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15 Reasons Why Your (Old) Dog Is Breathing Fast While Sleeping

Dog Breathing Fast While Sleeping

Fido has their eyes closed…

But you’re worried about whether they’re getting restful sleep.

As they breathe too fast…

It looks like they’re running a marathon.

What’s happening, right?

Continue reading to find out:

  • 15 surprising reasons why your (old) dog is breathing fast while sleeping.
  • 3 simple tips on what to do when your sleeping pooch is breathing too fast.
  • How fast should your dog breathe while sleeping (and how to find out how many breaths they take).
  • And many more…

Why is my dog breathing fast while sleeping?

Your dog is breathing fast while sleeping because they’re in the REM sleep cycle stage. It could also be normal if they’re a brachycephalic breed. Moreover, they could be cooling down their body temperature. However, breathing fast while sleeping is also a sign of numerous health issues.

15 reasons why your (old) dog is breathing fast while sleeping?

#1: REM stage in sleeping

Sleeping has so much science behind it. But for now, I’ll tell you all about sleep cycles, which are relevant to the issue your dog is facing.

To start, the first stage of sleep is:

Slow wave sleep (SWS)

What happens during this stage:

  • Muscles are still active.
  • Mental processes are quiet.
  • The body isn’t totally relaxed yet.

Moreover, you can easily wake Fido up while they’re at this period.

Rapid eye movement (REM)

During REM sleep, your dog is in a deep sleep. 

And this is the point where Fido begins to breathe fast. Along with other signs like:

  • Whining.
  • Moving their legs.

Fun fact: Your dog’s mind is active during this phase. That’s why vets assume that this is the period where your dog dreams.

#2: They’re a brachycephalic dog breed

These canines are loved all over the world. I’m talking about brachycephalic dog breeds

They’re pups with short snouts or flat faces. Examples are:

  • Pugs.
  • Boxers.
  • Bulldogs.
  • Shar Peis.
  • Shih Tzus.
  • French Bulldogs.

However popular they are, these dogs face a lot of struggles in their daily lives.

That’s because of their different facial structure. Which limits their airways.

With that, they have trouble cooling down compared to other non-brachycephalic dogs.

And canines are known to regulate their body temperature through breathing.

So, these dogs tend to breathe fast, even when they’re asleep.

Note: Because of their facial structure, they’re also more prone to many breathing issues.

#3: They’re cooling down

I did mention this briefly:

Dogs pant to help regulate their body temperature. 

Unlike you and I, Fidos don’t perspire or sweat. That’s due to their coat that takes care of them during different weathers.

However, dogs do have sweat glands. Which are located on their ear canals and paw pads. But, that’s not enough to maintain their temperature.

Regardless, they found many ways:

Body responseExample/Definition
EvaporationPanting, which leads to air evaporating water from their mucous membrane. Which will make them more thirsty to make up for the evaporated matter. Thus cooling their body.
ConvectionSeeking air from sources like a fan.
ConductionTransferring the heat from their body to a cooler area. Ex: Lying down on a cold floor.

They’re awesome for finding these ways, right?

​​But that aside…

When your dog is breathing too fast while sleeping…

That means they’re trying to cool their body down.

And if they struggle or fail, it could lead to:

Heat stroke

If they’re recently exposed to a hot environment before resting…

Your dog, who’s breathing so fast, could be experiencing heat stroke.

“At what temperature can my dog experience it?”

According to VCA Hospitals, 103°F (39.4°C) is already too high for your dog. 

Then, if their body temperature rises to 106°F (41°C), they’ll experience heat stroke.

And the critical point is when they have a temperature around 107°F (41.2°C) to 109°F (42.7°C). 

Warning: That critical point causes their body organs to fail, which can cause death. So, watch out for that temperature, as well as other signs of heat stroke:

  • Seizure.
  • Lethargy.
  • Gum bruises.
  • Disorientation.
  • Discolored gums.
  • Dry or sticky gums.

Read also: 7 Summer dangers for pets and How to protect your pet?

#4: Exercise

Your Dog Is Breathing Fast While Sleeping Due To Exercise

Imagine this:

You and Fido just came home from a tough exercise session.

Then, you both settle down.

You continue what needs to be done, while your pooch sleeps the tiredness off.

And when you observed them, you saw they were breathing rapidly.

Well, you have to blame the long and tough exercise. 

But, by the time your pooch gains enough rest…

Their breathing could slow down. If not, follow the hacks under the section:

What should I do if my dog is breathing too fast? 3 tips.

#5: Pneumonia

This is also called bronchopneumonia

Vets say bacterial infection in the lungs or lower respiratory tract causes it. Then, it leads to inflammation.

Signs of this condition are:

  • Cough.
  • Anorexia.
  • Lethargy.
  • High fever.
  • Weight loss.
  • Dehydration.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Being easily tired.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Loud and fast breathing. 

#6: Kennel Cough

This is a type of pneumonia that spreads easily among dogs. And it’s usually caused by a specific bacteria called B. bronchiseptica.

However, kennel cough is a broad term. It refers to many conditions that involve coughing as a major clinical sign. 

It’s not just a type of pneumonia. It can also be infectious tracheobronchitis

There, it’s specified where the infection is located. So, based on that name, the infection is in Fido’s trachea.

Fact: It’s called kennel dough due to its contagiousness. It can spread among dogs that live together. Or more so if they’re in a kennel. Hence, its name.

Now, aside from chronic coughing, the symptoms of this health issue are:

  • Lethargy.
  • Depression.
  • Swollen tonsils.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Runny eyes and nose.

#7: Tracheal collapse

Your dog’s respiratory system is affected when they breathe fast during sleep. A specific part involved could be their trachea or windpipe.

Now, this condition is called collapsing trachea. And its name alone is concerning.

Moreover, vets reveal that its cause is unknown.

But, its clinical signs include rapid breathing, along with:

  • Vomiting.
  • Gagging.
  • Wheezing.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Turning blue (gums and/or inside the nose).
  • Coughing (when you put pressure on their neck).

And according to research, it affects small-breed dogs the most. And VCA Hospitals says these dogs are predisposed to tracheal collapse:

  • Shih Tzus.
  • Chihuahuas.
  • Toy Poodles.
  • Lhasa Apsos.
  • Pomeranians.
  • Yorkshire Terriers.

Regardless, any canine of different sizes can still get it.

#8: Laryngeal paralysis

Another condition that involves the trachea. But this time, your pup’s larynx is also affected.

You might know the latter more as the voice box.

But aside from containing the vocal cords…

Your pup’s larynx pulls open when they breathe in. Then, it relaxes when they’re breathing out.

But with laryngeal paralysis…

The larynx doesn’t pull open when they’re breathing in. Instead, it’s sucked shut. 

With that, your affected pooch has trouble breathing normally. So, they breathe fast while they’re asleep.

Other symptoms would show as well. ACVS reveals those are:

  • Panting with harshness.
  • Raspy or hoarse-sounding bark.
  • Obvious struggle with trying to breathe.

#9: Asthma

Forget the windpipe and larynx for now…

This time, we’ll focus on your dog’s bronchi. Which are small air passages found in their lungs. 

Note: Bronchi is the plural form of a bronchus.

Now, if they become inflamed and fill up with mucus…

These tubes contract. And such makes it hard for your pooch to breathe. Thus, causing an asthma attack.

That said, the ASPCA reveals symptoms of asthma in dogs:

  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Breathing with their mouth wide open.
  • Excessive panting (even when asleep).

#10: Onion poisoning

Onion Poisoning

Onions are delightful additions to a meal you’re preparing.

But whatever it is you’re cooking…

If it has onions, don’t give Fido a taste. Even if they beg you for it.


Because if you do, your pooch will breathe fast while sleeping. That one, along with many other concerning symptoms like:

  • Panting.
  • Drooling.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Weakness.
  • Pale gums.
  • Depression.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Increased thirst.
  • Decreased appetite.

What an onion does to your dog’s body

Vets expose the terrible process behind onion poisoning in dogs.

According to them, the red blood cells (RBCs) are the most affected. 

In canines, onion causes damage to RBC membranes. 

Who knew that this seemingly harmful ingredient makes those membranes burst?

And that’s unfortunate since your dog needs RBCs to carry oxygen throughout the body.

Did you know? Research tells us that most poisoning cases occur during the holiday season. That’s during summer and December.

#11: Anemia

This condition emerges when Fido doesn’t have enough red blood cells (RBCs). Whether it be due to destruction, loss, or lack of production.

Fact: Onion poisoning could also cause anemia. As I said, it causes RBC membranes to burst. Which falls under the destruction of RBCs.

Other causes of anemia include:

  • Bleeding out. 
  • Genetic disorders
  • Decrease in RBC-stimulating hormone.

And according to the MSD Vet Manual, the symptoms of this condition are:

  • Weakness.
  • Pale gums.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Low blood pressure. 
  • Increased heart rate.

Most of all, it can lead to rapid breathing even when asleep.

#12: Cancer

Although it’s rare…

I won’t rule out cancer as the explanation behind your dog’s fast breathing. 

After all, FETCH by WebMD reveals something alarming:

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs beyond 10 years old.

But don’t let that worry you too much…

They assure us that cancer can be curable. Only if you caught it early.

So, watch out for these early signs of cancer in dogs:

  • Lameness.
  • Abnormal bleeding.
  • Presence of wounds that don’t seem to heal.
  • Random swelling on different parts of their body.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (bumps on the neck part).

#13: Heart failure

This is something that sounds too general.

But vets define heart failure as:

A case when the heart can’t pump enough blood into your dog’s body. 

Moreover, doctors warn us that:

The most common symptom of heart failure in dogs is persistent coughing. 

Then as it’s hard for your pupper to breathe, too…

It can lead to your pooch breathing too fast even when they’re resting.

Other than that, here are more signs of this condition:

  • Weight loss.
  • Swollen belly.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Reduced stamina.
  • Excessive panting.
  • Gums that are pale or bluish.

#14: Pain

Those health conditions I mentioned already make your pooch breathe faster.

And since they’re health issues that Fido might be facing…

Your fur baby is in pain. Now, that agony also makes poor Fido breathe rapidly.

What’s more, your pooch is actually trying to hide their pain.

However, they need to take quick breaths to relieve themself a little.

That’s why most of them fail to conceal their pain after all. Even after trying to hide in an empty place like the bathroom.

So, watch out for other signs of pain in your dog like:

  • Sleeping more.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Decreased activity.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Refusal to drink water.
  • Changes in their posture.
  • Decreased bathroom breaks.
  • Sudden and random bouts of aggression.

Warning: A dog in pain is more likely to snap and bite you. So be careful in handling them. Once you touch a painful area, they might lose it and be aggressive.

#15: Medication

Even after you try to relieve their condition or pain…

Your dog might still breathe fast while they’re sleeping.

That’s because medications can also cause such scenarios, PetMD says. Along with other normal reactions like:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Lethargy.
  • Weakness.
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Liver or kidney damage.
  • Anaphylaxis or an allergic reaction to the medication.

How fast should a dog breathe when sleeping? 

A dog should breathe no more than 15 to 30 breaths per minute. You shouldn’t be too worried if they’re breathing slower than 15 breaths. As long as you observe they’re in their usual self, they’re good.

However, if they’re breathing fast and showing abnormal behaviors…

You must follow the instructions below.

How do I know if my dog is breathing too fast?

To know if your dog’s breathing too fast, you must count how many breaths they take per minute.

As I mentioned above, Fido must only take 15 to 30 breaths in 60 seconds.

So, to measure, watch them closely. Refer to their chest or abdomen rising and dropping. 

Now, the rising part is called inspiration. Which most people know as inhale.

Then, the dropping one refers to expiration. Or, as many know it, exhale.

That said, here’s the formula:

1 inhale + 1 exhale = 1 breath

Watch your dog for a minute and count how many breaths they take. If they go over 30, they’re breathing too fast.

What should I do if my dog is breathing too fast? 3 tips

#1: Count their breaths numerous times

It’s not enough to look at your dog and say:

“Oh no, they’re breathing fast.”

No. You have to really check. And you can do that by performing a breathing rate evaluation.

You can refer to the formula I put above. 

So, closely observe your dog and see how many breaths they have in 60 seconds. 

Anything over 30 breaths per minute is concerning. That’s when your dog is breathing too fast. 

Note: Don’t just do it once. At least take their breath cycle 5 times within an hour or less. Then, get the average. Doing this will help you evaluate whether they’re recovering or their rate is increasing.

Warning: A breathing rate of over 40 breaths per minute is critical. As well as if you monitored an increase in your dog’s breath. With that, proceed to tip #3.

#2: Monitor their behaviors

Yes, the reasons point to many health issues…

However, rapid breathing shouldn’t be the only sign to watch out for.

Also consider if your dog has changed lately.

Are they weaker? Do they still show excitement over their favorite activities? 

Moreover, do they show other symptoms of illness? The general ones are:

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Coughing.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Random weight loss or gain.

If so, it’s time to…

#3: Consult the vet

Since most of the reasons point out concerning health conditions…

The best thing to do is consult your dog’s vet. The doctors will be the best source of opinion regarding this situation.

Moreover, they can make a diagnosis. Then, plan a treatment for your pooch.

With that, Fido can have a good night’s sleep without looking like they’re rushing to dreamland.