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dog parent must-knows

Why is my puppy breathing fast?

We cover normal breathing patterns, abnormal breathing patterns, and things that can cause breathing problems in puppies.

Updated March 28, 2020

Created By

, Andy Bowen
puppy panting

📷 by Ivan Radic

The normal puppy breathing rate

👉 15 to 40 breaths per minute

Puppies naturally breathe at faster rates than adult dogs. A normal resting respiratory rate for a puppy can be anywhere between 15 to 40 breaths per minute, while an adult dog will breathe anywhere between 10-30 breaths per minute.

🚨 If you notice your puppy is open-mouth breathing with flared nostrils and blueish gums, they need to be taken to an emergency veterinary clinic right away for a check-up.

Situations where fast breathing is OK

When a puppy is at play or excited, they’re going to breathe faster than normal. Your puppy might also experience rapid breathing (also known as tachypnea) if they are scared or nervous, such as in a new environment, meeting new dogs, or if they are going on a car ride — these are times of heightened awareness and anticipation. These instances are nothing to worry about so long as your puppy’s breathing rate slows down back to normal once they are relaxed again.

Some puppies may also have irregular breathing or faster breathing when they are sleeping and dreaming. This is also normal and nothing to worry about. For instance, during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, brain waves are faster and more irregular. Since the brain is more active during this stage of sleep, your dog’s eyes will move fast, back and forth underneath their eyelids, your dog may whine or whimper, they may move their legs back and forth, and they may also breath fast.

⏱You can count your puppy’s breathing rate by watching how often their chest or abdomen expands within one minute. Sometimes it’s easier to count their breaths by putting your hand on their chest and feeling how many times their chest expands in one minute.

When you should be concerned

If your puppy’s resting respiratory rate is greater than 40 breaths per minute, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Does your dog seem lethargic, or more easily tired than normal?
  • Does your dog have mucoid nasal discharge and/or are they coughing regularly?
  • Is your dog experiencing a loss of appetite?
  • Is your dog open-mouth breathing with nostrils extended?
  • Do your dog’s gums have a blueish hint?

🚨 If your puppy shows any combination of these symptoms, take them to be examined by your veterinarian immediately. 

Common medical conditions that can cause your puppy to breathe fast:

  • Upper Respiratory Infections (canine infectious respiratory disease, kennel cough)
  • Pneumonia
  • Underlying congenital heart conditions
  • Toxin exposure
  • Pulmonary edema (due to choking, electrical cord bite, a heart condition, etc.)
  • Parasites
  • Anemia
  • Narrowed trachea (windpipe)
  • Foreign objects stuck in their throat

Upper respiratory infections can usually be diagnosed upon exam and treated with antibiotics, while many of the other conditions will need to be diagnosed with x-rays and bloodwork, and sometimes require hospitalization.

A note on brachycephalic breeds

If your puppy is a Brachycephalic breed (short-nosed, flat-faced), such as a Bulldog or Pug, it will be normal for them to have louder breathing noises and even to breath faster or heavier than other breeds of puppies. However, they are also more susceptible to breathing problems since their airways are so narrow.

Never ignore any breathing that is out of the ordinary for your particular pup. This may include increased wheezing or more effort in trying to flare their nostrils. These signs could indicate they may need surgical corrections performed to help open up their airways for them to be able to breathe better.