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I remember when I first brought Janice and Leroy home – I was like just about every parent in the world, I suppose obsessing over every little thing, even though I’d been down that road before, with Gloria, and with other dogs. I think it’s typical, and normal, whether we’re parents to humans or to dogs, to worry about things that we probably don’t really need to worry about.
That little bit of barf? The stool that might be just a bit runny? Those little sneezes? Oh, and those twitchy little paws when they’re asleep – could that mean bad dreams?
Then there’s the breathing. I don’t know about you, but that’s the thing that has always concerned me the most – is my puppy breathing too fast? Is my puppy breathing to slow? Is my puppy BREATHING???
OMG, he’s not breathing! Oh, wait – there he goes; crisis averted.
You get the idea.
There’s a very good reason why we obsess over the way our puppy is breathing – too fast or too slow, either can be a cause for concern. But do we worry a bit too much?
Sometimes, we do. Just as an example, if your puppy has been playing vigorously, or if he’s overly warm, don’t sweat it (pun intended). After all, you breathe pretty heavily after a good workout, don’t you? Chances are he’s just winding down and trying to catch his breath.
Now, on the other hand, you might notice your puppy breathing fast while he’s asleep. It could just be that he’s dreaming about his last big play session. Again, this is something that you don’t have to worry about.
The reality is that there are very few situations in which a puppy that is breathing fast should be a cause for concern. There are some instances, though, where fast breathing should be monitored, so it’s useful to know what to look for. Let’s talk about some of the reasons that your puppy might breathe fast.
As previously stated, a sleeping puppy that’s breathing fast isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. In addition to breathing hard, he might also twitch, wriggle or whine. This is perfectly normal behavior – if you sleep with someone else, there have probably been times when you’ve been told that you talk in your sleep, that you pull the covers over, or that you thrash and kick. This is perfectly normal behavior for humans, and for puppies as well. It’s because your body reacts to whatever you’re dreaming about.
Now, keep in mind that puppies sleep a lot. They need that “down time” in order for their bodies to grow properly. Given the amount of time that puppies sleep, that increases the chances that, at some point, you’re going to notice a difference in your puppy’s breathing – it could be a lot faster than it is when he’s awake.
We may get worried over rapid breathing during sleep because pups do a whole lot of slumbering. But it’s necessary for them to sleep so much, because sleep is the time where their bodies grow and develop. Dreaming – and the rapid breathing that stems from it – is merely a by-product of this important process.
You know why you brought a puppy into your home. You wanted to have the companionship of a creature that would love you unconditionally, make you smile every day, and enrich your life in too many ways to even enumerate.
The thing is, your puppy doesn’t know all this. All he knows is that he’s been taken away from his mother and his litter mates, and plonked down into a totally unfamiliar environment. He doesn’t know why this has happened, or how you’re going to treat him over the long term. He has no idea at all what to expect, and this can translate into stress, which then translates in to rapid breathing.
Obviously, this isn’t a medical issue, and it will probably soon pass if you treat your new friend gently, speak softly to him, and give him lots of love. The important thing is to help him get through this phase in his life when he is going to feel understandably overwhelmed.
Take it easy with your puppy when it comes to training – if you try to do too much too soon, you’re just going to add to his stress, and that’s going to exacerbate the breathing issue. Keep it short and sweet.
If heavy breathing progresses to the point where your puppy is panting, something else could be at work. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a problem, but you’re going to want to evaluate the situation in order to determine if he’s in trouble.
As previously suggested, heavy breathing might just be a natural result of vigorous exercise, or overheating. If it’s accompany by other symptoms, like loss of appetite, vomiting or lethargy, you really shouldn’t waste time trying to figure out what’s going on. Take your puppy to the vet.
Rapid breathing, in and of itself, isn’t a cause for concern. It can, however, be an indication of an underlying medical condition, which could be minor or severe.
Sometimes, if your puppy is breathing fast, he could have a problem with his lungs. It could be kennel cough or asthma, which are, in the grand scheme of things, pretty minor. On the other hand, it could indicate pulmonary edema or bleeding into the lungs. It could also mean that your puppy’s heart is not working the way that it should.
If the condition is severe, usually it will be accompanied by persistent coughing. If your puppy is breathing fast and coughing while doing very little, or after having awakened from a nap, you might suspect a serious condition.
Conditions other than those involving the lungs and heart could also be at work. I don’t want to alarm you, so I should point out that these disorders are unlikely, but if your puppy is breathing too fast, it could also be an indication of tumors or anemia. This could be something to consider if your puppy is breathing fast when he’s not just waking up or recovering from exercise.
This is something that freaks out almost all new puppy owners, so let’s get it out of the way. Puppies typically have round little tummies, and most of the time, it doesn’t mean anything other than… well, other than that your puppy has a round little tummy! When that round tummy is accompanied by fast breathing, though, there could be something else at work. Or not.
Sometimes, puppies develop round tummies for no reason at all, or for reasons that don’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things. Maybe your puppy is wolfing down his food, and in doing so, has taken in a lot of air.Or he could be wormy.
If either is the case, then the solutions are easy. If he’s wormy, worm him! If he’s eating too fast, you might try placing a few obstacles in his food dish – desirable treats, or toys, for instance, to slow him down when he’s eating.
If it’s something else, it will usually be accompanied by lethargy or a loss of appetite, and that will require attention from your veterinarian.
Take it easy. If your puppy is breathing fast, it’s probably not a cause of concern. The likelihood that your puppy’s rapid breathing is an indication of something serious is pretty low. Usually, if your puppy is breathing at all, it’s all good, and I say that from the perspective of probably the most obsessive dog parent who ever lived.
If your puppy is breathing fast, and something is wrong, that would be the exception, not the rule. And if he’s kicking, twitching and whining in the bargain, you have even less to worry about – your little guy is probably dreaming. It’s just a part of growing up, so take a deep breath, calm down and keep on. He’s probably fine.
Of course, it’s always better to see your vet if you think something is wrong than not to see your vet and then find out that something was most definitely wrong! I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times my vet, Stephen, has talked me “off the ledge” with comforting comments after I came in saying “I don’t know what’s wrong, Stephen, she’s just un-Janice-ish!”
Your vet won’t mind that. He’d far rather have you come in saying “OMG, my puppy is breathing fast!” and then tell you that there’s nothing to worry about than have you stay at home, only to discover that you really did have something to worry about
Generally speaking, though, if your puppy is breathing fast, don’t panic. If there are no secondary symptoms, your puppy is probably fine. As to you, calm down and breathe. In and out. In and out. Slooooowwwwwlllyyy…. There, you get it. All better now?
Everyone’s fine. It’s all good. Your puppy is fine, and so are you.