Why is My Dog Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

Why Does My Dog Breath Fast While Sleeping Feature Image

How it would mean the world to see something as “awww!” inspiring as a dog or even a puppy sleeping peacefully. Not all sleeping dogs do though; some will breathe heavily through their nose while resting, and it can be worrying if pet parents don’t know what it means.

Don’t be too concerned though; the majority of the quick nose breathing or a dog heavy breathing at night situation is perfectly normal for a sleeping dog. Let’s take a look at some information about healthy sleep behaviors for a dog, what rapid breathing or heavy breathing means, its causes, and what you can do to prevent this and help your furry friend.

Reasons Your Dog is Breathing Fast While Sleeping

While a fast rate of breath can be a little concerning, it should not be a reason for immediate panic. For one thing, a puppy breathes much faster in its sleep than an adult dog does. Why? Well, this is because young pups will dream much more vividly and more often than an adult dog might.

Like humans, dogs dream during the REM phase of their sleep cycle. Rapid Eye Movement or simply REM is known for the earlier eye movements being apparent beneath the closed eyelids. Like your precious pup, the REM phase is unique to mammals and goes with an increased level of brain activity. 

During the period of their sleep cycle, a sleeping dog will require more energy. They will begin breathing faster to acquire an excessive amount of oxygen, which can be transported from the lungs to the bloodstream and converted to energy. The REM cycle of a puppy will be much more active than that of a fully grown puppy.

On the contrary, adult dogs do not tend to breathe as quickly in their sleep. While a brief phase of fast breathing is acceptable, prolonged intervals during their sleep are a bad sign. Talk to your vet if you observe this type of behavior in your adult dog.

But, why does my dog breathe fast while sleeping? You might ask. Here are a few possible explanations for a puppy breathing fast while sleeping phenomena.

Why is My Dog Breathing Fast While Asleep

Excessive Heat

If your pet is resting in a warm environment, it might be the reason for the dog breathing heavily while sleeping scenario.

A dog that has spent much time under the heat of the sun is likely to pant heavily–this is a normal condition. It will aid the puppy in regulating his body temperature. Humans do the same by sweating. 

However, every dog breed doesn’t have this luxury as it can’t sweat through its furry coats. And while they have sweat glands in their paw pads and nose, the best that a pup can do in such a situation is to pant to cool off.

Additionally, the aim of panting is to circulate cool air through a pup’s body, as he breathes in and out through the mouth and nose. Some of the pup’s saliva will evaporate as the hot air exits the mouth, effectively cooling the temperature of the pup’s tongue. This style of remedy is natural and a dog’s fast breathing is dependent on how hot his body is.

Also, take note that a flat-faced breed, like Pugs, has elongated palates and narrow nostrils making it especially prone to developing breathing problems. But if your dog is not one of them and is breathing heavily, it can also be a symptom of more underlying disease.

Stress or Anxiety

Another reason why the dog is breathing heavy while sleeping situation happens is perhaps the pet is anxious or stressed. Thus, don’t be surprised if you experience some heavy breathing and panting from your dog for the first few days of his stay in a new environment. 

Although rapid breathing is a common occurrence for getting a new puppy, it is also considered one of the most challenging instances as excessive panting and rapid breathing have no instant remedy.

The young dog might be frightened, confused, or missing the care of his mother, and it will take time to acclimatize and settle in his new environment. In this case, fast breathing is normal, particularly within the pup’s first few weeks. 

Any new experience like a pup’s first time going in a car can bring on rapid breathing, which will normalize as the dog gets used to the experience.

Try to help your new pup relax by offering him a familiar and safe space like a dog bed or a crate.

Rapid Breathing in Sleeping Dogs


A dog breathing fast in sleep may occur because of over-exertion. If your pet recently went for a long walk, a hike, or a jog, your dog might still be catching its breath from his physical activity

Consequently, your dog may decide to look for a cool location to lie down for a few minutes to catch his breath. Internally, the body temperature of your pup increased from all the physical exertion. Rapid breathing is merely an attempt to calm themselves down. In this case, you should observe your dog for a few minutes to check if his breathing rate returns to normal. 

Also, provide them with plenty of cool, freshwater. As always, call your vet if the breathing rate of your pet does not return to normal within some minutes of ceasing physical exercise.

Sleeping Position

A dog breathing heavy in sleep might also occur due to their sleeping position. But before we dive into it, let’s first understand how long should your pet sleep.

The age and breed of the dog, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), will dictate what a normal amount of sleep looks like for an individual dog. A puppy may sleep for around 24 hours per day while adult dogs may sleep approximately 10-12 hours a day. 

Seniors, however, may sleep longer than a pup or adult dogs, and it is normal for them to get tired more easily with age. If you think your senior pet is sleeping too much, consider that part is age-related and their extra sleep may be normal.

As for the sleeping position, fast breathing in dogs may be the culprit when a pup lies or stands with its neck stretched out and its elbows placed side apart. When you try interacting with the dog in this kind of condition, distress is sure to set in. 

The sides of the dog’s belly need to be examined to see if it is undergoing fast in and out movement. His gums and tongue should also be equally inspected, and the vet should be brought in if any unusual tinge is observed (blue-purple or blue color).

Medical Related Reasons Dogs Breathe Fast While Sleeping

The above-mentioned causes of heavy breathing in dogs are normal, and won’t call for any veterinary attention. But when rapid breathing is a result of health issues, the causes are quite plenty.


Anemia, a bloodstream condition, occurs when the immune system of the dog decides to attack its red blood cells. These cells circulate oxygen in the dog’s bloodstream. Thus, when they are running low because of this condition, a pup can breathe more quickly to compensate.

Dog is Breathing Fast While Asleep

Fluid in the Lungs

While most mammals, big and small, have a tiny amount of fluid in their lungs, an excess amount can make it hard to breathe and cause pain. Check the gums of your dog to see if they are blue, it may be an indicator that he is having trouble breathing. Low body temperature can also be another sign.


Dyspnea is used to describe shortness of breath and labored breathing. You might notice your dog positioning its body such that the inhaling of air will be increased, and for this effort, the puppy will appear so exhausted. For the dog population, panting is supposed to come naturally. Hence, when you observe that your puppy is working too hard for it, it is time to contact your vet.


There is no instant cause for this type of heavy breathing. A dog with tachypnea will suddenly begin to pant even when he is just relaxing before the episode. This type of panting can last longer compared to normal panting spells and tends to persist. If it becomes regular, be sure to consult your vet [1].

Heart Failure

Heart Failure or Congestive Heart Failure is a condition that can occur from a heart disease that slowly developed over time. This heart condition also causes fluid to build up in the lungs, heart, and/or abdomen of the dog. An early clinical sign of this heart disease is breathing fast while sleeping. 

Congestive Heart Failure is most common in older dogs, so if your pet is a senior dog, you will want to make certain that you discuss this possibility with your vet. Other symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure may include panting, coughing, restlessness, swelling of the abdomen, and difficulty breathing.


Garlic and onions are toxic to dogs and can lead to fast breathing. Note that this will often be combined with vomiting, diarrhea, and excess salivation.

Dog Taking Fast Breaths While Sleeping

What is the Normal Breathing Rate for Dogs?

Based on veterinary researches, the normal sleeping respiratory rate (SRR) of a dog or resting respiratory rate (RRR) should be between 10-25 breaths per minute. Thus, a normal RRR should surely be under 30 breaths per minute.

To know your own dog’s SRR, start by counting your pup’s breath for a full minute while he is resting or sleeping. Alternately, you can count your dog’s breaths for 30 seconds and then multiply the number of breaths by two to get your pet’s respiratory rate (bpm). 

A puppy generally breathes at a higher rate. So a resting breathing rate that is more than 30 breaths per minute, that is considered an abnormal respiratory rate. It’s always crucial to contact your vet if you observe abnormal breathing.

Moreover, you should only calculate your dog’s SRR while your dog is snoozing peacefully ( not while it is dreaming) or resting and lying down comfortably. The ambient temperature in the room should also be not too cold or too hot. 

Do not attempt to measure your pup’s SRR right after he eats, engages in physical activity like play, or after your dog returns from a walk. Another thing to note: A single breath consists of breathing in (the inhalation) and breathing out (the exhalation).

How to Prevent Dogs from Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

Most people ask: “My dog is breathing fast while sleeping, what should I do?” Most of them are novice pet parents who still need to understand fast breathing in dogs.

While you may not be able to prevent rapid breathing during sleep, it is essential to note that you may not always need to. Keep in mind, your pup is frolicking in his dream during his REM cycle and developing his respiratory systems. An adult dog, however, is different and it is vital to note the other health problems that can accompany heavy breathing.

If the rapid breathing in your dog is a result of some medical condition, the vet will recommend some medication to cure or manage the condition. But, there are a number of remedies for heavy breathing problems that do not have any underlying medical issue.

For Excessive Heat

If the cause is excessive heat, the possible remedy is to bring the puppy indoors and increase the air-conditioner. The panting will not go down immediately, but the dog’s body temperature will definitely cool down. 

Coldwater should also be made available. If a dog fails to cool his body down, it may lead to heatstroke, which is fatal and can lead to death on some occasions. Never expose a puppy to very hot weather for too long or leave it locked in hot air.

Why Is My Dog's Breath Fast While Sleeping

To Treat Stress or Anxiety

In the case of stress or anxiety, dog owners often find themselves in a helpless situation as there is not much they can do. You can only be gentle and loving, taking the chance to bond with your new puppy as you attempt to let him know that you are ready to care for and protect him. 

This is precisely where the dog treats come in handy; you can dish out his snacks during car rides, vet visits, or trips just to let him know that this new encounter is nothing but a positive one. In time, the pup will start to associate those scenarios with praises, dog treats, and rewards, and the negative feelings will melt away naturally.

For Over-Exertion

The remedy for over-exertion is to make plenty of water available to the dog and bring it into an air-conditioned room. You may also try relaxing the dog for a while by making it sit in a cool area before taking off for the next play session, which is inevitable as puppies rarely rest.

Medical Related Reasons

Sadly, underlying medical conditions such as anemia or heart failure can hardly be prevented. However, checking his health regularly enable early diagnosis and thus offering for a better prognosis overall. A low amount of stress and a healthy diet with adequate exercise promotes a long lifespan.

With a few safety precautions, a heat stroke, on the other hand, is perfectly preventable. Restrict prolonged exposure to the sun and never leave your puppy inside the car. Water should always be available and your dog should stay in the shade most of the time.

When Should You Be Worried About Your Dog’s Breathing?

Although a dog breathing fast while sleeping may not seem like too much of a deal, given your puppy’s desire for dreaming, other things combined with it might be a sign of a deeper problem. If the rapid breathing continues while they are awake, it’s already a cause for concern.

Other symptoms would include vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, and coughing. If your furry friend is having stomach issues, is low on energy, or any sort of breathing problems, contact your vet immediately to determine the cause and find more treatment options.

Puppy Breathing Fast While Sleeping

Frequently Asked Questions

When is it normal for dogs to breathe fast when sleeping?

As mentioned above, the normal resting respiratory rate for dogs should be under 30 breaths per minute. A sleeping or resting breathing rate that is consistently greater than 30 breaths per minute is considered abnormal breathing.

Do I need to take my dog to the vet if it breathes fast while sleeping?

It depends on how much your dog’s breathing rate is. That’s why you should be watchful about your pup’s breathing while sleeping. However, if your dog has a breathing rate of over 30 breaths a minute, it’s already a cause for concern as it is considered too fast. 

Rapid and excessive breathing while sleeping is called tachypnea and may be a symptom of the following medical conditions: heat-stroke, heart failure, fluid in the lungs, anemia, and poisoning.

What are the signs of respiratory distress in a dog?

According to Royal Veterinary College, respiratory issues can manifest in many different ways, including noisy breathing, coughing, reduced ability to exercise, and a change in voice. 

More severe signs of breathing difficulties may include continuous panting or rapid breathing, being unable to settle and distress, long-drawn-out breathing, neck extended and standing with elbows pointed outwards, abnormal or exaggerated movement of the abdomen/chest while breathing, collapse, and blue gums.


A dog breathing heavily through its nose while resting is not always a cause for concern. In fact, most of the time, rapid nose breathing is completely natural. It is perfectly normal for a dog to breathe heavily through its nose during deep sleep.

While your dog might be entirely fine, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Moreover, a puppy does not stay in the REM phase of sleep for extended periods of time, so this will only last for a couple of minutes. If rapid breathing persists longer than a few minutes even when the dog is awake, seek veterinary care for your puppy. 

Sometimes dogs breathe so fast and twitch while resting that they cause their humans concern; dog parents may question if their puppy is indeed sleeping deeply or having a medical problem that requires veterinary attention. If you do suspect it is not REM sleep, seek professional advice from a qualified vet.