We know getting your first puppy can be a combination of excitement and anxiety. As a pet parent, you become attuned to your puppy’s behaviour and notice every little thing. For example, you might be reading this article today because you’ve noticed changes in your puppy’s breathing whilst they sleep - one minute they’re sleeping peacefully but then they start breathing super fast, what’s that all about?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is a super common worry of lots of puppy parents around the world but we’re here to set the record straight and answer your burning question. We know it can be worrying to suddenly see your puppy breathe fast, but there are lots of causes, some of which aren’t as serious as you may think.
Puppies naturally breathe faster than adult dogs with a normal breathing rate of around 15 to 50 breaths per minute. Any more of this can cause concern, especially when they’re sleeping.
So if your puppy has fast breathing during sleep, chances are it's nothing to worry about and probably not related to any medical issues.
Puppies also have higher heart rates compared to adult dogs meaning that when they’re deep into the REM stage of sleep, they’re very likely to show signs of rapid breathing.
The REM (rapid eye movement) stage of the sleep cycle is often accompanied by ‘sleep talking’ aka little whimpers or noises and involuntary leg movements. Simply put, your dog is in the land of nod, probably running through fields and eating lots of steaks.
However, young dogs and puppies are susceptible to developing diseases and infections that can affect their respiratory tract so if you think your puppy’s breathing rate has changed or they’re breathing too fast, contact your vet. They will be able to perform a full physical examination for the common symptoms of a range of medical conditions and determine the best course of action.
If you're a Waggel member, you can get this and your other pertinent pet health questions answered for free! All Waggel members receive free access to Joii, a 24/7 online vet care platform. By using the Joii app, you can book free consultations with a qualified vet at a time that suits you and your pet best.
You can also order over-the-counter treatment directly through their app making life just that little bit easier.
Just like us humans, dogs get hot too. However, dogs can't sweat to cool themselves down. Instead, they breathe faster to let air circulate through their body. Rapid or heavy breathing whilst your puppy is sleeping may be a sign that they’re trying to get their temperature back to normal.
If it's warm outside, try to keep the inside of your home as cool as possible. Dogs should always be kept away from heat sources such as fireplaces. Although they often move themselves to sit closer, sleeping in front of a fire can cause dehydration and breathing difficulties.
It is for this reason that it's also super important to make sure your dog always has access to clean water.
Exercise causes dogs of all ages to breathe fast. Depending on the fitness level of your dog, it may take them a little while to cool down and steady their breathing level.
As puppies are a lot smaller than dogs, it only takes a small amount of physical activity to cause them to feel out of breath. Like us, when dogs exercise, their muscles work harder and therefore require more oxygen. This oxygen is then turned into carbon dioxide and causes an increase in breathing. It takes time for the dog's oxygen levels to return to normal.
Because dogs can't sweat so use their breath to steady their heart rate - allowing it to return to a healthy level. If you notice your dog breathes for continuous periods after recent exertion and struggles to cool down, it is worth seeking veterinary attention.
Arguably the cutest and most harmless reason for fast puppy breathing on our list is dreaming. Puppy dreaming is a fascinating field and has proved to us after many years that our dogs do dream and potentially have nightmares too (not nice).
Though it’s not possible to know exactly what your dog is dreaming about, it can explain why they’re breathing fast. If their fast breath is accompanied by jittery legs and whimpers, they might be dreaming about being chased or chasing someone else!
Puppies generally move a lot more than adult dogs in their sleep because the pons in their brain is underdeveloped. The pons is the part of the brain responsible for regulating deep sleep and inhibiting lots of muscle movement.
Issues with the heart can cause quick breathing in puppies. The heart is a muscle that needs oxygen to function properly, without this it can lead to a whole host of problems and cause a wide range of symptoms in your pup.
Fast puppy breathing can point towards congestive heart failure. In cases such as this, the heart valves leak fluid into the body due to expansion. As a result of this, the lungs are under a lot of pressure causing rapid breathing.
If you suspect your puppy is struggling with heart disease or heart-related issues, seek immediate veterinary care.
Just because they’re puppies doesn’t mean they can’t get stressed out. When dogs are dealing with stress and anxiety, it can cause rapid breathing. Because their heart rate is increased it means that more oxygenated blood is pumping through the body. With a demand for oxygen, puppies and adult dogs alike can begin to hyperventilate.
Hyperventilation is characterised by short and rapid breaths, it may appear as though your dog is struggling to breathe. It is the exact same situation that appears in us humans when we are stressed, showing signs of anxiety, or are overwhelmed.
If your puppy is hyperventilating a lot and showing visible signs of distress, a consultation with a behaviourist may help once any health conditions are ruled out. Waggel members get access to free consultations with Junior Hudson from Heal the Dog who has over 10 years of experience in the field.
Although dogs can develop conditions that cause them to breathe fast, some are born with congenital conditions. Unfortunately, certain breeds are more susceptible to congenital breathing issues and disorders than others.
The most common breeds to struggle with congenital issues are brachycephalic dogs such as French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boston Terriers, and Pugs.
Brachycephalic refers to dogs with shortened skull bones and short noses giving the face an appearance of being almost pushed in.
Some dogs can suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) which is a progressive disorder. Dogs with BOAS struggle to cool down, regulate their body temperature, and breathe properly which can impede their quality of life.
In extreme cases of BOAS, surgery can be performed to widen the diameter of the nostril allowing more air to enter and resulting in better breathing.
Brachycephalic breeds can also struggle with paroxysmal respiration, otherwise known as a reverse sneeze. Instead of expelling air, during a reverse sneeze, a dog will pull the air rapidly in, making wheezing noises and often struggling for breath. For most dogs, a reverse sneeze isn’t problematic, though if it is happening frequently it is worth speaking to your vet as it can be very distressing to watch.
Anaemia in puppies and adult dogs is a serious and life-threatening condition if not treated. It is often characterised by a fast heart rate, rapid breathing (even when resting), signs of blood loss, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Dogs with anaemia often breathe fast in an attempt to compensate for the loss of oxygen circulating in the body. If your dog has pale gums or is struggling to breathe, seek immediate emergency veterinary care.
Other health issues such as toxicosis can cause anaemia which leads to faster breathing. These issues are generally treated with rest and oxygen therapy as your dog may have a reduction in red blood cells.
If you notice your puppy breathing a lot faster than usual, especially when they’re sleeping, it’s usually not a cause for concern. The resting respiratory rate for a puppy should be around twice as fast as us humans.
When your dog is dreaming, cooling down from exercise, or dealing with high temperatures, their breathing is likely to increase by around ten times. As long as this doesn’t last for more than a couple of minutes, there’s typically nothing to worry about.
If your dog is particularly anxious or stressed about a situation or event, you may find them breathing very quickly for periods of time. We recommend speaking to a vet who can help advise you on ways to reduce feelings of anxiety.
If your dog is suddenly breathing at a rate of more than 35 breaths per minute for no obvious reason, this could be a sign of something more serious such as anaemia, a heart condition, heatstroke, or pneumonia. This is the time to consult your vet immediately and make note of any other symptoms.
Keeping your dog fit and healthy can help to avoid serious irregular breathing patterns or future problems with their heart rate.
Interested in reading more about pet health? Why not take a look at our other popular articles such as worms in dogs and why dogs lick their lips?
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