Have you ever watched your dog sleeping and notice he is breathing very rapidly? Have you ever observed him when he seems to be panting although he hasn’t really done any physical activity? When you notice this type of rapid breathing, it causes anxiety. You wonder if something is wrong; perhaps your dog has a respiratory issue that should be treated. However, it can be difficult to determine if your dog is truly experiencing difficulty breathing or if this is just normal for your pup.
Dogs breathe on average between twenty and thirty-four times per minute. Rapid breathing in itself is not uncommon in dogs; however, if you notice your dog appears to be struggling to breathe or if he appears to have labored breathing, then you should seek the advice of a veterinarian. Rapid breathing in dogs that is not otherwise attributable to a physical ailment is called tachypnea.
Dogs may breathe rapidly if they are excited. This means your dog could be breathing rapidly just because he’s happy to see you! It is also common to see dogs breathing rapidly for some of the same reasons we humans do – fear or stress.
It is important to recognize when your dog is breathing rapidly due to the possibility of heatstroke. We’ll look at the symptoms of heatstroke a little later in the article.
First, let’s take a look at why puppies, in particular, may appear to breathe rapidly. This is very common in puppies and most times, it should not be a reason for concern. However, there are instances when your puppy could be experiencing health problems that may cause her to breathe rapidly. We’ll look at those in-depth as well.
You can sometimes see puppies breathing fast while sleeping. You may also notice rapid breathing accompanied by wiggling, twitching, and even whining in their dog crate as they sleep. This is no cause for alarm. These actions, along with rapid breathing, are typical behavior for a sleeping puppy. The puppy who is breathing rapidly and possibly jerking or whining in his sleep (did you know that sometimes dogs bark in their sleep?) is simply experiencing REM sleep just as we humans do. This is not a time to worry, and, because puppies tend to sleep a lot, we may see them whine, kick, and breathe rapidly as they sleep quite often.
Stress can cause a puppy to breathe rapidly. New pet owners need to keep in mind that puppies undergo a certain amount of stress when leaving the safety of their mother and siblings in the litter and coming to a new home. While you know that you only want the best for your puppy, the puppy, unfortunately, is a little overwhelmed and may even be scared in her new environment. Furthermore, pet parents often begin immediately trying to acclimate a puppy to live in their homes. This includes introducing them to crate training, housebreaking, and in some cases older (read: unfamiliar) dogs and even children in the new home. Again, this is a normal part of bringing a new puppy home, but, unfortunately, it can be a stressful time for the puppy. One of the ways they deal with stress is to breathe rapidly.
You can expect a puppy breathing fast after play as panting is a dog’s chief means of cooling his body. Rapid breathing or even panting itself should not be something to worry over unless it is accompanied by vomiting, listlessness, or a refusal to eat. If you do notice these symptoms affecting your puppy, get him to a vet immediately as the puppy may have a viral infection that needs medical attention.
What are some other situations in which rapid breathing in a puppy should warrant a vet visit?
Look for signs such as the aforementioned vomiting, a loss of appetite, and a refusal to play. If any or all of these signs accompany rapid breathing, then you should seek medical attention for your puppy. If you notice that your puppy is breathing rapidly when he should otherwise be rested and you notice his belly is swollen, then your puppy may have a case of worms. Now, this will not always be the case! Some puppies eat so rapidly that they may be gulping air each time they take a bite of dog food. This may cause the belly to swell from the excess air intake; they will eventually learn they don’t have to wolf down their food and this will no longer be a problem. However, if you notice them breathing rapidly and the swelling is consistently present, you might need to use a dewormer for dogs (a trip to the vet can confirm a case of puppy worms). Otherwise, most of the time, rapid breathing in a puppy is nothing to worry about.
We’ve already discussed the normal breathing rate of a healthy dog. Experts tell us that anything more than forty breaths per minute while your dog is at rest is considered rapid breathing. Even so, your dog’s breathing rapidly is not always a cause for concern.
You’ll want to consider the type of dog you have, as well. Some dog breeds will normally breathe rapidly due to the construction of their airways. Brachycephalic dogs – those whose snouts are shorter with wider heads and jaws – may breathe rapidly simply due to the way they are made . Boxers, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, and Pugs are all considered brachycephalic dogs that are born with a little difficulty in breathing. For these dogs, breathing rapidly even without stress or physical activity may be somewhat normal. However, brachycephalic dogs can also develop respiratory issues, so it is a good idea to monitor your dog’s breathing to discern what is normal and what is not.
What are some signs that your dog’s rapid breathing isn’t normal?
Look at the way your dog is breathing. Does it appear as if your dog is using her stomach muscles to breathe? This is a cause for concern and will warrant a visit to the vet. Next, observe your dog’s gums – are they blue, pale, or red (as in the color of red brick)? If so, this is another sign that something more than normal (albeit rapid) breathing is going on. Also, look for a refusal to eat or drink as a warning sign regarding your puppy’s health. Look for drooling that is abnormal (remember some breed will drool as a general rule, such as the English Bulldog); also, you’ll want to look for a dog that breathes with its mouth open while at rest. Any of these symptoms accompanying rapid breathing should be presented to your veterinarian.
You’ll also want to look for dogs using more of the chest area as well as the stomach muscles to breathe. Noisy breathing, a dog breathing with its mouth open (aside from normal panting), or seeing your dog extend its head and neck to breathe are all signs your dog is struggling to breathe.
What are some respiratory issues that cause rapid breathing?
When a dog experiences shortness of breath or labored breathing (struggling to breathe), this medical symptom is referred to as dyspnea . Dogs that are panting may breathe up to 100 times per minute (we’ve already discussed that normal breathing for a dog is between 24 and 35 breaths per minute, depending on the breed). If your dog has not been exercising and is breathing rapidly but is not under stress, you may need to call the vet.
Your dog could be breathing rapidly due to pneumonia or laryngeal paralysis as well as heart disease. All of these must be treated by a vet.
Let’s talk a minute about heatstroke. Heatstroke can affect any dog, but brachycephalic dogs will often become more prone to heatstroke than a dog with a more traditional muzzle. Of course, a dog who has gotten hot is going to pant in order to get his body temperature back to normal. However, heatstroke may occur when your dog is drooling a lot or excessively, and you may also observe seizures, vomiting, and muscle weakness in your dog. It is imperative with brachycephalic dogs that you keep them from becoming overheated or overexcited. Because these dogs already have some difficulty breathing, they may experience heat stroke more commonly than other breeds of dogs. Encourage short breaks during play and provide the brachycephalic dog with lots of water so that he does not become overheated.
Another issue that may cause your dog to breathe rapidly is chronic pain. This pain can be caused by anything from gastrointestinal issues, sore muscles, or other injuries that you may never notice. This is a way your dog may cope with the pain he or she is experiencing, and, depending upon the cause of the pain, you may be able to treat his pain at home. Often, when a dog is experiencing chronic pain, you’ll also notice a loss of appetite, possible swelling, and mobility issues. Some dogs will lick or gnaw at a painful body part as well. If this accompanies rapid breathing, you’ll want to see your vet.
Not all rapid breathing is cause for alarm in your dog. However, if the problem persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, it may be wise to see your vet for treatment.
1. Why is my puppy breathing so fast?
Your puppy is more than likely simply dreaming. Just as we humans may jerk or talk in our sleep – not to mention experience rapid breathing depending upon the dream – puppies do the same when dreaming.
There are some instances when puppies breathe rapidly that don’t involve dreaming. They may be experiencing stress, or they may have a treatable health issue, such as puppy worms.
2. Is fast breathing normal for puppies?
Very much so! Puppies tend to breathe rapidly for a number of reasons. Look for other symptoms that may accompany your puppy’s rapid breathing to determine if there is a health issue that warrants a visit to the vet. In fact, if your puppy is under sixteen weeks of age, you can typically wait until you take her back to the vet for immunizations to mention episodes of rapid breathing to your vet. Jot down her behavior other than the rapid breathing. Your vet will check the puppy for worms or other probable causes of the rapid breathing. Many times, it is simply your puppy’s normal behavior.
However, if you notice your puppy refusing to eat or drink and vomiting along with the rapid breathing, waste no time! Get her to the vet asap for parvovirus testing.
3. What is normal puppy breathing?
Puppies normally take between fifteen and forty breaths per minute. Keep in mind that puppies tend to breathe more rapidly than adult dogs as a general rule.
4. Why do dogs breathe fast when sleeping?
Again, this is due to the REM stage of sleep, when dogs dream. They may jerk, bark, or whine as they dream. All of the above is normal!