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Why is my puppy breathing fast while sleeping?

November 17, 2023

We adore observing our pets peacefully sleeping after an energetic day. However, if you notice your pup breathing rapidly while asleep, causing concern, you might wonder: Is fast breathing in puppies a cause for concern? Is it normal? Should you be concerned?

Understanding the reasons behind your puppy's accelerated breaths during sleep is crucial in ensuring their well-being. There exist numerous reasons behind this occurrence, and many of them are perfectly normal. As a new puppy owner, it's completely understandable to feel stressed and anxious when trying to comprehend your puppy's behavior.

Detecting rapid breathing in your pup is a challenging task. Their small size, especially in certain breeds, can make it difficult to discern whether their sleeping breath is faster than usual.

puppy breathing fast while sleeping

However, there's no need to fret, as we'll provide you with helpful tips on how to monitor your puppy's breathing rate to ensure their well-being. Additionally, below, we'll delve into why puppies often breathe rapidly while asleep and offer insights into understanding a dog's natural sleep stages. So, you can provide the best care for your beloved pet.

Rapid Sleep Breathing in Puppies: Are They Okay?

In numerous instances, it's indeed considered normal for puppies to breathe faster during sleep. Nevertheless, this doesn't imply that they should consistently exhibit rapid or heavy breathing throughout their entire sleep duration. Additionally, occasional rapid breaths might signal a potentially serious underlying medical issue.

A Vet with a Pomeranian

Typically, short periods of rapid breathing during sleep are considered normal and shouldn't cause excessive worry for pet owners. Yet, there are specific factors to observe, particularly if this pattern repeats consistently whenever your pup sleeps or persists for more than a few minutes.

It is important to understand the reason of rapid sleep breathing.

Why Is My Puppy Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

Puppies naturally have a higher respiratory rate, even while at rest, in comparison to adult dogs. On average, puppies take in roughly 15 to 40 breaths per minute, whereas adult dogs typically breathe between 10 to 30 times per minute. This increased pace of breathing in younger pups is essential due to their growth phase, necessitating a higher metabolism and consequently, more oxygen consumption than fully-developed, larger dogs.

To ensure accurate assessment, owners should confirm that their pups are asleep before evaluating their breathing patterns. While some reasons for faster breathing are perfectly normal and pose no cause for concern, others may necessitate veterinary attention.

Firstly, let’s find out reasons for a puppy's rapid breathing during sleep that are safe:


The most frequent reason for puppies breathing rapidly while asleep is after a physical exercise or play session. Their bodies require oxygen to recover, leading to quicker breathing until the blood oxygen is replenished. Typically, this rapid breathing pattern should diminish within the initial 15 minutes after your puppy falls asleep.


Your puppy might exhibit faster breathing during sleep due to feeling warm. This can happen if the weather is warm, if they opt to rest in a sunny, warm spot, or if they've exerted themselves excessively. Puppies can swiftly overheat and potentially experience heatstroke, a serious condition. If you suspect your puppy is too warm, take measures to cool them down. Positioning them near a fan or an open window with a refreshing breeze, turning off heat sources, and relocating them away from direct sunlight can help. Providing cool, fresh water is also advisable. Rapid breathing and panting, natural cooling mechanisms for canines, may be observed in such situations.

Dream State

Your puppy might exhibit faster breathing due to being in a state of dreaming. Similar to humans, canines experience REM sleep and have dreams. This can lead to an elevation in their heart and respiratory rate. During an intense dream, some puppies may display additional signs along with the increased breathing rate. They might produce sounds such as whimpers, barks, cries, or soft howls. Some might even exhibit movements while asleep, mimicking activities like running, playing, or pantomiming.

Feelings of Anxiety, Fear, or Stress

Puppies can undergo moments of fear and anxiety triggered by various circumstances, such as encountering something new, like a visit to the vet or adjusting to a new environment. These heightened emotional states prompt the body to release increased levels of cortisol, leading to a rise in heart rate. Typically, this stress-induced response diminishes relatively swiftly once puppies have acclimated and feel secure in their surroundings.

However, there are unsafe causes of puppy breathing fast while asleep:


Excessive panting, rapid, heavy, and shallow breathing serve as indications of canine dehydration. Other symptoms encompass a dry mouth, gums, and nose, decreased activity, slower responses, reduced mental focus, impaired balance, elevated heart rate, anxious behavior, lethargic appearance, sticky mucus membranes, decreased urine output, and dark, strongly odorous urine.

This list is not exhaustive. Dehydration can also lead to conditions such as hypotension, hypovolemic shock, and altered consciousness. Dehydration poses a significant risk and requires prompt attention. Puppies are particularly susceptible to dehydration due to the challenges in encouraging adequate water intake and maintaining their hydration levels.

Physical Discomfort or Pain

Puppies are prone to injuring themselves easily as they navigate the newness of the world around them. Occasionally, rapid and more audible breathing can stem from pain. Pain may arise due to an injury or an underlying medical issue. Watch for indicators such as swelling, skin irritation, limping, or excessive licking of a paw or limb. Examine your puppy for any signs of injury or sensitivity. Contact your veterinarian to determine if an examination is necessary. If your dog appears to be in significant pain, endeavor to seek prompt veterinary care.

Respiratory Issues

Regrettably, young puppies are prone to various respiratory ailments due to their developing immune systems, which are not as robust as those of adult dogs. This makes them more vulnerable to illnesses such as kennel cough, influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia, respiratory infections, and similar issues. Consequently, puppies may breathe more rapidly as they struggle to acquire sufficient oxygen.

When a puppy is unwell, they often display additional symptoms like nasal or eye discharge, drooling, lethargy, and reduced appetite. If you observe these symptoms coupled with accelerated breathing, it's advisable to contact your veterinarian promptly.

Heart Disease

Issues related to the heart, such as heart disease or defects, can lead to increased breathing rates. Congenital heart defects and congestive heart failure are examples of conditions that can cause faster respiration. These are highly critical conditions that necessitate medical intervention.


Anemia, characterized by a low red blood cell count, can stem from causes such as parasitic infestation or the severe canine parvovirus infection. Anemic puppies may exhibit accelerated breathing due to their bodies working harder to circulate oxygen. Additional signs of anemia include pale blue gums, lethargy, and reduced body temperature. Immediate medical attention is imperative in such cases.


Dyspnea refers to challenging, laborious breathing often associated with fluid accumulation in the lungs, accompanied by an increased respiration rate.

Diaphragmatic Hernia

A diaphragmatic hernia, a congenital defect, occurs when abdominal organs exert pressure on the lungs due to improper development. This leads to labored and rapid breathing, noticeable beyond just sleep. Owners may observe irregular heartbeats and necessitates treatment, typically through surgical correction.

Different stages of your puppy's sleeping patterns

Understanding your puppy's sleeping patterns is crucial for their well-being. Puppies, like humans, undergo various stages of sleep as they grow. Initially, newborn puppies spend most of their time sleeping, up to 22 hours a day, as their bodies develop rapidly. As they mature, puppies tend to sleep for shorter durations but still require substantial rest. Around 3-6 months, they start consolidating their sleep into longer nighttime stretches, resembling more adult-like patterns. By the time they reach 1 year, most puppies establish consistent sleep routines, typically sleeping around 12-14 hours a day. Being aware of these evolving sleep patterns can aid in providing the appropriate care and environment for your growing pup.

Sleeping Puppy

So, dogs typically allocate about 20% of their day for vigorous activity, around 30% staying awake but sedentary, and roughly 50% for sleeping. Their sleep cycle closely resembles our own, albeit at a faster pace, cycling through each phase multiple times during the night—around 20 sleep cycles compared to our 4 or 5. During the initial phase, known as NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, your dog sleeps lightly with deep and steady breathing, minimal movement, and a gradual decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. In the subsequent REM phase, which kicks in roughly after ten minutes, dogs may twitch, emit soft noises, and exhibit heavier breathing during dreams. Disturbing a dog during REM sleep can lead to momentary confusion and possible reactive behavior. Throughout their rest, dogs oscillate between these cycles, often displaying noticeable signs during their REM phase, as described earlier.

When to Contact Your Vet About Your Puppy Breathing Fast

Although rapid breathing is frequently benign, it can be linked to various medical conditions, ranging from minor to potentially requiring immediate attention. Typically, accompanying signs and symptoms will manifest if your dog's rapid breathing is connected to a medical problem.

We would like to provide you with some common medical conditions that may cause an increased respiratory rate in your puppy. However, this compilation is not comprehensive and should not substitute a thorough veterinary examination:

  1. Laryngeal paralysis:

It happens when the tiny muscles in your pet's throat, called laryngeal flaps, don't work well. These muscles help with eating, drinking, and breathing, just like in humans. But if there are problems with the controlling nerves, these muscles can't move properly. When they don't move enough, it becomes harder for your pet to get enough air into their lungs. This makes your puppy breathe more heavily. In younger dogs, this issue often comes from an injury to the neck. But in older dogs, the cause isn't always clear. Watch out for signs like noisy breathing, changes in your puppy's bark, and having trouble breathing after running or playing a lot.

  1. Collapsing Windpipe:

The windpipe, or trachea, is like a big tube that helps dogs breathe. Sometimes, in older dogs or certain breeds like Pomeranians or Chihuahuas, the stiff parts of this tube can get softer. When this happens, it becomes tricky for the dog to breathe normally.

  1. Breathing Issues from Infections:

Simple infections can make breathing harder, especially when they affect the lungs. If a germ, like a bacteria or a virus, sets up camp in the trachea, it might not bother breathing too much. But if it moves into the lungs, your dog might start panting heavily to get more air.

  1. Feeling Too Hot:

Dogs can't cool down like humans because they don't sweat much. When it's super hot, they pant to chill out. But when it's too hot for too long, like over 106 degrees Fahrenheit, they could get sick. Look for heavy panting, confusion, throwing up, or changes in gum color.

  1. Heart Problems:

Just like humans, dogs can have heart troubles. When their heart isn't working well, they might breathe heavily to make up for not getting enough air. If your dog has heart issues, they might struggle with exercise or develop a cough.

  1. Hurting or Feeling Bad:

If a puppy is in pain or feeling unwell for any reason, they might start breathing harder. Dogs are pretty good at hiding pain, so it might not be obvious. Things like arthritis or toothaches can make them breathe faster.

Other Breathing Issues:

There are smaller things that might make your dog breathe fast, like asthma or kennel cough. Asthma in dogs is rare but could be due to allergies, causing coughing or wheezing. Kennel cough is common in places with many dogs, leading to a runny nose, coughing, and tiredness.

If you're worried or anxious about your dog's breathing, it's a good idea to talk to your vet.

Even though we've talked about some conditions and their signs earlier, it's best to contact your vet if you spot these signs in your pup:

  • They look pale, with gums that are red or bluish;
  • They don't want to eat much;
  • They're very tired and don't feel like playing or moving;
  • Their breathing seems really hard and difficult;
  • They're breathing with their mouth open, even when they're resting.

If your vet feels concerned, they'll check your pup all over. This helps them figure out if your pet has any health issues causing the breathing trouble and where those issues might be coming from.

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