Why is My Dog or Puppy Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

Why is My Dog or Puppy Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

Watching your canine friend sleep can be a peaceful experience. However, a particular behaviour that may concern dog parents is their puppy or dog breathing fast while sleeping. While this may not be a cause for concern and could just be the way your dog sleeps, it’s important for dog parents to understand their dog’s breathing patterns in order to identify any health issues.

Often, puppies and dogs breathe fast while sleeping because they’re dreaming, regulating their body temperature, or they’ve recently exercised. However, in some cases, a dog breathing heavily while sleeping can signal an underlying medical problem. This could be the case if the behaviour occurs for a continuous period of time and there are other accompanying symptoms.

In this article, we look at the different possible reasons why puppies, adult and senior dogs breathe fast while sleeping, when dog parents should be concerned and how they can help their dog’s heavy breathing while sleeping. By understanding your dog’s behaviours and ruling out any health problems, you can support your dog in getting plenty of healthy sleep, which is essential for their overall well-being.

To determine whether your puppy or dog is breathing rapidly, it’s helpful to know what their normal behaviour is like. When your dog is calm and relaxed, count and note how many breaths they take per minute. This provides you with a measure for comparison, if you ever have concerns that their breathing has changed. Remember that it’s normal for respiration to become rapid and shallow at times, for example after exercise, but it should return to normal once your dog has rested. However, if there are any accompanying symptoms, your dog is breathing rapidly and their abdomen is working hard for breath, or there is any coughing, mucous or distress, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Why is my puppy breathing fast while sleeping?

There are many possible reasons why your puppy is breathing fast in their sleep, including dreaming, temperature regulation and recovery from physical activity, however, we’ve outlined a few other reasons specific to puppies below.

Higher respiratory rate

Like children, puppies breathe faster than adult dogs and have a higher respiratory rate, even while resting. While adult dogs take between 10-30 breaths per minute, puppies take around 15-40 breaths per minute. This is because puppies are growing at an exponential rate, have a faster metabolism and therefore need more oxygen to support their development.

Developing respiratory systems

Since puppies are still growing, their respiratory system is not as fully developed as that of an adult dog. Puppies have smaller lungs, which means there’s less room for air to expand, and therefore they need to take more breaths more often. They also have smaller air passages which might be why you notice your puppy breathing fast while sleeping.

Stress, fear or anxiety

If you’ve recently brought your puppy home, they may be experiencing stress, fear or anxiety as they transition into their new home. This can cause their cortisol levels to increase, which also increases their heart rate, and could be why your puppy is breathing fast in their sleep. Once your puppy falls deeper into their sleep, their breathing should return to normal.

If you’re worried that your puppy is sick  because they’re experiencing other symptoms alongside rapid breathing, make a veterinary appointment as soon as possible.

Is it normal for a puppy to breathe rapidly during sleep?

It is normal for puppies to breathe faster while sleeping, especially compared to adult dogs. Besides the fact that puppies have a higher respiratory rate, it’s also important to consider that a puppy’s lungs are smaller than an adult dog’s lungs, meaning they have less space for air to expand. This limits the amount of oxygen that they can take in with each breath and is part of the reason why puppies need to breathe more frequently. Puppies also need a higher oxygen intake due to their fast growth and metabolism, as well as to strengthen their respiratory muscles which are not yet fully developed.

Dog parents can closely observe their puppy’s fast breathing while they’re sleeping, as well as the context, to identify whether it is normal or abnormal. If your puppy was playing before going to sleep or sleeping in warm weather, or if you think they could be dreaming, then their fast breathing patterns are likely to be normal. However, if you notice your puppy is breathing fast in their sleep for an extended period of time and their pattern doesn’t return to normal, this could be abnormal and you should consult with your veterinarian. It’s helpful to know the signs of a healthy puppy , and observe any physical signs or changes in behaviour that indicate otherwise.

Why is my senior dog breathing fast while sleeping?

We’ve listed the most common reasons behind a dog breathing fast while sleeping below.


Just like humans, dogs also experience REM sleep - meaning dogs can dream  too! As your dog settles into a deep slumber, they may experience vivid dreams that can increase their heart rate and could be why your dog is breathing heavily while sleeping. You may also notice your dog twitching, whimpering or barking in their sleep during their REM cycles.

Recent physical activity

If your dog has recently engaged in physical activity before lying down to rest, you may notice your dog’s heavy breathing while sleeping. This is because as they recover from their exercise, they need to replenish their oxygen levels and release extra carbon dioxide from their body. While your dog may be breathing fast when first going to sleep, their breathing rate should return to normal within approximately 15 minutes.

Body temperature regulation

When dogs are feeling hot, you’ll notice them panting more than usual; this is because dogs use panting as a way to release excess heat. If it’s a hot day, or your dog is sleeping in the sun or near a radiator, they may begin to overheat. Your dog may breathe faster while sleeping to cool themselves down. It’s important for dog parents to look out for signs of heatstroke  and keep their dogs as cool as possible in hot weather. Also, like humans, if dogs are fighting a virus or infection, their body temperature will increase which can also cause them to breathe fast. If you touch your dog’s extremities and they feel hot, contact your veterinarian to have their temperature checked.

Underlying medical issue

Other reasons that your dog is breathing heavy while sleeping regularly could be that they have an underlying medical issue. This could be something less concerning like an allergy or pain from an injury, or could be more serious such as a heart or respiratory problem. While we look at these possibilities in more detail here, in any of these situations you should always discuss your concerns with your veterinarian as they can suggest treatments to ease your dog’s symptoms.

Why is my dog breathing heavy while sleeping?

There are different reasons why dogs may breathe heavy while sleeping. Besides the reasons mentioned above, such as dreaming, temperature regulation, physical exercise, and anxiety/stress, there are other possible causes - including genetics. Certain dog breeds are predisposed to heavy breathing; for example, brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Shih Tzus, with shortened muzzles can have difficulty breathing. Brachycephalic dogs have shorter and narrower airway and nasal passages, as well as elongated soft palates and uvulas, all of which contributes to reduced airflow. This causes dogs of these breeds to breathe heavily while sleeping as they have to work harder to take in enough oxygen.

It’s also possible that your dog may have an underlying medical condition, such as a heart problem, respiratory infection or illness that can cause heavy breathing, and we discuss this further later.

Why is my senior dog breathing fast while sleeping?

Pain or discomfort

As your dog gets older, they may begin to experience pain and discomfort from joint problems, such as arthritis. This discomfort can cause your senior dog to breathe heavy while sleeping.

Stress, fear or anxiety

Senior dogs can also experience stress or anxiety, especially if they’re suffering from cognitive decline. They may begin to feel uneasy in their environment, particularly with any changes, and this restlessness can cause senior dogs to breathe heavily even while sleeping.

Respiratory issues

Some senior dogs can develop respiratory problems if their lungs are not functioning as normal. This can include chronic bronchitis, which can cause shallow breathing and could be why your senior dog is breathing fast while sleeping.

Heart problems

As dogs become elderly, they are more likely to develop heart conditions. In some cases, this can cause a build-up of fluid on their lungs - leading to your senior dog’s heavy breathing while sleeping. 

When should I be concerned about my dog’s fast breathing during sleep?

Certain health conditions can cause dogs to breathe heavily while sleeping, which is why it’s important for dog parents to find the underlying cause. If your dog’s heavy breathing while sleeping has started suddenly, continues for long periods of time and there are other symptoms involved, it’s important to consult a veterinary expert .

If your dog has an environmental allergy, such as pollen, dust mites or mould, they may experience respiratory problems and your dog may breathe fast while sleeping. On the other hand, food allergies can cause gastrointestinal and skin problems, both of which can cause discomfort and may be why your dog is breathing heavily while sleeping. Other respiratory problems can be caused by an infection, such as kennel cough or bronchitis, or due to asthma, affecting your dog’s breathing patterns when resting.

There are also underlying medical conditions that may contribute to your dog’s heavy breathing while sleeping, such as a heart condition that can affect blood flow and oxygenation, tumours in the respiratory tract that can obstruct airflow, or neurological disorders that can affect the brain’s control over breathing. Also, if your dog is considered obese, they may breathe faster due to the increased pressure on their chest and airways.

Here are some symptoms to look out for alongside your puppy or dog breathing fast while sleeping: 

- Coughing an wheezing
- Excessive Panting
- Lethargy or restlessness
- Difficulty in breathing
- Blue, pale or dry guns/tongue

    If you notice any of the above signs, or any other unusual symptoms or changes in behaviour, contact a veterinarian immediately.

    How can I help my dog if they are breathing fast while sleeping?

    1. Closely observe your dog. When your dog is sleeping, take notes of how long and often their periods of heavy breathing occur, and any other behaviours they engage in.

    2. Check your dog’s sleeping environment. Make sure it is comfortable for your dog by placing blankets and a soft toy to snuggle with, and minimise noise levels so that they can rest.

    3. Take extra care on hot days. Keep your dog safe in warm weather by making sure there is enough cool air circulating in their sleeping area, and offer water when they wake up.

    4. Create a relaxing atmosphere. If your dog is sensitive to any new triggers, try to minimise their exposure to this. You can use dog-calming pheromones as one of many ways to deal with an anxious dog.

    5. Consult a veterinary expert if you’re concerned about any other symptoms or changes in your dog’s behaviour. You can provide the notes of your dog’s heavy breathing to support their evaluation. 

    While dogs are a great joy of our lives, there are many responsibilities pet parents need to undertake to make sure their dogs are healthy. It’s important that dogs get enough food, water, sleep and play to grow, develop and thrive. This is why it’s important for dog parents to understand why their puppy or dog is breathing fast while sleeping. You can also support your dog’s health by providing James Wellbeloved™ Dog Food . With a wide range of options, James Wellbeloved™ selects natural ingredients to create high-quality dog food. Including essential vitamins and minerals, James Wellbeloved™ Dog Food  provides the complete and balanced diet that dogs need to flourish.