Rapid Breathing in Puppies

By Adrienne Farricelli

If you noticed rapid breathing in your puppy, the good news is that there may be several benign explanations. Your puppy may have playfully romped around and worked himself up or the hot weather may have caused him to pant, which makes him look as if he's breathing very fast. Vivid dreams also may induce rapid breathing. Knowing what's normal or not can help you recognize signs of trouble, but when in doubt, consult with a veterinarian.

Higher Breathing Rates

Compared to adult dogs, puppies have a slightly more elevated breathing rate. Consider that in adult dogs the normal breathing rate is between 10 and 30 breaths per minute; whereas, in young puppies, the breathing rate can be anywhere between 15 and 40 breaths per minute, according to The Animal Emergency Center, an animal hospital offering emergency care in Rochester, Michigan. To effectively check your puppy's breathing rate, you can simply count his up and down chest motions when he is relaxed and not actively panting. Alternatively, you can wet your finger to feel him breathing on it or you can place a pocket mirror in front of your puppy's nose. Avoid counting your puppy's breath after exercise or when your puppy is stressed as these events temporarily can cause higher breathing rates.

Many puppies won't hold still for an entire minute to allow you to check their breathing rate. You can take a short cut by simply counting your pup's chest motions for 15 seconds and multiply them by 4.

Increased Body Temperature

When exposed to hot weather and exercised, puppies and dogs will pant with their mouths open and tongue protruding. It's normal for their breathing rates to increase drastically in an effort to cool down. Expect to see up to 200 pants per minute. Once allowed to rest in a cool area, the panting episode should gradually decrease. Persistent panting without explanation may be a sign of pain, a side effect of a medication or a sign of a fever. Seek your vet for assistance.

Normal Sleep Pattern

You may expect your pup's breathing rate to decrease while sleeping, but when dreaming, his breathing rate may increase. Puppies tend to dream a lot more compared to adult dogs, and along with breathing rapidly, they may sometimes even bark, growl, whine, twitch and move their legs. This tends to happen during the rapid eye movement phase, also known as REM sleep, a phase during which brain waves are rapid and irregular and dogs exhibit signs of heightened mental activity.

A Medical Condition

Not all cases of rapid breathing in puppies are innocuous. Medically known as tachypnea, rapid breathing can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition that warrants veterinary attention. Anemia, respiratory diseases and heart conditions are just a few of the many possible causes of increased breathing rates in dogs. Accompanying symptoms may include coughing, labored breathing, a bluish tint to the gums, exercise intolerance, reduced appetite, weight loss and fatigue. See your vet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.

It's a good idea to get accustomed with your puppy's normal breathing rates. Practice counting your pup's respiratory rate at home when he's relaxed. This way, you should be able to quickly recognize when something is wrong. If you notice an increase of more than 20 percent compared to the average resting respiratory rate and your dog is not having trouble breathing or coughing, you can check again in 30 to 60 minutes. If it remains elevated, contact your veterinarian.