The Reasons Why My Puppy Is Breathing So Hard And Fast

Aug 1, 2023 | Dog Health, Dogs

When it comes to your puppy’s breathing, it’s important to understand what’s considered normal and what could be a cause for concern. In this article, we’ll explore common causes of fast and heavy breathing in puppies and discuss when it’s necessary to seek veterinary attention. We’ll start by explaining the natural respiratory rate of puppies, as they have higher breathing rates than adult dogs due to their developing bodies and smaller airways.

But if you notice excessive or labored breathing in your puppy, it might indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. So, let’s dive into the reasons behind rapid and heavy breathing and learn when to be concerned about your puppy’s breathing.

What’s Considered Normal Respiratory Breathing In Puppies?

Seven week old golden retriever puppy outdoors on a sunny day

Do you ever wonder what’s considered normal respiratory breathing in puppies? As we’ve already mentioned, puppies breathe at a faster rate than adult dogs. This is because their bodies are still developing and growing rapidly. Their heart rates are also higher, which contributes to the rapid breathing.

Additionally, puppies have a higher body temperature than adult dogs, so they tend to pant more often to regulate their body heat. However, it’s essential to differentiate between normal heavy breathing and abnormal rapid breathing in puppies. Abnormal rapid breathing in puppies could be a sign of an underlying health issue. It may indicate respiratory problems or heart disease. If your puppy is consistently breathing heavily even when at rest or shows other signs of distress such as coughing or wheezing, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian for further evaluation.

How Do I Know If My Puppy Is Breathing Too Fast?

Watching your puppy’s little chest rise and fall rapidly may seem as enchanting as a tiny hummingbird fluttering its wings. But it’s important to be aware that puppies breathing fast can occasionally indicate an underlying issue. If your puppy is breathing rapidly even when at rest or sleeping, it might be a sign of difficulty breathing or an underlying medical condition.

Keep an eye out for rapid eye movement (REM) during rapid breathing, as it could indicate discomfort or distress. If you notice these signs together, consulting with your veterinarian as soon as possible is important and even a trip to the emergency veterinary hospital may be needed. Remember, rapid and labored breathing could potentially signify a medical emergency like respiratory distress or heart problems. Therefore, it’s vital not to overlook any concerning symptoms and seek professional advice promptly for the well-being of your furry friend.

Why Is My Puppy Breathing Fast And Hard?

When you catch a glimpse of your little furball gasping for breath, their little chest rising and falling like they just finished a marathon, it can really get you worried. Seeing your puppy breathe fast and hard can be concerning.

But what could be causing this behavior? It’s important to be on the lookout for other symptoms and understand the potential reasons behind it. One possibility is respiratory distress, which can be triggered by an airway obstruction or an underlying infection. If you notice your puppy struggling with breathing, making unusual sounds while doing so, or showing signs of distress such as coughing or wheezing, it’s crucial to seek veterinary attention promptly.

Congestive heart failure is another potential explanation for your puppy’s rapid and labored breathing. This happens when the heart fails to pump blood efficiently, resulting in fluid build-up in the lungs. You might also notice coughing, lethargy, and difficulty exercising in your furry friend.

Breathing issues may stem from various other health conditions like pneumonia or lung disease. Regardless of the cause, consulting a veterinarian is always the best course of action. They can properly diagnose your puppy’s condition and recommend suitable treatment options. Remember, early intervention is key when addressing respiratory concerns in your precious companion’s health journey. It can help prevent further complications and ensure a quicker recovery.

When Should I Be Concerned About My Dog’s Rapid Breathing?

French bulldog with heat stroke symptoms lying on the ground

If you notice any of the following signs in your dog, it may indicate respiratory distress and immediate examination by a vet is necessary:

  • Engaging stomach muscles to help with breathing
  • Reluctance to drink, eat, or move
  • Gums that appear pale, blue-tinged, or brick red
  • Uncharacteristic drooling
  • Breathing through an open mouth
  • Heavy, fast breathing that is louder or has a different sound than normal panting

Remember, it is important to prioritize your dog’s health and well-being. Don’t hesitate to contact your vet for further guidance.

How Will The Vet Diagnose The Cause Of My Dog’s Fast Breathing?

Closeup shot of veterinarian hands checking dog by stethoscope in vet clinic

The veterinarian will use various diagnostic techniques to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s rapid and labored breathing. They’ll begin by performing a thorough physical examination, which may include listening to your dog’s lungs with a stethoscope and checking their heart rate and rhythm. This can help the vet identify any abnormalities or signs of respiratory distress.

In addition to the physical examination, the vet may also recommend diagnostic tests to further evaluate your dog’s respiratory system. These tests may include blood work, such as a complete blood count and blood chemistry panel, which can provide information about your dog’s overall health and rule out any underlying medical conditions. Other diagnostic tools that may be used include X-rays or ultrasound imaging, which can help visualize the lungs and identify any abnormalities or potential causes for the breathing problems.

It’s important to follow the veterinarian’s recommendations for diagnostic tests and seek veterinary care promptly if you notice any changes in your dog’s breathing pattern. Rapid or labored breathing can be a sign of serious underlying health issues, so it’s crucial to get proper medical advice for your furry friend. Remember, early detection and treatment of respiratory problems can greatly improve your dog’s quality of life.

Potential Causes Of Your Puppy’s Fast And Heavy Breaths

Tracheal Collapse

The trachea, commonly known as the windpipe, plays a crucial role in our dog’s respiratory system. In a healthy trachea, which is made up of firm cartilaginous rings, about 80% of its circumference provides stability and support. The remaining 20% is occupied by a flexible structure called the dorsal tracheal membrane. Together, they allow for the smooth passage of air to and from the lungs.

However, as dogs age, the cartilaginous rings lose their rigidity, causing the dorsal membrane to sag into the tracheal space. This narrowing of the airway restricts the flow of air, resulting in coughing, rapid breathing, and in some cases, respiratory distress. If you notice any signs of breathing difficulties in your dog, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian immediately.

While tracheal collapse can affect any dog, it is more commonly observed in breeds such as Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Yorkshire Terriers, Boston Terriers, Pomeranians, Lhasa Apsos, and Toy Poodles. Additionally, obesity can exacerbate the severity of tracheal collapse. Therefore, understanding and assessing your dog’s body condition score (BCS) and taking steps to manage their weight becomes crucial in their overall well-being. Knowing the importance of maintaining a healthy trachea and recognizing the risk factors associated with tracheal collapse empowers a dog owner to proactively care for their furry friends.


Laryngeal Paralysis

The larynx of your dog is commonly referred to as the “voice box” due to its box-like shape and role in producing sounds. It’s situated at the upper part of the windpipe, towards the back of the throat. During the process of eating and drinking, small muscles cause the laryngeal flaps to close off the tracheal opening. On the other hand, when your dog breathes, these same muscles pull the laryngeal flaps aside to allow maximum airflow into the windpipe.

If there are issues with the nerves controlling these laryngeal muscles, the flaps may fail to move properly and partially obstruct the entrance to the windpipe. As a result, air encounters resistance as it passes the faulty flaps, leading to reduced airflow into the lungs.

Laryngeal paralysis in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors such as neck trauma and other underlying health conditions. In senior dogs, the cause is often unknown, although researchers suspect it may be part of a condition known as geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis and polyneuropathy (GOLPP). Dogs with GOLPP may also experience generalized muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing. While certain breeds like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers appear to be more prone to laryngeal paralysis, it can affect any dog.

Signs of laryngeal paralysis include raspy or harsh breathing, changes in your dog’s bark, increased panting, and high-pitched noisy breathing that worsens during moments of excitement or activity. In severe cases, laryngeal paralysis can cause acute respiratory distress. If you observe any breathing difficulties or notice that your dog’s gums appear blue in color, it’s important to seek immediate veterinary assistance.


Lower Airway Disease

Lower respiratory tract diseases, such as bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can impact your dog’s breathing. While some causes remain unknown, factors like obesity, infections, and environmental irritants can worsen symptoms. Dogs with these ailments may experience frequent coughing, rapid breathing, and increased panting. Even mild physical activity can be challenging, and severe cases can lead to oxygen deprivation and collapse.

If you notice coughing or rapid breathing in your dog, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Pay attention to any potential triggers in the environment, such as cigarette smoke, air fresheners, candles, or pollen.


Respiratory Infections And Pneumonia

Respiratory tract infections are caused by various bacteria, viruses, and fungi. While some infections mainly affect the trachea and larger airways, causing inflammation, others can penetrate deeper into the lung tissue, leading to pneumonia. Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is a common infection that affects the airway and trachea, caused by a multitude of bacteria and viruses.

Dogs with uncomplicated kennel cough may experience a harsh cough but still breathe normally. However, in some cases, the infectious agents responsible for kennel cough or other infections can spread deeper into the lung tissue, resulting in pneumonia. Additionally, dogs may develop aspiration pneumonia if they accidentally inhale food, fluid, or vomit. This is more likely to occur in dogs with laryngeal paralysis, as their airway is more vulnerable due to malfunctioning laryngeal flaps.

Pneumonia poses a problem because it fills the alveoli (airsacs) in the lungs with fluid and debris, hindering their ability to effectively exchange carbon dioxide for enough oxygen. Consequently, this can cause low oxygen levels in the blood and lead to rapid or labored breathing. Other common symptoms of pneumonia include fever and lethargy.


Heart Disease

The heart plays a vital role in your dog’s well-being. It’s responsible for pumping oxygen-rich red blood cells throughout the body, supporting their overall functioning. The heart’s pressure propels oxygen-depleted cells back to the lungs, replenishing them with the necessary oxygen for survival. It’s important to understand that any disruption in the heart’s function can pose dangers to your furry friend.

Heart disease in dogs encompasses various conditions, such as electrical disturbances like arrhythmias, or disorders affecting the size and strength of the heart’s chambers, like valvular disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, or heartworm disease. In these cases, the heart fails to function optimally. When the heart fails to distribute sufficient oxygen to the body, your dog compensates by breathing rapidly. As congestive heart failure leads to fluid accumulation in the lungs or abdomen, breathing becomes increasingly challenging.

Recognizing the symptoms of heart disease is crucial. They may include coughing, especially at night or when excited, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing during sleep or rest (over 40 breaths per minute), bluish or purplish gums, collapsing episodes, and respiratory distress. If you observe any of these signs, it’s imperative to contact your veterinarian without delay. While heart disease cannot be cured, it can often be managed with proper medication to maintain a good quality of life for your beloved pet.

Panting puppy on the beach with beach toys

Heat Stroke

Humans and dogs have different ways of regulating body temperature when it gets hot. Humans sweat through special glands in their skin, which helps to cool them down as the sweat evaporates. On the other hand, dogs only have sweat glands in their paws, which isn’t enough to fully cool them off. Instead, dogs rely on panting to dissipate heat.

However, there are situations where panting alone may not be sufficient. For example, if a dog is trapped inside a car on a hot day, panting won’t be enough to lower their body temperature as the car’s internal temperature rises. Similarly, when dogs exercise on warm days, they can easily overheat because they may not know when to stop.

Heat stroke is a severe condition that can occur when a dog’s body temperature exceeds 106 degrees Fahrenheit. It can lead to organ failure and is considered a life-threatening emergency. Some common signs of heat stroke in dogs include heavy panting or difficulty breathing, collapse, disorientation, seizures or tremors, vomiting or diarrhea, and changes in gum color.

If you observe any of these signs, it is crucial to take immediate action. Bring your dog to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible, making sure to keep the air conditioning on in the car. You can also briefly hose your dog down with cool water, but avoid submerging them in water or using an ice bath as those methods can be dangerous.



Breathing difficulties in dogs can result from various types of cancer. If lung cancer affects one of the lung lobes, inflammation and tumor pressure can lead to coughing and trouble breathing. Plus, cancer that spreads to the lungs from other parts of the body can cause rapid breathing in dogs.

Specific cancers can cause fluid build-up in or around the lungs, known as pulmonary edema or pleural effusion, respectively. Pulmonary edema impairs the dog’s ability to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen, while pleural effusion restricts full lung expansion. Both conditions contribute to increased respiratory rate or changes in breathing effort.



Dogs are adept at concealing their pain, but they can experience it for various reasons. It’s not uncommon for them to exhibit signs, like vocalizing or limping, to communicate their discomfort. However, other indications may be more subtle. For example, dogs in pain might excessively pant or breathe rapidly while at rest. They may also become withdrawn, hide, or exhibit abnormal body postures and behavior changes.

Some common sources of pain in dogs include orthopedic problems (e.g., arthritis, hip dysplasia, torn ACL), gastrointestinal issues (e.g., foreign bodies, pancreatitis), mouth pain (e.g., dental disease, tooth abscesses), and ear or eye pain (e.g., infections, injuries). Additionally, recent surgeries and cancer can also lead to pain.

If you suspect your dog is in pain, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. While it may be tempting to provide your dog with your own pain medication, it’s important to note that human medications like Advil can be dangerous to dogs. Therefore, it’s best to avoid doing so.



Is your dog panting and restless? If so, anxiety could be one possible explanation. Anxious dogs might exhibit excessive panting, rapid breathing, frequent yawning, trembling, destructive behavior, or aggression. Several factors can contribute to a dog’s anxiety, including separation anxiety, noise phobia, changes in the home environment, dementia, fear and stress related to pain, or nighttime anxiety in senior dogs.

If you suspect your dog is anxious, it’s important to consult your veterinarian as early as possible. Addressing anxiety in its early stages is much easier than dealing with long-term reinforcement from anxiety-inducing situations. Your vet can provide various pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical options to help your dog manage their anxiety.



Anemia can be a serious condition for dogs, as it reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches their tissues. This decrease in oxygen can result from various causes, some of which include tick-borne diseases, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, blood-sucking parasites, internal bleeding, bone marrow suppression, and exposure to toxins or certain medications.

Recognizing the signs of anemia is crucial. Dogs may exhibit symptoms such as pale gums, increased respiratory rate, lethargy, and weakness. If you suspect that your dog might be anemic, it is imperative to seek veterinary assistance immediately for testing and appropriate treatment. Understanding anemia and taking the necessary steps to address it can significantly improve your dog’s health and well-being.

What Are The Treatments For Breathing Fast And Heavy Panting In Puppies?

One way to help your furry friend with fast and heavy panting is by providing them with a cool and comfortable environment. Make sure they have access to fresh water at all times, as dehydration can worsen their breathing problems. Keep the room temperature moderate and avoid exposing them to extreme heat or cold. If it’s hot outside, consider using fans or air conditioning to keep the area cool. Additionally, provide a well-ventilated space for your puppy to rest in, ensuring good airflow.

Another treatment option for puppies experiencing fast breathing and heavy panting is to try relaxation techniques such as gentle massage or calming music. These methods can help reduce stress and anxiety that may be contributing to their breathing difficulties. It’s also important to monitor your puppy’s activity level and avoid strenuous exercise during episodes of rapid breathing. Give them plenty of rest and allow their body time to recover.

If the symptoms persist or worsen, it’s time to consult a veterinarian who can further evaluate your puppy’s condition and recommend appropriate treatments. Remember, while these suggestions can provide temporary relief for your puppy’s breathing problems, it’s essential to address any underlying health issues that may be causing their symptoms. Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are crucial in maintaining your puppy’s overall health and well-being.

Heavy & Fast Breathing Frequently Asked Questions

How can I help my puppy breathe more comfortably?

To help your puppy breathe more comfortably, make sure they are in a calm and well-ventilated environment. Avoid exposing them to extreme temperatures or allergens. If their breathing persists or worsens, consult a veterinarian for further assistance.

Can rapid breathing in puppies be a sign of a serious health condition?

Yes, rapid breathing in puppies can be a sign of a serious health condition. It’s important to monitor their breathing and consult a veterinarian if you’re concerned. They can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment.

Are certain dog breeds more prone to fast and hard breathing?

Certain dog breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, are more prone to fast and hard breathing due to their anatomical features. Their short snouts and compact airways make it harder for them to breathe efficiently.

Can anxiety or stress cause rapid breathing in puppies?

Yes, anxiety or stress can cause rapid breathing in puppies. They may pant heavily, breathe faster, and have an increased heart rate. It’s important to identify the source of their anxiety and provide a calm environment for them.

Are there any home remedies or natural remedies to help calm my puppy’s breathing?

Sure, you can try home remedies like deep breathing exercises and aromatherapy for your puppy’s rapid breathing. Just kidding! Take your furry friend to a vet ASAP for proper diagnosis and treatment.

The Tail End

It’s important to understand that puppies can sometimes breathe fast and hard due to various reasons. While it’s normal for a puppy to have a slightly faster breathing rate than adult dogs, there are instances where rapid breathing can indicate an underlying health issue. If you notice your puppy panting excessively or struggling to catch their breath, it’s crucial to monitor their behavior and seek veterinary attention if necessary.

According to the American Kennel Club, certain dog breeds are more prone to respiratory problems than others. Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs have shorter airways, which can lead to difficulties in breathing. This highlights the importance of being aware of your puppy’s breed-specific characteristics and potential respiratory issues they may face.

If your puppy’s fast and heavy breathing persists or worsens over time, consulting with a veterinarian is highly recommended. They’ll be able to diagnose the underlying cause through physical examination, X-rays, or other diagnostic tests. Treatment options may vary depending on the specific condition but can include medication, lifestyle changes, or even surgical intervention when necessary.

Remember, as a responsible pet owner, it’s essential to stay informed about your puppy’s health and well-being. By recognizing the signs of abnormal breathing patterns and seeking prompt veterinary care when needed, you can ensure that your furry friend stays happy and healthy for years to come.

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