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Why Is My Puppy Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

After the excitement of welcoming a new puppy into your home wears off, you may start to notice that canine behavior isn’t always easy to understand.

One issue that many new dog owners worry about is fast breathing. It can happen to puppies as well as grown dogs for a variety of reasons, and we’re going to discuss all of those reasons right now.

We’ll also tell you how to determine your puppy’s breathing rate and what you should do if you notice your puppy is breathing rapidly.

That information should give you confidence that you can take care of your puppy in sickness and in health.

What is Rapid Breathing in a Puppy?

Adult dogs can take up to 30 breaths per minute when calm, relaxed, and in an environment with a comfortable temperature.

Puppies may work a little harder, so their breathing is considered normal up to 40 breaths per minute.

Some puppies may breathe a little slower or faster, depending on their general health condition and other factors.

All pet owners should pay attention to their puppy’s everyday breathing rate so that the signs of rapid breathing are easier to detect.

The following steps will walk you through a basic breathing rate check for puppies as well as adult dogs:

  1. Identify a location where your dog regularly relaxes or sleeps, and put a timer in the area.
  2. When you notice your dog relaxing and in a calm state of mind, set the timer for 30 or 60 seconds
  3. Start the timer and watch your puppy’s chest to count the visible breaths. Each time your puppy breaths in and out, count it as one breath.
  4. If you set the timer for 30 seconds, double the number of breaths counted to determine your puppy’s breathing rate. If you set the timer for 60 seconds, the number of breaths counted is your puppy’s breathing rate.

You may want to repeat this test two or three times, taking an average to determine your puppy’s current breathing rate.

When you think your puppy is breathing rapidly during sleep, you can use this same process to see how fast they’re breathing.

Now it’s time to talk about reasons your puppy may breathe fast while sleeping and what you should do if you notice it.

Why is Your Puppy Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

There’s no single reason a puppy may breathe rapidly while sleeping. You may worry that your puppy is sick, but that isn’t likely the case if the rapid breathing slows rather quickly and isn’t repeated often.

There are a couple reasons you may want to take your puppy to a vet for medical care:

  • Your puppy’s breathing is rapid during sleep as well as during wakeful hours. You may notice that heavy breathing interferes with the dog’s ability to walk, run, and play.
  • Your puppy breathes heavy during sleep on a routine basis, and it doesn’t slow down within a few minutes. It stays elevated for longer periods of time.

Do you notice that your puppy sometimes breathes heavy during sleep but it slows down within a few minutes?

That’s what happens with most dogs, and there are many reasons that may happen. Let’s explore some of the most common reasons now.

Strenuous Activity

Just as you may breathe heavier when participating in strenuous activity like jogging or walking up a steep hill, dogs of all ages react the same way.

If you take your puppy for a long walk or go out for a game of frisbee or fetch, they may continue breathing heavy after returning home and retiring for a nap.

If this is the case, your puppy’s breathing should return to normal rather quickly. You shouldn’t notice rapid breathing outside of expected recovery periods following strenuous activity.

You don’t need to do anything if this is the reason your puppy is breathing rapidly. If you’re concerned, monitor the puppy until his breathing returns to normal.


Puppies and older dogs may have exciting dreams that lead to accelerated breathing.

When that happens, the rapid breathing is often noticed along with one or more of the following additional signs:

  • Barking or other vocal noises
  • Legs moving as if running or walking
  • Rapid eye movement

If you notice this, your puppy’s body is responding as if he’s really doing the activity in his dream.

If he dreams that he’s chasing a cat around a tree, his breathing may elevate to support that activity.

You don’t need to intervene if your puppy is having an active dream. If you’re concerned, monitor the puppy until his breathing returns to normal.


It’s possible that your puppy is just hot. Turning on a fan or air conditioner in the room may help.

If your puppy routinely seems hot during sleep, perhaps his bedding is too warm.

If he sleeps in direct sunlight pouring through a window or on a warm dog bed or blanket, perhaps it’s time to change his sleep location or get new dog bedding made from lighter material.

If you suspect overheating is the problem, try cooling your puppy immediately. His breathing should return to normal rather quickly if that were the problem.

Stress or Anxiety

It’s possible for puppies to experience rapid breathing as a result of stress or anxiety. That may sound like their living environment is unhealthy, but that’s not necessarily the case.

Any new experience can result in stress and anxiety, including:

  • Separation from his mother and other puppies in the litter
  • Transitioning into a new home
  • Playing with other puppies for the first time
  • Car rides

Even playing at the dog park or going for a long walk at an unfamiliar park can lead to some stress or anxiety in some dogs.

If you monitor your dog closely, you will learn what experiences lead to rapid breathing and other signs of stress.

You don’t necessarily need to intervene if your dog is prone to rapid breathing in times of stress.

Paying close attention to changes in your puppy’s behavior will tell you when it’s most likely to happen.

You can then keep your puppy out of those situations or allow him to step out of his comfort zone gradually.

Remember, good things happen outside of the comfort zone. That’s true for humans, and it’s true in many cases for puppies.

Transitioning from a rescue home or dog shelter to a forever family may initially cause symptoms of distress. Give your puppy time to relax and adjust to his new surroundings.

Medical Problems or Illness

In some cases, rapid breathing during sleep is a sign of illness or an underlying medical condition.

If you’ve ruled out every other potential cause and are still unsure, it’s time to visit the vet.

Write down all potential symptoms in addition to rapid breathing, ensuring that the vet has the full picture of your puppy’s troubling behavior.

Final Word

Seeing your new puppy breathing fast while he’s sleeping can certainly be stressful, but there’s probably no reason to worry.

But if you think it might be a health problem, or just want to get some advice for your doggo, then definitely call your vet or local animal hospital for advice.

Keeping your puppy healthy will require extensive knowledge of canine behavior. You may not have all the knowledge you need right now, but we’re here to help.

credit: Pexels

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National Canine Research Association of America