When you have a pet you love, you start to notice every little thing they do. After all, their every move, gesture, and behavior is the only way one can tell how they’re feeling. However, among the many different things a puppy or dog does- fast breathing is a common cause of concern for dog owners. Rapid breathing can be a normal part of their sleeping time, simply arising from an action-packed dream your furry friend is watching. In other cases, it can be a sign of something much more.
One of the most adorable moments includes watching your beloved dog nap in a state of bliss. Plus it is not always easy to differentiate between normal and abnormal breathing during a dogs’ sleep. But it’s useful to understand a few aspects of this behavior to understand when not to fret and when it’s a concerning matter for your dog’s health and could indicate breathing difficulties.
Let’s cover the topic in a way that answers the most common questions dog and puppy owners wonder.
How fast should dogs breathe?
Generally speaking, dogs can have varying breathing rates depending on activity, stress level, body temperature, or the environment temperature. Pet parents, you will notice this pattern changing on different days and times.
However, fast breathing especially through the nose most probably stems from REM cycle of sleep. Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is the deepest stage of the sleep cycle.
When your puppy/dog is breathing fast, just notice if it looks comfortable and at ease. If it looks relaxed, healthy, and is not seemingly disturbed- they’re most probably just in a deep slumber.
If you still think the rapid breathing is not normal, you can assess your sleeping dog and their respiratory rate to judge what is normal.
How many breaths does a dog take per minute while sleeping?
There is a simple method to check your dogs’ breaths per minute. Any time your pet is resting is fine but the best time is when your pet is properly sleeping. Mostly, the sleeping breathing rate is lower than the resting rate.
You can start by observing their chest rise and fall while they breathe in their sleep. Once you get familiar with the movement, you can start counting the number of times your dog or puppy is breathing in one minute. Each time the dog inhales and exhales, it is counted as ‘one’ breath.
Now you should set a 30 seconds timer using your watch or phone. Start counting the number of times your dog is taking a breath, whenever its’ chest rises and falls. Now take the result and multiply this number of breaths by 2 to get the respiratory rate or bpm (breaths per minute).
Another option is to count the total breaths occurring in 60 seconds or one minute-without multiplying it by 2. It’s best to jot down the counting in a diary. Nowadays, technology can assist you so use your smartphone for the task. You can search for applications that let you track your pet’s heart rate. You can even use easy and non-invasive devices such as Voyce to remotely monitor your pets breathing.
Typically, you will be advised to continue this tracking activity every day for a week. With time, you will get acquainted with your dog’s breathing patterns on average. This will help you and your vet judge the situation better and know when there is a cause for concern.
A rate of 15 to 30 breaths per minute is generally considered normal in dogs or puppies, and indicates a healthy pet. When your dog is feeling hot or stressed, the rate may be higher. But if the heavy breathing is far greater than 30 bpm, then you should immediately contact a vet.
Do dogs breathe faster when dreaming?
Have you noticed your dog breathing fast while dreaming? As mentioned earlier, the REM, or deep stage of sleep can be a reason. Common behaviours exhibited by dogs during this phase of sleeping include:
- Rapid, irregular or heavier breathing through the nose and mouth
- Rapid eye movements
- Occassional shuddering or twitching
- Movements in the legs or limbs such as kicking or stretching
- They may make sounds such as whimpers, woofs and even barks.
- They may also ‘paddle’ their paws which looks like they are swimming.
Once they’re in the dog bed and fast asleep, you can hang around your pet and observe these physical behaviours. Basically, when in REM sleep, your dog is vividly dreaming. It has been found that dogs usually enter this stage of REM after approximately after 20 minutes of a nap. Hence, quick breathing during REM is completely okay.
In addition, if your pet starts acting completely normal after waking up, there should be nothing to worry about.
At the same time, there are times when your dog might be going through something more serious that may require immediate veterinary attention.
For instance, there is sometimes the possibility of your pet dog having a seizure.
Essentially, dog seizures originate from an issue in the brain activity, resulting in abnormal motor movements. This is a serious health condition. Whereas, in a normal dream, they’re just experiencing typical electric impulses. The issue here is that the physical reactions may be very similar to those shown in the deep sleep of REM. You can still learn to differentiate between a dog experiencing seizures or simply watching dreams. For one, there will be much forceful, violent, and intense movements seen during a seizure. They will also occur for a longer time. Futhermore their limbs may become stiff as this happens. You might also notice foaming or drooling from their mouth.
Also keep in mind that after waking up normally, dogs look very well-rested and sleepy. But after the event of a seizure, your pet will look confused, scared, anxious and might be struggling to regain their consciousness. They will show signs of distress and disorientation too.
When is faster breathing in dogs a problem?
We can’t completely rule out the likelihood of rapid breathing indicating a possible health concern. It can result from a number of issues that should be treated promptly.
One possibility is that your dog may have had a heat stroke or hyperthermia. Is the temperature very high? Is your dog panting heavily? You must know that dogs cannot tolerate extremely high temperatures, the way us humans do. Their body anatomy is not very efficient in helping them cool down; their sweat glands are located in their feet and around the nose only. Hence, they start panting in order to thermoregulate. It is their only way to actually make through this uncomfortable time.
You should also know that some dog breeds are more susceptible to suffering from a heat stroke-such as flat-faced dog breeds. Furthermore, obese dogs or ones that also have brachycephalic syndrome are more likely to get it. However, practically any healthy dog can over-heat if they are exposed to such high temperatures or if they are not getting sufficient ventilation, air conditioning or access to water.
A word of advice: never leave your dog in a closed, hot car. It can take as little as 15 minutes for a heat related issue to become completely deadly.
In case of this emergency, you need to cool your dog immediately and take it into an air conditioned room, and provide it hydration. Your best bet is to rush to the veterinarian and get urgent treatment.
There are some other signs of abnormal breathing to look out for. If you notice that your dogs’ mouth is widely open, like a grin and if their nostrils are frantically moving-this might not be a good sign. Additonally, they sometimes lie and stand awkwardly with their necks stretching and elbows apart. Their tummy may also move noticeably or faster. Lastly, the color of tongue and gums might look unusual or have a blue or purple tinge. These can all be signs of respiratory disease or congestive heart failure. This would be more likely in an aged, adult dog.
Heart diseases can lead to congestive heart failure. Your dog will have immense trouble breathing and an increase in resting respiratory rate. Other symptoms include weight loss, constant coughing, loss of stamina, swollen belly as well as fainting or collapse. You need to urgently consult a veterinarian. Diagnoses will usually involve a number of tests such as X-ray, ultra sound, blood urine test, EKG etc..
If your dog breathes fast while sleeping, there can still be other diseases or conditions at play. Rhinitis can also be a cause as it gives your dog a runny nose that hinders normal breathing. This is a long term bacterial or fungal infection that affects dogs. But it is not life-threatening and is an inconvenience at most.
Laryngeal paralysis is also a common condition. Here, the larynx does not open fully which limits the air supply, resulting in difficulty breathing. This condition mostly happens to Labradors. A lump may be visible and a vet checkup would be the best route.
What are signs of your dog dying?
You can’t ever imagine losing your precious canine companion. But sometimes, its inevitable. When serious diseases like congestive heart disease take over, it weakens dog health, their immune system and there is sometimes the chance that they won’t make it. Unfortunately, it may be time to say goodbye to your furry friend.
When a dog is dying, they will start to pant vigorously. While they start breathing faster, it also becomes more and more shallow. The gap between each inhale and exhale often gets prolonged and uneven, too. As the dog nears its’ death, they also display lethargy, decreased appetite, labored breathing, pain, and social detachment.
If your dog or pup is suffering from respiratory distress, we hope you can find a treatment and watch them recover.
But remember, breathing heavily or faster than usual is not typically suggestive of serious conditions, especially in a dog. Trust yourself, remember our guidelines and relax, if it is not accompanied by other symptoms. Also follow your gut and instincts. If you feel there is still something off, consulting a vet is always the best option.