Why Is My Puppy Breathing So Fast?

by Sundays

Puppy with tongue out breathing fast

Take a deep breath, and we’ll walk you through this latest puppy worry–fast breathing.

Adopting a puppy means lots of cuddles, a ton of silliness, and all-around puppy goodness. But we’re not going to lie–it also comes with tons of googling and worrying about everything from how much should puppies be sleeping and eating to “why is my puppy breathing so fast”?

There are definitely plenty of times where you’ll have a mini freak-out when it comes to your puppy’s health and well-being. But it’s all part of puppy experience, and soon enough, you’ll be an expert on all things puppy. So take a deep breath, and we’ll walk you through this latest puppy worry–fast breathing.

Is it normal for puppies to breathe fast?

You will be relieved to know that it is normal for puppies to breathe faster than adult dogs, even while at rest. On average, fully-grown dogs will breathe 10-30 times in a minute, while puppies will take 15-40 breaths per minute. This range holds true for puppies at every age, whether they are 8 weeks, 12 weeks, or 4 months old.

The reason is that puppies have higher metabolic rates, which is a fancy way of saying their bodies use up way more energy. They burn up energy fast because their bodies have to support their proper growth and development. 

This is why puppies need to eat food that’s higher in calories, protein, and fat. They also breathe faster to take in more oxygen, which travels to the lungs and then into the bloodstream. All of these things help your puppy grow and develop.

How to check your puppy’s breathing rate

Now that you know how many breaths your puppy should be taking, you’re probably going to want to check their breathing rate, just in case. First, make sure your puppy hasn’t just been running around, which would naturally make them breathe faster. Instead, wait until they are resting.

Watch your puppy’s chest, or put your hand on their chest, to feel when it rises and falls. A rise and fall is one breath. You can count how many breaths your puppy takes in a minute, or you can just count for 30 seconds and double it.

If you count more than 40 breaths per minute and it doesn’t slow down, check in with your vet or an online vet to make sure everything is okay. If it’s way higher than 40, see the vet right away.

How fast should a puppy breathe when they’re sleeping?

You would think that if your pup is sleeping, their breathing would be slow. But it can be completely normal for a puppy that’s fast asleep to be breathing fast, too. Just like when they’re awake, their bodies use up a lot of energy when they sleep, too, especially during REM sleep. REM stands for rapid eye movement, the sleep stage when puppies (and people) dream. The rapid breathing shouldn’t last longer than a few minutes if it’s during REM sleep. Your puppy might also breathe fast in their first 10 minutes or so of sleep if they’ve spent a lot of energy during the day.

Other normal reasons for your puppy to breathe fast

So we know that puppies just breathe fast normally, even when they’re sleeping. But there are a few other reasons why a puppy might breathe faster than usual. Here are three pretty common reasons:

  • Physical activity: A dog of any age will pant or breathe faster after exerting energy while playing hard or exercising. 
  • Regulating body temperature: A puppy’s body has to work harder to keep their temperature regulated, so they usually pant more or harder than adult dogs.
  • Excitement: Puppies are just generally more excitable, which can lead to fast breathing.
  • Stress or fear: They can also get stressed or scared more easily because everything is new and could possibly be a threat. This can lead to fast panting.

When should you worry about your puppy breathing fast?

There are of course some not-so-normal causes for faster breathing rates in puppies. Here are a few:

  • Injury or pain
  • Dehydration, being overheated, or heatstroke
  • Fever due to any number of things
  • Respiratory infection (kennel cough, influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia) 
  • Heart problem 
  • Anemia (usually caused by parasites/parvovirus)
  • Diaphragmatic hernia, which some puppies can be born with 
  • Allergic reaction

If your puppy has no other signs than breathing fast, or it only lasts a few minutes while sleeping, or they just got done playing, you probably don’t need to worry. In general, be on the lookout for these signs of an underlying problem:

Emergency situations:

  • Lethargy
  • Brick red, blue, or pale gums
  • Extending their neck to breathe
  • Consistently high breathing rate
  • Excessive drooling

Call your vet as soon as possible:

  • Coughing, nasal discharge, and reduced appetite
  • Limping, swelling, or other signs of injury or pain
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