It may be an entirely new, strange, and even scary experience when a puppy starts breathing erratically fast. Yet, most episodes of a puppy rapidly breathing are expected, and you need not be worried.
It can be easy to compare fast breathing in puppies to rapid human breathing, which usually points to the worst scenarios. Many dog owners hope to raise their dogs from puppy to dog without any incidents such as erratic fast breathing. Puppies, just like babies, have so many health-related issues that dogs and adults typically don’t have.
All pup owners need to monitor their puppy’s health, especially in the first year. Not being worried should come along with efforts to see that the fast breathing stabilizes. By the end of this article, you’ll know if you should be concerned when you see any rapid breathing. You’ll also know what you should do.
What qualifies as fast breathing?
Knowing what to look out for helps determine what a fast puppy’s breathing rate is and what isn’t. Before you conclude that your puppy is breathing fast, identify its regular respiratory rate. That is the number of breaths your pup takes per minute.
While an adult dog’s respiratory rate lies between 10-30 breaths per minute, puppies stand at 15-40 breaths per minute. Based on this, you should be able to identify where your pup lies on the scale.
Determining a puppy’s regular breathing rate
It’s best to measure your pup’s breathing rate when they are relaxed and not after playing. If you struggle to find your puppy relaxed since they are always playing, wait when they sleep.
Set up a time and keep a close look on your puppy’s chest. Next, count how many times it expands and contracts within one minute. Each expansion and contraction is a single breath, with the total being the regular breathing rate.
An alternative is to count for half a minute and double the total you come up to. Repeat the test many times, at different times of the day. With these results, an average of them will give you a better idea of your pup’s breathing rate.
It will then be easier if you one day notice your pup’s breathing rate strays way out of the normal range.
Signs your pup is breathing fast
Once you know your pup’s average number of breaths per minute, knowing when they are breathing fast is easier. Fast breathing may just be panting in most cases. Breaths can skyrocket to about 400 a minute, and your dog will have its mouth open and tongue out.
Most puppies have a higher breathing rate than adult dogs, especially when they are asleep. It is because they have smaller lungs and weaker diaphragms. The rate will go down as your pup ages, which change will be more pronounced in larger breeds. Smaller breeds will have faster breathing, on average, throughout their lifetime.
Why do dogs pant?
Panting is a spontaneous move that opens up your pup’s airways by getting the tongue out of the way. It ensures a faster cool-down time, and it’s how puppies regulate temperature. Panting is usually a response to excessive heat, which humans would respond to by sweating.
Dogs majorly have sweat glands in their paws and noses since their fur gets in the way. You can always get your pup out of the sun and into a cooler area while pouring out a cool drink.
The panting would subside in due time in a more relaxed setting. On that note, it’s best not to leave your puppy in a hot environment like a hot locked car for long. Your pup will be unable to cool off and will have a heat stroke. It can lead to ill health and even death.
Your puppy may also breath faster as an indication of anxiety and stress, especially when you’ve just brought them home. Being torn from their old setting, mom and siblings take a temporary toll on your pup whose emotions flare-up.
Your puppy may even be scared or confused in that initial readjustment to a new environment. Your pup may also pant when you take them on a car ride or walk for the first time. They’ll eventually get used to these things.
You can help your puppy ease into new scenarios by dishing out treats whenever you notice stress panting. It will help your puppy build a positive association with the unique experience. Soon you’ll have a pup that’s used to pet visits and all other new settings.
Your puppy may also pant as an aftereffect of exertion, which raises your puppy’s body temperature. Excellent air conditioning and a cool drink will immensely help your pup after a tiring play session.
Finally, puppies may breathe heavily as they sleep as a result of the dreams they are having. Like humans, pups have REM (Random Eye Movement) sleep where vivid dreams are part and parcel.
Your pup will experience all sorts of reactions like soft barking, twitching legs, or whiskers and may even whimper. It will all depend on what they dream about, which may be about a fun or scary experience. It’s best not to wake your puppy up, though, as they may bite you before they’ve fully woken up.
Medical reasons why your puppy may breathe fast
Save for the typical causes of panting and fast breathing; your puppy may be having underlying medical conditions. Any health-related panting and rapid breathing will come alongside other symptoms that a vet can effectively identify.
You can do your part first by looking out for a general lack of interest, poor appetite, and lethargy. If you notice any of these, then it is best to head to the vet as soon as possible.
Brachycephalic dogs are any group of dog breeds that have a notably shorter snoot than is typical of most dogs. They also have longer soft palates that may block their airways. Their narrow nostrils also don’t help matters as they make it harder to inhale.
Pugs, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus are notable examples whose breeding renders them susceptible to breathing problems. With brachycephalic dogs, any panting can quickly turn into a medical issue due to breathing problems they are predisposed to.
These breathing problems may come at any point in their lives. If your dog is one of these, ensure you keep any panting-inducing scenarios to a minimum.
Tachypnea refers to rapid breathing whose cause cannot be instantly pointed out. Your pup may start panting out of the blue even though their current relaxed situation doesn’t warrant panting.
The episode may also be longer and more persistent than any regular panting. Be sure to visit a vet if these episodes begin to occur consistently.
Dyspnea is labored breathing, which may come alongside panting. Your puppy visibly struggles to breathe, may look exhausted, and position itself in a way that aids breathing. The pup may stretch out its neck and head while also spreading out its elbows. Panting without these associated stances is natural and should not be a struggle.
If you see your puppy struggling to breathe and pant, visit a vet to identify the causes and possible solutions. Dyspnea usually points to an underlying medical condition like asthma, infections, kennel cough, worms, pulmonary edema, among others.
Some measures you can take
Be sure to keep temperatures around your home at moderate levels that are not too high for your puppy. Make sure the area where your pup sleeps is cool, too, to ensure the best living experience. If you notice any fast breathing, take your pup’s temperature to ensure it’s within the normal range.
Your puppy’s average temperature will lie between 96-97o F from birth to around the fourth week of age. It will then gradually rise to around 100o F from there on and stabilize around that to adulthood.
Ask yourself if your pup is eating, drinking, and is energetic during their waking hours. If you answer yes to all these questions, then your puppy is most likely faring well. The alternative is that your pup may be fatigued and lethargic when they wake up. These may point to congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy tied to heavy breathing. Talk to your vet.
If you are training your pup, keep all the sessions short out of consideration for their lack of stamina. This goes for walks too, and they shouldn’t be too long. Overworking your puppy will surely onset fast breathing, which you may not want to see.
Your puppy will breathe fast and pant from time to time. There is usually no cause for alarm since these episodes contribute to your pup’s comfort and general wellbeing. You should only spring into action if the panting is accompanied by other symptoms and has no apparent cause.
Knowing this, note that medical conditions may also take time to become apparent. It would be best if you kept an eye out for any flare-ups while watching the normal.
Note: We are not veterinarians and any advice here is based on our own experiences and knowledge acquired over twenty years with dogs. Do not however take our advice here as medical advice, that it is not. Consult your vet if uncertain!