The last thing that any new puppy owner wants to see is their little canine companion breathing hard. Watching a small puppy struggling to catch their breath can be alarming to watch and often conjures up thoughts of the worst-case scenario.
Truth is, puppies are prone to a lot of health issues that adults dogs aren't. Monitoring your puppies health in their first year of life is incredibly important.
With that being said, in most cases, fast breathing is no cause for concern.
There are many reasons why your dog may be breathing rapidly. Most of them are completely normal. However, it's still important to do all that you can to bring their respiratory rate back to normal.
To do this, you need to understand the reasons why the problem may be occurring in the first place.
What is Considered Fast Breathing?
Before you attempt to diagnose the cause, you need to be able to know what to look for. Dogs breathe a little differently than we humans do, so it can be tough to distinguish rapid breathing if you don't know what's normal for your pup.
The first thing you should do is to figure out your dog's standard respiratory rate. This refers to the number of breaths they take per minute.
Adult dogs usually breathe 10 to 30 breaths per minute depending on their overall health and activity level.
Young puppies tend to breathe a little more than that at 15 to 40 breaths per minute. Finding out your puppy's unique rate is very simple with a little bit of patience and counting.
Measuring Your Puppies Normal Breathing Rate
It's important that you perform the following steps when they're completely relaxed. While this might sound easy enough, it can be hard to make a rambunctious little puppy relax for more than a few minutes.
If you're having trouble doing this, catch them when they've fallen asleep.
Keep an eye on their chest and set up a timer. Now count how many times their chest expands and retracts within the minute.
Each inflation and deflation of their lungs count as a single breath.
The number you reach after the minute is up is their normal respiratory rate. Alternatively, you can count for 30 seconds and double the number.
To ensure that you get an accurate number, you should perform the test numerous times throughout the day. Once you have a collection of test results, you can find the average to get a better idea of how your pup's lungs work.
With this information in mind, you should be able to tell when your furry friend is having trouble breathing.
Signs of Fast Breathing
If your puppy takes an average of 30 breaths per minute, fast breathing will become very obvious. When dogs pant, regardless of the reason, they can take up to 400 breaths per minute.
You may also notice that your puppy's mouth is open and their tongue is out. They do this to get their tongue out of their way and open up their airways more.
4 Common Causes of Panting
#1 Excessive Heat
If your puppy has spent some time in the hot sun, they'll probably start panting rapidly. This is completely normal. Dogs use panting to help regulate their body temperatures.
A human's body achieves this same feat through sweat. However, dogs don't have the luxury of sweating through their fur. While they do have sweat glands in their paws, the best way they cool off is to pant.
Panting helps to circulate cool air through their body. They'll breathe in through their nose and out through their mouth. As the hot air makes its way out of the mouth, it evaporates some of that saliva, effectively bringing down the temperature of their tongue.
It's a natural reaction and the speed in which they breathe varies based on how hot they are.
What You Can Do to Help
If you notice excessive panting, you need to bring your puppy inside and crank up the air conditioner. Doing so won't stop the panting immediately, but it will surely help to cool your pooch down.
You can also provide them with cold water to drink. Make sure to address the problem as soon as possible.
If your dog is unable to cool off, they may start to experience heat stroke. This condition can have drastic effects on their health and even lead to death. Never leave your pup outside for prolonged periods of time without protection or lock them in a hot car.
#2 Stress and Anxiety
It's not uncommon for new puppies to breath rapidly when they're first introduced to their new home. This can be one of the most jarring instances of excessive panting because there's no immediate fix to the problem.
Puppies experience a range of emotions like we do. While you may be excited to bring your puppy home and start your new life together, your companion is experiencing a lot of different emotions.
Most new puppies are scared and confused when you first bring them home. They've just been separated from their mother, taken away from an environment they were comfortable in, and put into a big scary new house.
It'll take some time for your new puppy to get used to his surroundings. Fast breathing is completely normal, especially within the first few weeks.
You may also notice panting when you take them on walks or bring them in the car. The reasoning behind it is very similar. It's something new that they're experiencing for the first time.
Eventually, your new puppy will get used to these new feelings and be less afraid to conquer the world.
What You Can Do to Help
There's not much you can do in these instances aside from being gentle and loving. These situations can be a great time to bond with your new puppy. Show him or her that everything's alright and that you're there to protect them.
You can also supply them with treats. This is especially useful with car rides, vet visits, or trips. Give them some treats when they start to pant to show them that the new experience is a positive one.
Over time, they'll start to associate the situation with a reward and forget all about their negative feelings.
Too much physical activity has very similar effects on a dog's body to high temperatures. Puppies are very active creatures. They're little balls of energy that constantly want to play and run around.
All that activity is going to wear them out. You'll notice fast breathing when they stop moving. They may lay down and attempt to catch their breath.
Internally, their body temperature has increased from all that exercise. The fast breathing is nothing more than an attempt to calm down and bring their temperature levels back to normal.
What You Can Do to Help
Again, the best thing you can do is bring your pup inside in the air conditioning and provide them with plenty of water to drink. You can also do your best to make them relax for a moment.
While this is easier said than done with a determined puppy, it's for the best. Don't let start playing again while they're still panting. Have them sit down and relax before their next play session.
While this may seem problematic at first, noticeably faster breathing while your puppy sleeps is normal. Puppies sleep a lot, even more so than adult dogs. They need this to develop properly. Fast breathing mid-slumber is usually just a response to whatever they're dreaming about.
Fast breathing typically occurs in the REM, or rapid eye movement, stage. It's the stage in which your puppy is in a deep sleep and having vivid dreams.
The fast breathing may be happening because they're having a terrifying dream or something pleasant like running through a field chasing rabbits. Whatever the case may be, it'll stop once they wake up.
It's not uncommon for heavy breathing to be accompanied by other strange behaviors. Many dogs start to whimper, bark softly, or even kick as if they are trying to run.
It can be as entertaining to witness as it is worrisome. Just remember that it's completely normal. Even baby humans do it, so its no cause for concern.
What You Can Do To Help
There's nothing you can or should do to stop heavy breathing as your dog sleeps. Most bouts of heavy breathing stop after a few minutes. While you may be tempted to wake your dog up from his or her slumber, this isn't a good idea.
Doing so may result in an unwanted bite. You're essentially snapping them back to reality. For a split second, they'll forget where they are and will instinctively act out to being woken up.
Even the most trained and loving dog can bite someone when they're woken up unpleasantly, so it's best to just let them sleep.
Medical Reasons for Fast Breathing
The previous causes for panting in your puppy are normal and don't require any medical intervention. However, the following are a little different. Fast panting is associated with a few health issues. The behavior is often one of a number of different symptoms, so it's important to get your pup checked out by a vet.
Tachypnea is used to describe rapid breathing that has no immediate cause. Dogs with tachypnea will start to pant out of nowhere even if they were relaxed prior to the episode.
It can be persistent, lasting significantly longer than normal panting. If this starts to happen on a regular basis, it's imperative that you seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
This term refers to labored breathing. In addition to panting, your puppy may start to show signs that they're having difficulty breathing altogether.
They may position their body in a way that helps to increase air intake and look exhausted from having to work so hard.
Panting comes naturally to dogs, so when it looks like they have to work for it, you need to see a vet.
Dyspnea can be a physical symptom of an underlying disease that your puppy is suffering from. This includes asthma, kennel cough, pulmonary edema, infections, worms, and so much more.
A qualified vet will be able to perform various tests to diagnose the problem and find a treatment solution.
It's worth noting that normal panting can quickly turn into a medical issue with Brachycephalic dogs. These dogs include Pugs, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and any other breed that has a signature short snout.
These types of dogs are predisposed to experiencing breathing problems at some point throughout their lives. They have longer soft palates that can block airways and narrow nostrils that make it difficult to inhale.
If you have one of these dogs, you need to be extra careful and prevent excessive panting as much as possible.
Over to You
Overall, there's no need to panic if your dog starts to breathe fast every once in a while. It's a normal and instinctive behavior that can benefit your puppy's overall comfort and health.
It's only when the fast breathing is accompanied by additional symptoms or has no identifiable cause that you need to be concerned. Beyond that, it's just your puppy doing what dogs do.