Puppy Breathing Fast – Do You Need to Worry About It?
When you get your cute new pup back home they are a complete joy and you spend weeks just looking at them! But what if you notice something that concerns you? One of the things that new owners worry about is the breathing rate of their new little friend. If you think that your pup is struggling to get enough air into their lungs it can be very distressing.
You are quite right to monitor your pup’s health closely. Puppies are more vulnerable to health issues than adult dogs and they need to be watched closely. You should always report any changes in their health to your vet and ask for advice.
Having said that, there are many causes of rapid breathing in pups that are no cause for concern and that will resolve themselves in a few minutes. At other times, they may need your intervention to correct their breathing so it is important that you can recognize the cause so that you can respond in the correct way. Read on for a crash course in puppy respiration!
Dog Respiration – What Is Normal?
The respiratory system works hard to make sure that enough oxygen gets into your dog’s bloodstream where it is transported all around the body. It starts where the air enters the body – so that’s the nose or mouth. Then, it continues past the throat (pharynx and larynx) and into the windpipe (trachea), the bronchi and into the lungs. When your pup breathes in, air enters the lungs – this is called inspiration. The lungs have very thin walls and a large surface area. Oxygen passes from the air into the red blood cells and is carried all around the body.
At the same time. carbon dioxide (a waste product) travels from the blood into the air. As your pup breathes out (expiration) the air that now contains little oxygen but a lot of carbon dioxide is pushed back up the windpipe and out of the nose or mouth.
This is a highly complex process and unfortunately a lot can go wrong with it! One way of telling that something is going wrong is by monitoring the respiration rate.
What Is the Respiration Rate and What Should It Be in Pups?
It is not actually that easy to tell if a dog is breathing normally or not. Most experts will tell you that a healthy adult dog will breath in and out between 10 and 34 times in a minute. This is called the respiration rate.
However, you can expect a young pup to breathe between 15 and 40 times a minute. If you are used to having an older dog, you may be asking ‘why is my puppy breathing so fast?’ but it is actually quite normal and nothing to be concerned about.
It would be very useful if you knew what was normal for your dog. Get into the habit of watching them when they are resting and when they have been running around. This will help you to spot when something is not right.
When you first measure your pup’s respiratory rate, make sure that they are completely relaxed. This may not be that easy with an energetic young pup so you may have to do this when they are asleep. Look at their chest and notice how it expands and then contracts. It looks like an up and down movement. Each time it expands and then contracts again is one breathe. Set a timer and count how many breaths they take in one minute.
If they start to stir, you could do it for just 30 seconds and then double the number of breaths you have counted. To make sure that you have an accurate measurement, repeat this several times and work out an average.
Now that you know what is normal for your pup, you should be able to spot fast breathing. When dogs pant, their breathing rate can soar to 400 breaths per minute.
Have you noticed that your pup also opens their mouth and lets their tongue hang out when they are panting? They do this to get their tongue out of the way and open up their airway.
Common Reasons Why Puppies Breathe Fast
The two types of fast breathing in dogs are tachypnea (rapid breathing) and panting. If a dog is breathing faster than they should be, they are described as tachypneic. A tachypneic dog will be breathing fast but will not have their mouth fully open and their breathing will be shallow. Panting, on the other hand, is the way in which a dog cools down so it can mean that they are hot or it can mean that there is a breathing problem. As well as fast breath, their mouth will be wide open, their tongue will be extended and their breath will be shallow.
This should not be confused with labored breathing which is called dyspnea. Here, the dog is breathing harder than the situation warrants and it is always a cause for concern. Your dog should never have to work hard to breathe. You may also notice that their nostrils are flaring, their elbows are sticking out from their body, their neck and head are held low and that their breathing is noisy. This is never normal and you must see a vet urgently.
Some other reasons why your pup is breathing fast are listed here.
They Are Too Hot
If your pup fell asleep in the sun or in front of the fire, they are likely to start panting. This is their normal mechanism for cooling down and they do it instead of sweating. As the hot air evaporates from their mouth, it takes heat with it. This is one of the less serious causes or rapid breathing but you must help them out because heat stroke in dogs is a serious issue.
Move your pup to a cool place. If you have a cooling pad or cooling vest, this would be the time to use it. Make sure that they have access to cool water to drink. Never leave a dog in a car – even for a short while.
They Are Stressed
One reason that owners notice their puppy breathing fast and shallow is stress and anxiety. Puppies can get very anxious when they are first introduced to their new home. It can be a very scary and confusing experience for them. Other new experiences such as their first walk around the neighborhood and their first trip in the car can have the same effect.
You cannot completely solve the problem of a puppy breathing fast and shallow due to anxiety but you can help by trying to keep the house calm and quiet. Give your pup some time to adjust and show them that you are their friend. You may need to use treats and toys to help them settle in.
They Have Been Running Around Too Much
Pups love to play and run around but they can overdo it! When they over-exert themselves, the effect on the body is the same as when they get too hot. They will breathe fast and may have to lie down to recover their breath.
If this happens, place your pup somewhere cool where they can recover. Try to get them to relax for a bit. You could also try putting on some calming music and having a sit down with them. Make sure that plenty of fresh water is nearby. You may want to use a dog pen or gate to keep them in a small area whilst they recover.
Sleeping and Possibly Dreaming!
A lot of new owners ask ‘why is my puppy breathing fast when she sleeps?’ This can be one of the most alarming situations because you cannot attribute it to exercise.
Pups sleep a lot – it is a part of their development and they need a lot of sleep to grow and thrive. If you notice that your peaceful pup suddenly starts breathing rapidly in their sleep, they are probably dreaming about running around the garden and playing with you!
This type of rapid breathing is typical of the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. This is when the most vivid dreams happen and it is a deep stage of sleep. Humans experience the same thing!
Of course, you’ll never know if it was a happy dream about chasing a ball on a beach or a bad dream about being chased by the nasty big dog from next door! They will soon wake up and forget it anyway.
At this stage of sleep, you may notice that your pup also whimpers, twitches, barks softly or kicks their little legs around as if they are running. The first time you see it, it can be concerning but it is nothing to worry about. Once new dog Moms and Dads learn that this is perfectly normal behavior, they find it very amusing and may even take a cute video for social media!
One word of warning. If you notice your puppy panting while sleeping, do not try to wake your pup up when they are in this stage of sleep because you will live to regret it. Your pooch is quite likely to snap at you and you could get a nasty bite. They will not know that it is you that has woken them up and they are simply defending themselves. It is a natural instinct that would have kept them alive in the wild.
Concerning Reasons for Fast Breathing
There are some reasons for puppy panting and fast breathing that are not at all normal and that require medical intervention. There are some health issues that cause fast breathing.
Tachypnea (fast breathing) can be triggered by low blood oxygen levels, by low red blood cell levels and by blood clots in the lungs. These are all serious and need to be treated immediately by your vet. Medical causes of panting include pain and metabolic acidosis. It is also a symptom of obesity, high blood pressure, and high thyroid levels.
Your vet will take a full history, observe your dog’s breathing and listen to their chest. They will also check their gums to see if they are pale as this indicates inadequate oxygen flowing around the body.
Your dog may also need a complete blood count and biochemical profile together with urine analysis and X-rays. They may even need an electrocardiogram or further tests such a bronchoscopy to look in their airways. In the short-term, they may need oxygen to keep them comfortable.
If your pup has been treated for a breathing disorder, you must keep an eye on their breathing rate and report any changes to your vet.
You have to be particularly careful with Brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs, Boston Terriers and Bulldogs and any dog with a short snout. These breeds are very prone to breathing problems because they have long soft palates which can block their airways. They also have very narrow nostrils so they find it hard to inhale. If your pup is from one of these breeds, you need to keep a special eye on their respiration. Also, try to make sure that they do not get too hot or anxious because panting is not easy for them.
The Last Word
Most causes of fast breathing in a pup is nothing to be worried about. They could be hot, anxious or worn out after a hard game of chase. Rapid breathing in puppy sleep is nearly always caused by a dream. You should only call your vet if it continues after your pup has had a chance to calm or cool down. However, if your pup is struggling to breathe or if they seem to have other symptoms it is important that you see a vet straight away.