Puppy Breathing Hard: Should You Be Worried?

If you ever see a puppy breathing hard – or if you observe rapid breathing or your dog having any difficulty breathing – it’s natural for you to feel worried. When I’m out playing with my other dog friends, you’ll gradually start seeing more and more rapid breathing from me. In most cases, this is just a way for me to cool down. But if it continues, then I might not be getting enough oxygen to my organs.

Cause Heavy Breathing in Dogs

What Are Some Things That Can Cause Heavy Breathing in Dogs?

I’m unable to sweat when my body warms up to a certain temperature, and breathing heavy or panting, as many like to call it, is how I cool down. You might see me playing with French bulldogs at the park sometimes. Those breeds tend to breathe a little more profusely because their snouts are shorter.

While panting is commonly a way for me to cool off, there are some health conditions out there that can also cause me to breathe heavier:

  • Conditions of the respiratory system
  • Fluid buildup in the lungs
  • Heart failure
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Heatstroke
  • Poisoning
  • Side effects of certain medications
  • Pain

Non-medical Reasons for Fast Breathing in Dogs

There are a variety of reasons for heavy breathing in dogs that don’t require immediate medical attention.

Heat Exposure

When I’m playing outside on a very hot day, I will breathe a lot faster in comparison to cooler days. Breathing faster helps me keep my body temperature regulated. When my owners are outside playing with me in the heat of the day, they have sweat glands that help them regulate their body temperature.

I’m not able to release sweat the same way because of my thick coat of fur. I have sweat glands in my paws, but this doesn’t help me cool off as much as panting does. Panting helps me get air throughout my body.

The faster I breathe in, the faster I’m able to cool off after playing in the sun. If you notice me panting heavily, then that means my body temperature has gotten very high.


Another reason why you might find me breathing heavy is if I’ve just moved to a new home or am entering into a completely new environment that I’m not familiar with. Like yourself, this can cause me to experience stress, and that will lead to me breathing more heavily.

There isn’t really anything you can do if you start seeing me breathe heavily in certain situations. Once I become more familiar with a certain environment, you’ll notice that my breathing will begin to become normal again.

Seeing a new puppy breathing hard can also signal that it’s experiencing stress from not being around its mother. It’ll take some time for a puppy to settle into its new home, and this might take up to a couple of weeks.

Physical Activity

Physical Activity

On warm days where I’m outside playing, the chances are high that I’ll start breathing heavier. Many puppies are extremely active in their younger years. They contain a ton of energy that they will release by running around and playing.

Breathing Heavily While Sleeping

Breathing Heavily While Sleeping

When I was a puppy, I used to sleep a lot more compared to when I started getting older. You might notice that puppies tend to breathe heavier and faster when they are asleep. This is normal and all part of growing up.

Increased Breathing Due to The Sleeping Position

You might notice that my breathing will increase depending on what position I’m sleeping in. When a dog stands up and has its elbows going outward, this could mean they are experiencing some distress. You’ll want to check the sides of my tummy if this happens. It’s also good to take a look at my gums and tongue to see if they are a different color.

Heavy Breathing in The Car

You might notice my breathing rate increase when I come into the vehicle with you. This is normal and mostly happens because it’s a new and exciting situation that I might not be overly familiar with.

You’ll never want to leave me in the car on a hot day. That could lead to heavy breathing and cause me to experience extreme stress.

What Is Heavy Breathing Like Compared to Normal Breathing?

When my friends and I are playing, you shouldn’t see us breathing so heavy to the point that you become concerned. My average breathing rate should range from 10-35 breaths every minute. Most dogs have an average rate of around 24 breaths every minute while they are resting. If you see me breathing heavier than that, there might be something wrong with my health.

Puppy Breathing Hard

Puppy Breathing Hard

When I was younger, my breathing rate was a little higher. For average puppies, the breathing rate ranges from 15 to around 40 breaths every minute. Puppies also tend to breathe a lot faster when they are asleep, which is why you might notice my breathing accelerate when I am not awake.

If you see my breathing get higher while I’m sleeping, I’m probably just dreaming about something fun or exciting. This means I’m getting some much-needed rest and am most likely in the REM part of sleep. You might see my legs moving around suddenly, and you might even hear me whimper.

The majority of younger puppies have a higher chance of suffering respiratory tract infections. If you have a young puppy that breathes much more than what appears normal, you might want to consider taking them to the vet.

When to Start Worrying About A Puppy Breathing Hard?

If you see my breathing increase after I was just outside playing in hot temperatures, you shouldn’t worry too much. If my breathing is still very fast while I’m sitting still, then there could be a cause for alarm.

  1. Heavy breathing, while a dog is resting, can signal a variety of different health concerns. You’ll want to keep a close eye on me if you see this happening.
  2. If I’m continuing to breathe heavily, take a look at my gums. If my gums look blue in color, you should take me to the vet as soon as you can. This means that I’m not getting enough oxygen.
  3. If my mouth is partially open or fully closed and my breathing continues to be heavy, this is another indication that I’m having trouble. You should take me to the vet as soon as you can.
  4. Another thing to keep an eye out for is if you start seeing me cough. This is a symptom of bronchitis and it needs to be addressed.
  5. Check to see if I’m in distress while I’m breathing heavily. When a dog is in distress, they don’t like to eat much. You might also notice them wanting to hide from people. If you notice I’m breathing heavy and I’m tucking my tail between my legs, this is another indicator that I need medical attention.
  6. Check to see if I’m making any other noises when I’m breathing heavily. You might hear me snorting and wheezing at the same time. This means that I could potentially have bronchitis or other respiratory issues.

What Treatment Is Available for Dogs That Have Heavy Breathing?

Dogs treatment

You’ll first have to figure out why I’m breathing heavy. If you start thinking something is wrong with me, you’ll want to get me evaluated by a veterinarian to figure out the root cause.

If I have respiratory issues, then I might need certain medications to address the issue. Corticosteroids and bronchodilators are two common medications used to help me breathe more easily. There are some cases where I might also need oxygen therapy to help provide oxygen to the rest of my organs.

What Can Be Done for Heavy Breathing In Dogs?

If my heavy breathing is a result of an underlying medical condition, you’ll have to figure out what that medical condition is. If it’s not caused by a medical condition, then there are a couple of things you can do depending on the cause of it.


When I’m outside running around on a hot day, the chances of you seeing me breathe heavily are high. You might want to bring me inside the house and turn the air conditioner on. My heavy breathing might not stop right away, but my body temperature will begin to lower.

It’s also good to have cold water always available for me. I’m not able to go to the tap and pour myself a cup of cold water whenever I’m thirsty and tired, so always having a bowl ready would be perfect.

If I don’t have the chance to drink some cold water and cool off, things could eventually lead to heatstroke.


If my heavy breathing is due to increased stress or anxiety, the best thing you can do is just be patient and gentle with me. A good treat always helps with that, along with spending time with my owner and family. My feelings of stress and anxiety should dissipate quickly after I’m taken out of a stressful situation.

While A Dog Sleeps

Dog Sleeps

When I’m breathing heavily while sleeping, there isn’t much you can do for me to stop that. You’ll just have to wait until I wake up. Waking me while I sleep could startle me and cause my breathing to increase and my emotional reaction to be negative.

Figuring Out the Respiratory Rate of Your Dog

Figuring out my respiratory rate isn’t too difficult. You’ll first want to figure out my respiratory rate while I’m sitting still. All you have to do is carefully watch me while I’m nice and relaxed, and then start counting how many breaths I take throughout the course of a minute.

If you notice my breathing is starting to increase over a baseline rate, then you’ll have a better idea that something might be wrong.

It’s best to do this while I’m sleeping because that’ll give you a better indicator of my resting breathing rate. Every time you see my chest move up and down, that will be one inhale and exhale. An even quicker shortcut to figuring out the number of breaths I take in a full minute is just to count the breaths I take for 15 seconds and multiply that number by four.

If you want to confirm the number again, try counting how many breaths I take for 30 seconds and multiply that number by two. After you get a consistent reading, write the number down and use it to compare what my breathing rate is if you’re ever worried about it.

Ensure that you don’t take this reading while I’m panting or overly tired. This will give you an unreliable reading that will ruin the objective of why you’re trying to calculate my breathing rate in the first place.

Final Thoughts

As a dog, it’s nice to see that my owners take good care of me and that they keep a careful watch to see why I might be breathing heavily in certain cases. While it’s not usually something to be concerned about, there are cases where it potentially can be. If you see that my breathing rate is labored for no apparent reason, then that’s a cause for concern.