Puppies make hearts skip a beat – whether by acts of cuteness, hiccuping strangely, or taking a surprise somersault during play.
Some of these moments may be scary to first-time owners but aren’t causes for concern, while other unusual behaviors or symptoms can indicate a problem.
One such example is rapid breathing. Sometimes this is a cause for concern, but at other times it’s no big deal.
We’ll help you understand when to worry about your dog’s rapid breathing below, as we explain what causes it and when you should seek veterinary care.
Key Takeaways: Why Is My Puppy Breathing Fast?
- Puppies naturally breathe more rapidly than adult dogs do. Typically, healthy puppies breath about 15 to 40 times per minute, but they can occasionally breathe more quickly than this.
- There are a variety of reasons a puppy may be breathing fast. Some are completely normal and no cause for concern, while others may indicate a serious (even emergent) health problem.
- You’ll want to learn some of the signs associated with rapid breathing that may indicate a serious health problem. This includes things like discolored gums, a swollen belly, or disorientation.
Puppy Breathing Basics
A dog’s breathing isn’t always steady.
Activity, illness, and environmental influences can cause your pup’s respiration rate to speed up. Conversely, your dog can breathe slower than usual or experience labored breathing due to other causes.
The medical term for fast breathing is known as tachypnea, slow breathing is bradypnea, and labored breathing is dyspnea.
The first step in understanding puppy breathing is knowing the “normal” base rate.
At rest, a puppy can take anywhere from 15 to 40 breaths a minute, which is higher than the 10 to 30 breaths per minute an adult doggo takes.
So, if you’re comparing your baby barker’s breathing to an older dog, it can be alarming.
As with any behavior or bodily function, understanding what’s normal breathing for your puppy versus what’s abnormal is important, as any sudden changes can be a red flag.
But how do you establish what’s “normal” for a new pup? Easy, watch him!
Learn your new puppy’s regular breathing habits by watching him during play, sleep, and at rest.
Is he a rough-and-tumble-playing pooch who works himself into a panting storm, or is he more of a leisurely romper who’s suddenly breathing fast? Does he have wild dreams where he kicks his feet in his sleep and ticks up his breathing, or is he randomly breathless while asleep?
Familiarizing yourself with your puppy’s quirks is key in quickly spotting problems to bring to your vet’s attention.
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“Normal” Reasons Your Puppy is Breathing Fast
While alarming, fast breathing in puppies isn’t always an emergency, as everyday encounters can lead to a rise in respiration rate. Still, even common cases of heavy breathing in puppies deserve attention, as you want to ensure your sniffer settles back into normal breathing.
“Normal” reasons that may cause your puppy to breathe fast include:
- Exercise: Running around uses more oxygen and increases your puppy’s breathing rate to meet the demand. If your little one’s recently played, his panting and fast breathing may be related. Just be sure his breathing is slowing over time, and watch for signs of overheating (we’ll share some of the best examples below).
- Stress: Stress is hard on your puppy’s body, whether rooted in excitement or anxiety. Traveling to the vet, visiting a new park, or attending puppy training class can leave your floof breathing fast as he takes in the new sights and sounds. Similarly, a storm can make breathing wonky, as can crate training. Other signs of stress include pacing, whining, barking, drooling, and trembling.
- Overheating: Panting helps canines cool down after exercise and in warmer conditions. While dogs can sweat through their paws, it doesn’t help much. As your puppy’s body tries to cool, it’ll ramp up respiration, leading to heavy breathing. Overheating is dangerous, so watch for symptoms of trouble, including heavy panting, increased drooling, and bright red gums.
Concerning Reasons Your Puppy Is Breathing Fast
Other times, fast breathing isn’t so harmless and has a health component that needs veterinary intervention. These breathless bouts are often seemingly random in origin, differing from “normal” causes.
Concerning medical causes of fast breathing in puppies include:
- Heart disease: The heart’s a vital part of respiration in mammals. Congenital heart conditions can lead to the organ malfunctioning, impacting healthy breathing, including increasing respiration rates.
- Lung disease: A lung ailment affects how much oxygen your puppy’s system takes in, potentially leading to faster breathing as his body struggles to keep up with demand. Puppies are susceptible to several lung conditions, including pneumonia, kennel cough, and canine influenza.
- Blood conditions: Anemia and other blood disorders can lead to heavy breathing, as red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Too few of these essential cells make everyday activity grueling. Other symptoms include pale or cold gums and lethargy.
- Choking: Puppies love to mouth things they shouldn’t, and many of these objects are choking hazards. If your puppy is breathing heavily, retching, or pawing at his muzzle, ensure nothing’s stuck in his mouth, including his throat. Proper toy selection is critical with puppies: If something can fit entirely in your puppy’s mouth, it’s too small for play!
- Allergies: Allergic reactions cause an immune response in the body, potentially restricting your puppy’s airway. Unfortunately, dogs can be allergic to anything from food to trees, so you’ll need your vet’s help to determine the trigger. Other symptoms of an allergic reaction in dogs include itchy skin, vomiting, diarrhea, watery eyes, coughing, and sneezing.
- Illness: Infections often trigger a fever as your puppy’s body tries to fight off the condition, causing rapid breathing. Canine illnesses have many symptoms, including lethargy, reduced appetite, coughing, and more.
- Airway obstruction: Brachycephalic dog breeds have shortened skulls with flatter muzzles and palates, making breathing difficult. Many also have extra or deformed tissue impacting the airway in a condition called brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS). Breeds commonly affected include pugs, French bulldogs, bulldogs, and Boston terriers.
If your puppy’s heavy breathing can’t be explained by everyday activity, fails to steady over time, or is accompanied by other symptoms, contact your vet.
My Puppy Is Breathing Fast: Should I Go to the Vet?
Determining if your puppy’s fast breathing is harmless or not is a must, but take a deep breath yourself and run through an easy-to-follow list of questions to sort the normal from the abnormal.
When figuring out why your puppy’s breathing fast, ask the following questions:
Did your puppy play or run around enough to become breathless?
As discussed, exerting energy consumes more oxygen, forcing your puppy’s body to increase respiration to keep up with his body’s demands. If your puppy recently had the zoomies or finished a round of fetch, you can expect some fast breathing for a short time. Offer your floof some fresh, cool water and give him a safe space to calm down.
Is your puppy stressed out, excited, or scared?
Heavy emotions go paw-in-paw with heavy breathing in pups. As your Rover’s mood regulates, his breathing should return to normal. If he’s too worked up, consider a change of scenery to help him relax.
Did your puppy recently come inside from the heat, or is his space too warm?
Overheating leads to rapid breathing as your pup’s body tries to cool off. Give your puppy fresh water and move him to a cooler location to prevent heatstroke.
Short-faced four-footers like pugs and double-coated doggos like huskies are more susceptible to overheating than other breeds.
Does your puppy appear nauseous or in pain?
Pain and illness can impact your Rover’s respiratory rate, leading to fast or labored breathing. This is a mutt emergency, especially in young puppies.
Is your puppy a brachycephalic breed?
These flat-faced Fidos may struggle to breathe even at rest, particularly those affected by brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome.
Brachycephalic dog breeds include pugs, Frenchies, and bulldogs, among others.
Have you checked your puppy’s airway for an obstruction from a toy or chew?
Tennis balls are notorious choking hazards, but anything small enough to fit in your puppy’s mouth is risky, from pieces of cardboard to bottle caps. Always triple-check your pup’s play area for potential problem items before letting him loose.
Is your puppy showing any signs of allergies or asthma?
Sniffling, sneezing, and coughing are some symptoms of allergies and asthma. These conditions impact breathing, leading to increased respiration. Your vet can help you formulate a plan of attack for treating the condition at home and help your pupperino feel his best.
Are your puppy’s gums pale and cold or warm and pink?
Pale, cool gums are a sign of anemia, a blood condition that can cause increased respiration. Anemia can be a condition on its own or a symptom of another illness, but no matter the cause, your pooch will require veterinary care.
Is your puppy fully vaccinated against communicable canine diseases?
Kennel cough and canine influenza are just two illnesses core vaccinations protect puppies against. Others include parvo, distemper, and rabies, making avoiding other dogs and public spaces vital until your puppy is fully vaccinated.
Has your puppy seen a vet yet to assess heart and lung health?
Puppy exams are essential in spotting problems, particularly congenital issues like lung and heart disease. Your vet will listen to your pup’s heart and lungs, ask questions about where your puppy came from to detect any concerns, and start him on a dewormer and heartworm prevention.
How old is your puppy?
Newborn puppies often gasp for air as their lungs take in air for the first time after birth. Sometimes, fluid becomes trapped in the lungs, leading to increased respiration. Removing this fluid as fast as possible ensures puppies get the air they need.
Is your puppy injured?
Pain can lead to increased respiration. Head injuries can also lead to fast breathing, as your barker’s brain struggles to regulate his respiratory rate. See a vet if your puppy took a recent tumble and is breathing fast without explanation.
Is your puppy’s stomach swollen?
A swollen tummy can signify worms, bloat, or another severe mutt medical malady. Paired with fast breathing, this calls for a vet visit.
Does your puppy have any signs of worms, or has he been dewormed?
Worms can lead to abdominal swelling, making breathing more difficult. Dogs can also be affected by lungworms and heartworms that affect respiration. This is part of the reason it is so important to learn how to tell if your dog may have worms.
Could your puppy have consumed any medications or toxins?
Human drugs and supplements can make canines (especially puppies) incredibly sick. Mutt medication and supplements are also dangerous if eaten in excess. Contact your vet or pet poison helpline if you suspect your puppy’s ingested medication.
Go through the entire list of questions when assessing your puppy’s fast breathing to leave no stone unturned. If your dog has symptoms that point to something illness-related or you just don’t feel right about your barker’s breathing, contact your vet.
Puppy is Breathing Fast: FAQ
Do you still have questions about why your puppy is breathing fast? Check out these frequently asked queries and their answers to help.
Why is my puppy breathing so fast while resting?
Your puppy may be breathing fast at rest because he’s stressed, excited, recovering from exercise, or overheating. He may also have underlying medical issues at play. If you suspect your puppy’s fast breathing is something more than a “normal” reaction to play, stress, or the heat, contact your vet.
How do I know if my puppy is breathing too fast?
Puppies generally breathe between 15 to 40 breaths a minute. If your pup’s at rest and falls within this range, he’s right on target. Any faster, and you need to assess if the fast breathing is due to “normal” causes, like exercising, cooling off due to the heat, or excitement. If any of these are likely culprits, just watch that his breathing slows to a regular rate.
In cases where your puppy’s fast breathing has no apparent causes, he has other symptoms like labored breathing and pale or blue gums, or he fails to return to a regular breathing rate after “normal” triggers, contact your vet for guidance.
Should I be worried if my dog is breathing fast?
Fast breathing with no apparent cause or paired with other symptoms like lethargy, excessive drooling, pale gums, and signs of pain should be investigated by a veterinarian. Even if your dog’s fast breathing just feels off, it’s worth getting your vet’s opinion. You know your pup best, after all.
Puppies come with a mountain of memories and firsts, including times when you find yourself searching “my puppy is breathing fast” on Google at 3:00 AM. Don’t ever feel silly for being concerned in these moments. If anything feels off about your pup, contact your vet. You know your fur kiddo best, after all. Trust your gut.
Has your puppy ever given you a scare by breathing fast? Did he do something else nerve-wracking? Tell us about it in the comments.