September 03, 2019 5 min read 0 Comments

Is there anything quite as peaceful as watching your pup napping? If you’re lucky, you may even catch them behaving adorably while dreaming! It’s a sweet type of moment that a dog’s human companion can enjoy, but sometimes you might see something more worrying. Fast breathing during rest can happen with your furry friend, and it’s something to keep a sharp eye on. It could be just a dream about a high-speed squirrel pursuit, perhaps accompanied by hilarious leg movements as they try to run in their sleep, but sometimes it’s more than that. While it can be difficult to pinpoint the reason for their rapid breathing without asking your veterinarian, there are a few potential reasons you can keep an eye on.

Why is my dog breathing so fast?

While a quick rate of breath can be worrying it should not be a reason for instant panic. For one thing, puppies breath much faster in their sleep than adult dogs do. “Why is that?” you might ask. Interestingly enough, puppies will dream much more often and more vividly than an adult dog might.

Dogs, like humans, dream during the REM phase of their sleep cycle. REM stands for “rapid eye movement,” and is noted by the aforementioned eye movements being visible beneath the closed eyelids. The REM phase is unique to mammals, like your precious pupper, and comes with a high amount of brain activity. During this period, a dog will need more energy. They’ll start breathing faster to take in an excess amount of oxygen, which can then be transferred from the lungs to the bloodstream and converted to energy. A puppy’s REM cycle will be much more active than that of a fully grown pup.

Pug Laying in bed belly up with their tongue out

Adult dogs, however, do not tend to breathe as rapidly in their sleep. While a brief period of quick breathing is acceptable, prolonged periods are a bad sign. Consult with your veterinarian if you notice this kind of behavior in an adult dog.

There are other factors to consider as well. Remember, a warm environment can also cause rapid breathing in your pup as it tries to cool its body down during a snooze. Keeping an eye on your thermostat will help your dog stay more comfortable! Also, a dog’s activity levels always affect its breathing. A brief nap after a spirited round of fetch or a walk through the park will leave your furry friend breathing a little harder for a bit. It will calm down as they rest, but don’t be surprised if the start of their nap comes with more rapid breaths after playtime. While these are perfectly natural reasons for rapid breathing, there are other factors to worry about.

Heat Stroke: 

As dogs don’t sweat in the traditional sense, they’re forced to rely on cooling mechanisms like panting to cool their bodies down. If your dog has spent an excessive amount of time in the heat they might be at risk for heatstroke.


A bloodstream condition, Anemia occurs when your pup’s immune system decides to attack its red blood cells. These cells circulate oxygen in the bloodstream, so when they’re running low due to this issue a dog can breathe more rapidly to compensate.

Onion/Garlic Poisoning: 

White and brown dog laying on the floor sleeping

Onions and garlic are terrible for a dog’s tummy and can lead to rapid rates of breathing. Note that this will often be combined with diarrhea, vomiting, and excess salivation.

Heart Failure: 

If your dog’s heart is slowing down, rapid breathing might be a sign that they’re attempting to circulate more oxygen in the bloodstream than their heart is currently capable of keeping up with. Regular checkups with your vet will help you monitor this.

Fluid in the Lungs: 

While most mammals, great and small, have a minuscule amount of fluid in their lungs, an excess amount can cause pain and make it hard to breathe. Check the dog’s gums to see if they are blue, it may be a sign that they’re having trouble breathing. Low body temperature can also be an indicator.

How fast is normal?

Golden retriever sleeping on a couch with a grey cat

And just how fast would your dog’s breathing have to get for it to be considered rapid? There’s a variation between puppies and adults, and it can also vary due to other factors like temperature and exercise.

According to the Animal Emergency Center, a puppy will breathe at a higher rate and clock in at between 15 to 40 breaths per minute. An adult dog, however, will have a lower rate between 10 to 30 breaths per minute. To see if your pupper is breathing rapidly, time it, and see how many they take in 60 seconds. This will help you determine if you should be worried.

What do I do if my dog is breathing fast while resting?

If your pup is breathing fast while napping, it might be a good idea to check other factors. For instance, stomach issues combined with rapid breathing can indicate poisoning while discoloration of the gums or unusual body temperature can indicate problems like heart failure or fluid in the lungs.

Waking your dog can be an acceptable way to check whether or not they were dreaming, but waking them out of REM sleep can be just as disorienting for them as it would be for you! If you choose this course of action, try to calmly call their name and reassure them that everything is okay.

When should I be worried?

Small terrier sleeping in a dog bed with a green blanket on their head

While rapid breath during rest may not seem like too much of an issue, given your pupper’s penchant for dreaming, other things coupled with it might indicate a deeper issue. If the fast breathing continues while they’re awake you should start getting worried.

Other signs would include diarrhea and vomiting, lack of appetite, lethargy, and coughing. If your companion is low on energy, having stomach issues, or any sort of issue breathing, please consult your veterinarian to determine the cause and explore treatment options.

How can I prevent this in the future?

Yellow Lab sleeping on a teal couch

While you may not be able to prevent fast breathing during sleep, it’s important to remember that you may not always need to. Remember, your puppy is frolicking in dreamland during their REM cycle and developing their respiratory systems.

Adult dogs are different, and it’s important to remember the other health issues can accompany rapid breathing. Regularly checking their gums and body temperature will help monitor your pupper’s health.

Their diet is also very important! Because your companion's stomach can’t handle several foods we eat, like onions and garlic, it’s important to keep these things out of their reach. Remember that leftovers go in the fridge to eat later, and not in your pup’s bowl!

What can help my dog sleep?

Making sure your dog is comfortable and happy can go a long way toward helping them breathe easy! Since overheating is an issue it’s important to keep an eye on the thermostat. Providing your pup with a comfortable place to sleep can also make their dreams sweeter, and an orthopedic dog bed is a nice way to make sure they can rest easy.

Breathing quickly during rest is not uncommon in puppies, but it’s something you should keep an eye on in your adult dog. Remember, maintain their diet and provide a comfortable environment for them to rest in! These things, alongside regular veterinary checkups, will help you keep your pupper happy and healthy.


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