Is it normal for puppy to breathe fast? When you bring home your new puppy, and you look at puppy’s rapid breathing, and it looks fast… how do you know if they’re ok?
It’s super hard to know the difference if puppy’s fast breathing is a cause for concern!
There are various reasons that healthy dogs can can have breathing issues, or faster breathing that are not scary, and let’s be honest, the scary ones are a rare, rare occurrence. They’re mentioned because they’re a possibility, but I really want you to try not to scare yourself when reading this. And remember, that this assessment of quick breathing is a guide, and if this is a genuine medical emergency, I need you to go see the vet.
What is a Normal Breathing and Heart Rate for a Puppy?
15-40 breaths per minute for resting respiratory rate.
“Typically, a resting puppy’s breathing rate will range from 15 to 40 breaths per minute. Smaller breeds, such as Chihuahuas, may have a higher resting breathing rate compared to larger breeds such as Great Danes.” says Patrick Holboe from Cooper pet care.
Dr Pansy Suzuki reminds us “Puppies have a slightly higher breathing rate than adult dogs.”
Learning what vital signs are normal for your puppy is a great way to monitor their health and to alert you if something is wrong. The number of breaths per minute will often vary from the normal respiratory rate, as your dog’s breaths depend on their activity!
Puppies tend to have faster heart rates than larger, adult dogs, but keep in mind that your puppy’s normal resting heart rate can differ from another puppy’s based on many factors. In general, a normal heart rate for a puppy is between 120 and 160 beats per minute.
To find your puppy’s heart rate, you can find their heartbeat on the left side of their chest. Place your hand over this area, and count the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds and then multiply this number by 4.
Likewise, your puppy’s breathing rate can differ based on a variety of factors like their current stress levels and what activity they’re doing. To find the best representation of their resting breathing rate, check when your puppy is asleep.
9 Reasons Your Puppy’s Breathing May Be Fast
If your puppy’s breathing rate is higher than 30 breaths per minute, it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Here are 5 most common reasons a puppy’s breathing may be fast:
1 – REM Sleep
Just like humans, puppies go through different stages during their sleeping cycles, but they go through each of their stages faster than we do. Your puppy likely goes through 20 sleep cycles per night, while humans only go through 4 or 5 cycles.
The second phase of your puppy’s sleep cycle is the REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, phase. In REM sleep, your dog is in a deep sleep, and their breathing may become more rapid. During this phase, your puppy may also twitch or make quiet noises, likely because they’re dreaming. And whilst puppy breathing fast while sleeping, it’s pretty normal.
While checking your puppy’s breathing rate while they’re asleep can give you the most accurate number, you have to check it at the right time. Checking during REM sleep will show your puppy’s breathing rate as much higher.
Remember, your puppy needs a lot of sleep, so this is a good thing.
2 – Exercise
When it comes to puppies, they tend to be big balls of energy that love to run around and play. If your puppy has come back inside after exercising, you’ll likely notice that they’re breathing rapidly or panting.
Rapid breathing is one method that dogs use to cool their body temperature, and it’s completely normal for your puppy’s respiratory rate to increase after physical activity.
Humans sweat all over their bodies as a method of regulating their body temperatures, but dogs only sweat through their paw pads and noses, making it harder for them to cool down, especially if they’ve been exercising in warm weather.
When your dog’s breathing increases after exercise, it’s because their lungs are trying to inhale cooler air and exhale the warm air in their bodies to regulate their body temperature. In most cases, this is completely normal and nothing to worry about.
However, if your puppy is outside on a hot day and you notice their breathing is especially fast, take them inside immediately, offer them cool, fresh water, and call your vet. Too much exercise or time spent in the heat can lead to heatstroke, where your puppy’s body can’t cool itself fast enough.
And Remember! Puppies don’t need a whole lot of exercise.
3 – Excitement
When your puppy gets excited, their cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is the fight-or-flight hormone, and it triggers in a variety of situations, including excitement, stress, and fear.
When your puppy’s cortisol levels rise, their heart rate increases. How fast your puppy’s heart beats is directly linked with their breathing rate because the heart needs oxygen to function properly. The faster the heart beats, the more oxygen it needs to continue functioning.
When your puppy is excited, their heart beats quickly, leading to tachypnea, or rapid breathing while the lungs try to bring in more oxygen to power the heart. In most cases, this is completely normal, and you’ll just need to give your pup time to calm down for their breathing to return to normal.
Increased cortisol levels can also happen when your puppy is in pain, so if their breathing seems especially rapid, check them thoroughly for injury.
“Puppies can breathe faster than normal for a variety of reasons, such as excitement, anxiety, or stress.” Says Holboe
4 – Anxiety & Stress
When puppies experience stress or anxiety, their body activates the fight or flight response. This response causes the production of adrenaline and other stress hormones, which can lead to an increased breathing rate and heart rate.
Stress and anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, such as loud noises, new situations, separation from their owner, or adjusting to a new home. Puppies are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment and may become stressed or anxious more easily than adult dogs.
Panting, which is a faster and more shallow breathing pattern, is also a common response to stress and anxiety in puppies. It is important for puppy owners to provide a safe and secure environment for their puppies and to minimize stress triggers as much as possible. If you notice that your puppy is breathing rapidly or panting excessively, it is best to consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.
5 – Kennel Cough
Kennel Cough, or Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, is a common, contagious respiratory disease. It gets its name from its common association with shelters, boarding facilities, doggy daycares, and other places where dogs gather together in close proximity.
Because Kennel Cough is a respiratory disease, it affects your puppy’s lung performance. When their lungs can’t perform at their usual capacity, they will try to compensate by speeding up their oxygen intake, resulting in rapid, shallow breathing for your puppy.
Symptoms of Kennel Cough include:
- Runny nose
- A strong cough
- Loss of appetite
Luckily, Kennel Cough is treatable and typically considered a mild lung disease. After a week or 2 of antibiotics and cough medicine, your puppy will likely return to normal.
6 – Respiratory Infections
Like Kennel Cough, there are other respiratory infections (e.g. upper respiratory tract infections) that can lead to your puppy’s breathing to become more rapid. Sometimes Kennel Cough can also spread, leading to other infections in your puppy’s lungs.
Pneumonia, for example, is an inflammation of the lungs or lower respiratory tract that can develop after Kennel Cough has spread deeper into your puppy’s lungs. Pneumonia can also be caused by Streptococcus, Pasteurella multocida, Pseudomonas species, and a variety of other bacterial infections.
There are also a variety of other fungal and bacterial respiratory infections that can lead to decreased performance in your puppy’s lungs. When the lungs have to work harder to take in the amount of oxygen that they need, your puppy’s breathing will become faster and more shallow.
“Dogs with respiratory tract disorders can present to veterinarians with various clinical signs, including nasal discharge, sneezing, reverse sneezing, noisy breathing (snoring/stertor, stridor, wheezing), coughing, alterations in respiratory rate or effort, or respiratory distress.” Says Dr Pansy Suzuki from the Veterinary Emergency Group.
Infections are typical treated with a series of antibiotics, so it’s important to take your puppy to the vet right away if you notice rapid breathing accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Pale, blue-tinged, or bright red gums
- Increased drooling
- Open-mouthed breathing
- Loss of appetite or reluctance to drink
- Loud breathing that sounds different than normal
7 – Medical Issues
From tracheal collapse, hernia, respiratory problems, pulmonary edema to anemia (when the red blood cells and can be inherited). Pet parents may not see this medical condition obviously, but it might be a case that puppy
- Pale gums
“Puppies can develop respiratory infections, asthma, allergies, heart problems, or other conditions that affect breathing. In some cases, rapid breathing may be a sign of anemia or poisoning. It’s important to observe your puppy’s behavior and other symptoms to help determine the cause of their rapid breathing.” Other potential issues are Congestive heart failure, Laryngeal Paralysis.
8 – Heat stroke
You might see your dog laying on the floorwith an open mouth on a hot day, and is one of the most common possible reasons. Especially in dogs like Labrador Retrievers who have this rotten habit of not knowing when enough.
Heat stroke can cause your puppy to breathe faster because as their body temperature rises above normal levels, their body attempts to regulate the temperature by panting, which increases the rate of airflow and evaporation of moisture from the tongue and respiratory tract.
This results in a faster breathing rate, which can help your puppy cool down. However, if their body temperature continues to rise, their breathing may become more labored and less effective at regulating their temperature, which can lead to serious health problems. Other symptoms of heat stroke in dogs include heavy panting, excessive drooling, dry mucous membranes, and organ dysfunction. It is important to seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect your puppy is suffering from heat stroke.
Do be careful of water intoxication though.
9 – Reverse Sneezing
Reverse sneezing can cause a dog to have short, rapid bursts of nasal breathing, which may appear as if the dog is breathing faster. This is because when the soft palate muscle in the back of the roof of the mouth spasms, it narrows the trachea and makes it harder for the dog to breathe normally. As a result, the dog may inhale and exhale rapidly through its nose in an attempt to clear the irritation or inflammation causing the reverse sneezing episode.
When To Contact Your Vet
Dr Brian Hurley, DVM, from AmeriVet Veterinary partners told me “Most of the time, these increased respiration rates are short lived and will resolve normally on its own… If the breathing rate is elevated for prolonged periods of time, your puppy appears to be in distress or there are signs of other illnesses, you should seek medical care by your veterinarian.”
And I totally agree, for me, our instinct is one of the most powerful things when it comes to our dogs and their health. Our instinct is often right. Sometimes we may struggle to explain it, or put it into words to our vet, but that instinct shouldn’t be ignored.
Holboe backs this up, explaining that “Signs of an emergency would be if your puppy seems to have difficulty breathing, has pale or blue gums, or is having troubling standing – any of these would warrant immediate, emergency vet attention. Always trust your instincts and don’t hesitate to call your vet if you’re concerned about your puppy’s breathing or any other aspect of their health – even if you just speak to a vet via phone or video, it can give you peace of mind.”
And that’s really important, call your vet and get a second opinion! Sound check yourself, because goodness only knows Dr Google definitely escalates our fears, and a Vet can totally assuage your fears.
Dogs who are at higher risk
Some dogs are definitely at higher risks, puppies are amongst them.
Puppies: Pups tend to decline much more quickly when it comes to health conditions, so it’s a really good idea to ensure that if your puppy is breathing fast and is outside the realms of normality, that we do bring them to the vet so we avoid the risk.
Older dogs: Whilst this is aimed at puppies, older dogs are at a higher risk, and I just want to make sure that we cover all bases! Because of their age they can struggle to recover as quickly as younger dogs.
Brachycephalic dogs: Flat faced dogs naturally have more problems breathing and often have heavy breathing, or rasp when they breath. Brachycephalic breeds such as shih tzus, french bulldogs, boston terriers, pugs are deliberately bred this way, so I really want to see you (if you elect for these breeds!) priorise the breeder that’s not breeding their dogs too flat faced.
They do have breathing problems, and sometimes struggle to get enough oxygen. It’s a good idea to ensure they these dogs don’t get too hot, too energetic or similar.
Altitude: It’s good to note that if you live at a higher altitudes, and your dog is struggling to breath, the low oxygen will not be assisting their recovery. So do be aware of recovery times too! If your dog is struggling in this situation, oxygen therapy might be the best way to restore oxygen levels in your dog’s body.
Remember: Puppies Naturally Breathe Fast.
They breathe faster than an adult dog, so if you’re looking at your puppy and are concerned, count it through, monitor for a little while, and then act accordingly.
I try and make it sound simple, but you can feel scared. Try not to panic too quickly, and if you’re really concerned, give your vet a call.
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Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!
Thanks to depositphotos.com for the images!