Many first time dog owners are really concerned about their puppy’s heavy breathing during sleep. Tachypnea in puppies while sleeping is mostly a common issue but, in some cases, it can be a bit serious. Let us study everything you need to know about puppy breathing rapidly during sleep-what is and isn’t normal.
What is abnormal breathing in puppies?
Rapid labored breathing in young dogs
A dog at rest takes about 20-30 breaths per minute. If your puppy is breathing nearly 100 breaths per minute, it could indicate pain, fever or anxiety. Dogs with lung disorders or chest issues could also breathe rapid and shallow breaths. Make sure your puppy is not panting; often pet parents confuse panting with rapid breathing during sleep. Panting is a way of reducing body temperature and your dog will pant a lot in summer. It allows the water to evaporate from mouth, tongue and lungs which, in turn, brings down the body temperature. It also allows for exchange of cool and warm air.
Causes of rapid breathing in puppies while sleeping
Rapid breathing, on the other hand, especially during sleep, could indicate signs of distress. If your puppy’s heart is beating very rapidly during sleep or the breath stops for a while, it is best to take it to the vet. In older dogs with congestive heart disease or lung failure, rapid breathing may occur even with little exertion or when the dog is at rest. In puppies, tachypnea could occur due to respiratory issues, heat exhaustion, stroke, dehydration, diabetes, kidney failure, and even some kinds of poisoning.
If your pup is showing other signs of pain or distress or has been inactive throughout the day, please have him checked by a vet immediately.
Deciphering your puppy’s breathing
Ask a dog owner if his puppy has had shallow, rapid and noisy breathing and the answer would likely be “Oh, yes, my puppy has always done that!” Puppies do all kinds of things while sleeping: they run, growl, pant, snarl, wag their tails, boof, and even open their eyes on and off. Many puppies breath rapidly, get up, pant a bit and go back to sleep. You puppy may be dreaming and might even suckle in his sleep. Some pet parents actually wake their pup up when it breathes rapidly or shows signs of labored breathing. This is not really necessary as it could startle or confuse your pup. If you do feel he has stopped breathing or if his heartbeat is very rapid, gently talk to him until he is awake. Wait for him to become fully alert then observe his reaction: is he happy to see you? Is he playful as usual? Does he want to do his favorite activities? Is he looking forward to his meals, training and bonding with you? If there are no other symptoms, your pet is absolutely normal.
“My pug puppy is breathing heavy”!
Pugs and brachycephalic dogs often show labored breathing and they snorting and snoring are common in these breeds. If your pet has been breathing quietly but suddenly starts to breathe noisily, please have him checked by a vet. There could be nasal obstruction which could cause this issue. Also, obstruction in the larynx or throat could cause a similar problem.
Stridor or croupy breathing
Many pets suddenly develop noisy, croupy breathing when air is passing through the voice box/ larynx. This could be due to the presence of a foreign object in the larynx. If this persists, there is a risk of developing laryngeal paralysis.
Chronic bronchitis, allergies, cancer of the larynx, chest issues or lung problems can sometimes lead to whistling sound when the dog exhales or inhales. Your vet can use the stethoscope to listen to the pets breathing. Spasm in trachea or bronchi can also cause wheezing.
Shallow rapid breathing
Broken ribs can lead to shallow breathing. Other causes include presence of blood/pus or serum in the chest. These liquids restrict expansion of chest cavity. Your dog will try to compensate by breathing rapidly.
In some puppies, the nostrils or nasal openings are small and the cartilage is soft and floppy. This causes the nostrils to collapse inwards as the puppy breathes. The condition can lead to varying degrees of breathing problems in pups. In severe cases, the chest is flattened from front to back. Such pups do not grow well. In some dogs, the issue resolves on its own by 6 months of age, but in severe cases, surgery may be required.
Elongated soft palate
Tachypnea in puppies can also occur due to elongated soft palate that overlaps the epiglottis. The stretched ligaments can lead to labored breathing, snorting, snoring and even gurgling or gagging. Surgery can help but it must be performed before the condition causes destructive changes in the larynx.
Puppy breathing fast first night – What should you do?
One school of thought is to train your puppy to sleep in a crate in another room, preferably on another floor, from his first night at your house. However, puppies, when separated from their litter, are bound to be anxious. If you want the bond between you and your pup to be strong, you could keep his crate in your room, at least for the first few nights. There is no right or wrong approach but many experts believe that you should treat your canine baby with the same approach as you’d treat a human baby. The more love and attention your pet gets in his first few nights at your home, the more his needs are met early on-the more independent he will be as he grows up.
Translation: allow your pet to sleep in your room. How would you feel if you had just been separated from your parents and siblings? Your pet is going to feel very comforted when he hears your breathing. You can also monitor your puppy’s breathing and heart beat at night. Please read my puppy training guide for housebreaking a puppy and how to stop it from crying at night.
In most cases, puppy breathing fast and shallow during sleep is normal. Observe your pet carefully over the next few days. Your instinct will guide you whether your pet needs further medical observation and/or treatment.