological Causes

Stressful factors can also contribute to an increased breathing rate during sleep. While these causes are usually harmless to your pup’s physical health, they can negatively impact their mental well-being if left untreated. Stress triggers might include sudden environmental changes or the introduction of new pets or family members. Help your pup adjust by creating a safe and comfortable space for them at home. The presence of soft blankets, toys, and basic obedience training can also help alleviate stress and anxiety.

Image: Puppy sleeping

When Should You Consult a Veterinarian?

If you notice that your pup is breathing rapidly even when they are resting or if they are panting with a closed or partially opened mouth, it’s important to contact a veterinarian. Other signs that may indicate underlying health conditions include coughing, retching, wheezing, unusual sounds while breathing, or having blue or pale gums. These symptoms should not be ignored and require professional medical attention.

Health Conditions That May Cause Rapid Breathing in Puppies

There are several health conditions that can lead to rapid breathing in puppies. Here are a few examples:

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a condition that causes inflammation and increased mucus production in the lower airways, potentially leading to permanent lung damage. Coughing is the body’s way of trying to clear the excess mucus. Acute bronchitis, usually caused by viral or bacterial infections, is temporary. However, if symptoms persist for more than two months, it is considered chronic.

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Trachea Problems

Tracheal collapse occurs when the rings supporting the trachea lose their rigidity and collapse, obstructing airflow. This progressive disease is more common in toy breeds. Additional symptoms such as vomiting, coughing, and wheezing may be present. Treatment often involves medication and preventative care.


Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, occurs when the lungs cannot expand properly, resulting in breathing difficulties. This condition can cause gasping and discoloration of the gums. Initial treatment may involve oxygen therapy, fluid removal from the chest cavity, and other interventions to improve breathing and address underlying causes.

Heart Problems

Fast breathing can be a sign of congestive heart failure, where fluids build up in the body and put pressure on the lungs. Other symptoms may include panting, fatigue, coughing, and blue gums. Medication and surgery may be necessary to manage the condition.

Image: Puppy banner

Other Reasons for Rapid Breathing

Aside from the above-mentioned causes, there are a few other factors that can contribute to rapid breathing in puppies:

Food Poisoning

If your dog has ingested non-edible items or certain human foods that are toxic to them (such as chocolate, garlic, onion, avocados, etc.), it can lead to rapid breathing. If you suspect food poisoning, it is crucial to contact a veterinarian immediately. Always keep potentially harmful human foods locked away and supervise your pup while outdoors.

Side Effects of Medication

Certain sedatives and pain relievers can cause breathing problems in dogs, particularly if they have allergies, heart issues, anemia, or internal bleeding. While these medications are generally safe when used properly, it’s important to monitor your pup for any adverse reactions.

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Remember, if you have any concerns about your puppy’s breathing patterns or overall health, it’s always best to consult a veterinarian for expert advice and guidance. Your pup’s well-being is our top priority!

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