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Why Is My Puppy Breathing So Fast?

A young puppy breathing fast, or erratically, can sometimes make you worry.

It might seem as if he's breathing way too quickly, or even that he's holding his breath.

When you combine this with the normal twitching, wriggling and even whining or barking that a many puppies indulge in when they're dreaming and it can be 'panic stations' for the human members of the family.

I get many questions about this sort of situation, and the good news is that almost every time there's nothing to worry about!

My Puppy Breathes 'Funny' When He's Asleep!

Let's start with the way your puppy behaves when he's deeply asleep.

Young puppies are basically tiny babies, and they're either eating, playing, eliminating or sleeping... and sleeping takes up more time than any other activity.

Sleep is very important to puppies as it's when their little bodies do most of their growing and developing, so it's natural that it will be one of their favorite pastimes.

But puppies don't necessarily sleep in that 'dead to the world' way that some mature and older dogs do.

They may twitch, jerk or 'wriggle', whine or even bark..... and their breathing may seem very fast, or slow and shallow, or appear to 'stop-and-start' as if they're holding their breath.

If you're a mom or have spent much time around newborn human infants, you'll know that it's the same with them.

Erratic breaths, twitching, grimacing, smiling, clenching their little hands... they do all of these things while they're asleep.

This is all quite normal, and usually nothing to worry about.

Does my puppy breathing fast mean that he's sick?

I'm not a veterinarian and there's no way that I can tell you for sure that your puppy is 100% healthy, or whether or not he has any problems that are related to the way he's breathing when he's asleep....

BUT if he is happy, active, eating well, drinking well, is up to date on his vaccinations and parasite treatment and is showing no other signs of illness, then chances are good that Fido's just fine.

However, a puppy who has difficulty breathing when awake, or shows any other signs of illness is a different story.

Occasionally a puppy will be born with a heart or circulatory problem and this may cause his breathing to be extra fast, or shallow, as well as a number of other symptoms such as tiring easily, failing to grow or put on weight at a normal rate.

If your puppy is breathing quickly, or erratically, when AWAKE, and has any of these symptoms, get him examined by a veterinarian right away:

  • 'Failure to thrive' this basically means that your pup isn't growing, developing or gaining weight like other puppies of his age/breed. He may also get tired more quickly than normal

  • He breathes very fast when awake, even if he's just resting. Short periods of panting or rapid breathing are normal if your pup has been running around or exercising, is hot, or anxious/scared. It can also be a symptom of pain or distress. But if your pup or dog breathes rapidly all the time there may be a problem

  • He gets tired more quickly than he used to, sleeps more, or just lies down (even almost collapses) after light exercise or a short walk

  • If he has a chronic cough, especially when he's lying down or when he first wakes up from a nap, or in the morning. A cough can signal many things, including conditions such as kennel cough, but a chronic cough that is more noticeable when your dog is lying down or first thing in the morning could mean that his heart isn't working as well as it should

  • He has a swollen belly. This is one that you shouldn't panic about if your pup seems healthy otherwise as many, many puppies have a swollen tummy either because they have puppy worms that need to be treated, or that they eat/drink too fast and swallow a lot of air. But, if your pup is always tired, breathes strangely, has lost his appetite, has a cough, or any other symptoms of illness AND his tummy is distended, get him a vet check asap

If you're a little worried about your puppy but he doesn't seem really ill, isn't injured or needing immediate veterinary attention, you can get answers to your puppy health question (about a puppy who you think has breathing problems or anything else!) by asking an online veterinarian.

It's a quick way to get peace of mind and is much more affordable than a vet visit that you're not certain you need yet!


BUT... if your puppy is showing signs of illness such as vomiting, diarrhea, extreme lethargy, weakness, disorientation or any other serious symptoms, get him to your own vet immediately!

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