Why Does My Puppy Breathe So Fast While Sleeping?

Keeping our dogs safe and comfortable, especially while they are still young, is our number one priority as dog owners. We make certain that they eat healthy foods, engage in regular physical activity, and get a full and restful night’s sleep. So it’s a little scary when your puppy’s breathing is quick when he’s sleeping. But is there any need to be concerned? Why does your puppy breathe so fast while sleeping? 

When a puppy falls asleep, almost all of them begin to breathe more quickly than usual. Even human babies are known to exhibit similar behavior! So while it may be alarming, you shouldn’t be too worried. Sleeping is the most crucial time for pups to grow and develop their bodies, and rapid breathing is a part of their growth and development.

In some cases, puppies breathe faster due to the REM sleep cycle or simply put: when they are dreaming. It’s possible that your puppy is dreaming about something fascinating, such as chasing after a squirrel through the forest or engaging in a game of chase with another dog at the park. What appears to be a scary situation is often merely a small puppy who is simply having nice dreams!

IMPORTANT NOTE: A puppy should never be disturbed from sleep simply because he is breathing rapidly – this might lead your puppy to get shocked by suddenly waking up and may accidentally lead to your puppy biting.   

Now that this is established, let’s dig deeper into other reasons why your puppy might be breathing rapidly while sleeping when you should be concerned about it and other FAQS.

©Dog’s Best Life

What Might Be Other Reasons My Puppy Breathes Rapidly When Sleeping? 

Warm Room Temperature

Our sleeping pups’ normal breathing rate increases when sleeping in a warm environment. Breathing rapidly is your puppy’s means of regulating their body temperature as they sleep. Try to gauge if indeed the room where your puppy is sleeping is warm or humidity is high.  Install an air conditioner if necessary to keep your dog comfortable and to help him breathe better.

Exercise and Other Tiresome Activities

When your pup breathes rapidly in his sleep after playing, it’s possible that your dog is still recovering from a strenuous play session or exercise. Because dogs do not sweat, they must breathe fast in order to cool down and maintain body temperature. If you took your puppy out for a game of fetch or a power stroll with you just before they slept, it’s possible that they’re still breathing heavily while sleeping to cool off. 

What is a Healthy Breathing Rate?

When a puppy is sleeping, its breathing rate should be between 10 and 35 breaths per minute. Set a timer for 30 seconds to record the rate at which your pet breathes while napping. Take note of your pet’s chest as it rises and falls. Count the number of breaths your puppy takes. One rise and fall of your puppy’s chest equals one breath. Multiply the number of breaths by two. That’s your pet’s breathing rate.

To confirm that your results are consistent, repeat the process a few more times during the next few hours. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s best to check your puppy’s breathing rate when he’s resting rather than when he’s vigorously panting with his tongue sticking out, such as after a walk or after a long day in the yard, or when he’s out and about in the dog days of summer. Taking your puppy’s respiratory rate while he is panting and recording it at that moment would present a false result.

When Should I Be Alarmed?

If your puppy is active, eating and drinking properly, and not experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, there is no reason to be concerned. However, if your puppy’s respiration is still fast when he wakes up, it could be a sign of a medical problem.

Here are other symptoms you should be aware of: 

  • Not eating or drinking
  • Rapid breathing when awake without any apparent reason, even when relaxed
  • Coughing
  • Appears to have difficulty breathing
  • Problems with growth and development
  • Very tired and lethargic
  • Not playing as much as usual
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
©Dog Time

Congenital Heart Failure

Rapid breathing while sleeping may be an issue for dogs with Congenital Heart Disease. The heart works extra hard to keep functioning correctly when sleeping which is why puppies with this condition will have rapid breathing. Coughing, fainting, and acute exhaustion are other common symptoms of this condition.

Sleep Disorder Breathing

It is common for a dog who suffers from a sleep disorder to have an episode of breathing obstruction. Rapid breathing always follows after breathing obstruction.

Food Poisoning

Rapid breathing while sleeping can be caused by food poisoning. Onion, garlic, chocolate, xylitol, macadamia nuts, grapes/raisins, and avocado are all poisonous to pups. Some of the early signs of food toxicity in dogs include lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive salivation. 

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome 

Due to their smaller airways, brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds like pugs, bulldogs, and boxers normally breathe rapidly. They even snore, wheeze, and pant while sleeping.

Tracheal Collapse

When your puppy’s trachea (windpipe) collapses, it can make it extremely difficult for air to flow into and out of their lungs, forcing them to breathe more rapidly or heavily as a result. While this condition is more common in senior dogs, it can also develop in puppies. Tracheal collapse is particularly common in certain breeds of dogs, including Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Toy Poodles, and Pomeranians.

Rapid breathing, coughing, wheezing, blue tongue or lips, difficulty breathing, open mouth breathing, cracking noises when inhaling, and collapse are all indicators of pulmonary edema in your puppy.

Cardiogenic pulmonary edema and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema are two types of pulmonary edema that can be caused by different factors. Cardiogenic pulmonary edema indicates that your dog is suffering from a heart condition that is causing a buildup of fluid in their lungs, such as an enlarged heart, thickening of the heart walls, a poorly functioning heart valve, or a high sodium diet. Noncardiogenic pulmonary edema on the other hand, has been associated with airway blockage, secondary disorders (such as cancer), anemia, heartworm, smoke inhalation, pneumonia, near drowning, and hypoproteinemia (a lack of protein in your dog’s blood).

IMPORTANT NOTE: Any medical concerns should be brought up to your vet immediately.

©The Spruce Pets

Swollen Bellies and Rapid Breathing | When to Seek Medical Help?

If your pup has rapid breathing and has a large tummy coupled with other symptoms such as loss of appetite, continuous lethargy, difficulty sleeping, groaning, or whining, consult your veterinarian immediately. On the other hand, if none of these signs are present and your puppy appears to be in good health, rapid breathing and a swollen belly may not be as frightening as it seems.

When puppies eat too quickly, this can cause rapid breathing and swollen bellies. Fast eating can cause your puppy to take in too much air that builds up in the tummy until it is gradually released. This condition can easily be fixed by using a slow feeder bowl or food puzzles when feeding your puppy. 

Swollen stomachs and fast breathing can also be caused by parasites and worms in your puppy. It is quite common for puppies to get worms from their mothers, especially at a young age. A deworming treatment is all that is needed to neutralize this issue (as well as to alleviate heavy breathing).

Can Stress Cause Rapid Breathing to Puppies? 

Yes! While some puppies can easily adapt to new changes, other newly adopted puppies may take a while before they’ll feel comfortable in their new home. Changes in the environment can often cause stress in puppies that may cause rapid breathing. 

There is really nothing that you need to do for your puppy besides make them comfortable and take your time caring for them to make your puppy comfortable. Make sure to be gentle with your new puppy and let them explore at their own pace. In time, your puppy will grow used to your home and be just as comfortable there as they were in their original home!

Should You Wake a Puppy Up if He is Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

Unless your puppy’s respiratory rate is either higher or lower than normal, it’s best not to wake him up while he’s trying to get some zzzs. Puppies require more sleep than adults do, and getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy pup’s development. Apart from that, startling your dog will likely lead them to react aggressively. 

If you need to wake up your pup, for example, to take them for a pee break, use a calm voice and gently tap them on the rear of the head. This will enable them to gently wake up.

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