dog fast breathing

Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

For many of us, our dogs are our best friends and companions. So it’s only natural to pick up on their likes, dislikes, habits, and patterns. While it’s helpful to be familiar with the details of your dog’s daily habits, noticing a lapse in a normal pattern can be scary.

Sometimes, these little deviations from the norm are no big deal, either signifying no health risk or working themselves out on their own. However, sometimes tiny little details are the first sign that something larger is wrong.

Your dog’s breathing patterns can tell you a lot about their health. There are many situations when a dog might breathe faster and harder than normal. But what does it mean if you notice your dog breathing fast while sleeping?

Here are all the scenarios you should be familiar with if you have to address this problem.

What Is a Normal Breathing Rate for a Dog?

To judge what sort of breathing is truly abnormal for a dog, it’s important to know the normal ranges for canine breathing. A respiratory rate from 15 to 35 breaths per minute is normal, depending on your dog. 

Monitoring your dog’s breath regularly will help you get a good idea of his or her normal breathing rate. Of course, this rate corresponds to dogs that are at rest. If your dog is awake and active, its respiratory rate will understandably be far greater.

So technically, if you notice a rate above 40 breaths per minute for your sleeping dog, this would be considered abnormal, fast breathing.

What Causes Fast Breathing In My Dog?

While it’s safe to say that 40 breaths per minute is abnormal for a sleeping dog, not every possible cause for an elevated breathing rate is serious. However, some are, so it’s important to understand the differences.


It’s true that dogs often dream, just like we do. This occurs during your dog’s R.E.M. sleep stage. If you notice your dog twitching, whimpering, making other noises, or moving their eyes while sleeping, there’s a good chance that he or she is dreaming.

Of course, this can be accompanied by fast breathing. Maybe your dog is dreaming of chasing a squirrel or some other exciting activity. Either way, this sort of fast breathing while sleeping isn’t something to be concerned about.

Take note of whether your dog shows the other signs of dreaming while breathing quickly in their sleep. If so, this is likely the cause of the high respiratory rate. It should subside quickly. Small dogs and puppies have quicker dreams more often, while larger dogs have longer dreams with more time between episodes.

Respiratory Issues Because of Breed

Another possibility is linked to the breed of your dog. If your dog is a brachycephalic breed, which refers to breeds with more flattened faces and shorter snouts, then he or she has a greater disposition for breathing-related issues.

Sometimes, these issues can manifest in their sleep. Anything from asthma, collapsing trachea, respiratory infections, or pressure on the windpipe can cause a faster respiratory rate while sleeping. 

If you have a brachycephalic breed and notice faster than normal breathing during their sleep, you should consult your vet to determine if one of these pressing issues is the root cause.

More Serious Underlying Issues

Even if you have a large dog or one from a non-brachycephalic breed, fast breathing during sleep can still be a sign of a serious underlying problem that requires immediate attention.

Overall, fast breathing while sleeping, if not related to dreaming, simply means that your dog is having a harder time getting air. Lots of serious issues could cause this, such as lung cancer, pneumonia, fluid on the lungs due to heart disease, a hernia, and more.

Once you’ve ruled out that your dog’s high respiratory rate is related to dreaming, it’s important to visit your vet to make sure one of these serious problems is not the culprit. 

In the meantime, you can also pay attention to your dog for other accompanying signs of a systemic issue, like the ones mentioned above. Most likely, your dog will also exhibit lethargy and sluggishness during the day, excessive panting at odd times, pale gums, poor appetite, and wheezing. 

Other Possible Causes of A Dog Breathing Fast

While many of the issues we’ve discussed are serious and can be scary, there are some other possible reasons why your dog is breathing fast while sleeping.

In some cases, fast breathing while sleeping can be a side effect of a medication your dog is on. Check with your vet to be sure that such a side effect won’t cause any issues in the long run.

Sometimes, dogs with allergies can simply suffer from stuffy noses during certain times of the year in which they’re more greatly exposed to the allergen. If you suspect a stuffy nose to be the reason your dog is breathing fast, try out a humidifier in the room they sleep in. Lots of vet-approved nasal sprays can also help your dog be more comfortable.

What Should I Do If My Dog Is Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

In the heat of the moment, it can be hard to differentiate between a serious problem and an unconcerned, passing event. If you notice your dog breathing fast while sleeping, the first thing to do is to check its respiratory rate.

Once you’ve determined your dog’s breaths per minute, if their fast breathing still hasn’t subsided, begin looking for other signs that there may be a deeper issue, such as pale gums, heavy breathing with their whole abdomen, wheezing, or drooling.

If you notice other symptoms coinciding with the fast breathing that alarm you, once you’ve ruled out dreaming, make an appointment with your vet. 

Whether the issue is something simple like allergies, a treatable yet important issue like an infection, or something more serious like cancer or a heart condition, it’s best to have your dog looked at as soon as possible.

Understanding your dog’s normal rhythms and habits is a key part of keeping them happy and healthy and catching early any health issues that may occur. So keep your eye on your precious pup and stay alert to make sure you understand what’s happening with his or her body.