Have you ever watched your dog sleep peacefully, taking deep breaths, only to notice that his breathing starts to speed up? While rapid breathing or wheezing during sleep can sometimes be a sign of a health condition, in most cases it’s nothing to worry about. But it can be a worrying experience, especially when you don’t know what might be going on. Let’s take a look at a few common causes of shortness of breath in dogs while they sleep.

Normal Breath For Dogs

How fast does your dog have to breathe to be considered fast? There are differences between puppies and adults, and may also vary based on other factors such as temperature and exercise.

Puppies will have a higher breathing rate, 15 to 40 breaths per minute, according to Animal Emergency Services. However, adult dogs have a lower rate of 10 to 30 breaths per minute. To see if your puppet is breathing fast, the time is to see how many times they breathe in 60 seconds. This will help you determine if you should be concerned.

Why Dogs Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

Why Dogs Breathing Fast While Sleeping

As a dog owner, it is very comforting to watch our puppies sleep happily with their chests up and down. However, when you notice that your dog is breathing very fast when he grabs some z, you may feel your own heart start beating with worry and curiosity.

Fortunately, there are a few main reasons why your dog breathes so fast while sleeping:

  • Dream

Just like us, our dogs are dreams. And, when they enter the REM phase of sleep, it’s perfectly normal for them to start breathing faster. This may also be accompanied by twitching of the muscles or eyelids, or even a slight whimper or bark. That’s because, during REM sleep, your dog’s nervous system turns off most motor functions while lighting up parts of the brain. This enables them to dream without actually moving. So, if your dog is breathing as their favorite dog walker takes them for daily walks, they might just be dreaming about that moment!

Your puppet may go into a REM cycle after curling up and dozing for 20-30 minutes. The amount of time your dog spends in REM will vary, but most will only stay in this phase for an extra 5 to 20 minutes. By then, they should have calmly entered the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) phase.

It’s possible that dogs have an unusually intense REM cycle during which they’re much more active than you might think. This could be a sign of REM sleep behavior disorder, a bit like sleepwalking in humans. Since this sleep disorder can be dangerous as the dog bumps into furniture or walls, many veterinarians will prescribe medication to help the dog sleep more peacefully

  • Puppy 

Puppies, probably because they are dealing with so many new experiences, are likely to spend more time on REM than adult dogs. It is perfectly normal for these puppets to notice rapid breathing while sleeping.

  • Breed

If you have a brachycephalic dog, including Boxers, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, and other breeds, it is normal to notice choppy breathing while sleeping. Because of the shortened airways, these dogs tend to pant, pant, and snore while sleeping.

That said, it is important to be able to differentiate between normal brachycephalic breathing and brachycephalic airway syndrome. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian if their breathing problems seem to be keeping them from sleeping.

In addition to short-limbed dog breeds, large and small dogs may have different breathing patterns. In general, puppies breathe faster than larger dogs, and their REM cycles are shorter and more intense.

  • Heat stroke

Since dogs don’t sweat in the traditional sense, they have to rely on cooling mechanisms such as panting to cool their bodies. If your dog stays in the heat for too long, it may suffer from heat stroke.

  • Anemia

Anemia occurs when your pup’s immune system decides to attack its red blood cells. These cells circulate oxygen in the blood, so when they are low due to this problem, the dog can breathe faster to compensate.

Onion/Garlic Poisoning: Onions and garlic are bad for a dog’s tummy and can cause rapid breathing. Note that this is often combined with diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive salivation.

  • Heart failure

If your dog’s heartbeat is slowing, rapid breathing may be a signal that they are trying to circulate more oxygen in their blood, and their heart is currently unable to keep up. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian will help you monitor this.

  • Lung fluid

While most mammals, regardless of size, have a small amount of fluid in their lungs, the excess can cause pain and make breathing difficult. Check to see if your dog’s gums are blue, which could be a sign they’re having trouble breathing. Hypothermia may also be an indicator.

Related Post: Why Is My Puppy Breathing Fast? Should I Worry About?

Should You Wake Dogs Up If They Breathe fast While Sleeping?

So far, we’ve discussed a few different reasons why your dog is breathing fast while sleeping. So, whether you should wake your dog will depend on why they are breathing so fast while sleeping.

For dogs going through a normal REM cycle, the general consensus is not to wake them up. Dogs in REM are getting some much-needed rest, and disturbing them can negatively impact their overall health.

Now, if your dog’s shortness of breath is caused by sleep apnea, you may want to wake them up if you know they’re more comfortable sleeping in another position.

What To Do To Help Dogs Breathe More Easily?

Help Dogs Breathe More Easily

There are several things you could do to help your dog breathe more easily, even while fast asleep. From dietary changes to lifestyle changes, you’ll want to review these options and select the one that makes the most sense for both you and your furry buddy.

  • Put them on a diet

A poor diet can cause many problems, including difficulty breathing. Feeding your dog high-fat foods can lead to excessive weight gain, and this excess fat can tax your puppy’s lungs. When this happens, they have to work harder to catch their breath. This is very similar to what happens to overweight people with sleep apnea.

A simple, vet-approved diet can help your four-legged friend lose some weight and breathe a little easier. Of course, diet isn’t the only culprit behind breathing problems in puppies.

If your home is flooded with perfume, cologne, air fresheners, or cigarette smoke, your dog may also suffer from indoor allergies. Of course, the first thing owners should do is to quit smoking indoors or around their dogs, as pet owners who smoke may shorten the lifespan of their pets and their own. But air purifiers can help prevent air pollutants more difficult.

  • Visit a veterinarian

If your pet has severe seasonal allergies, your veterinarian may prescribe helpful medications to relieve their congestion and help them breathe more freely. One of the best things you can do is to see a veterinarian for advice on your pet’s breathing changes, as they are obviously the people best qualified to diagnose the cause of your pet’s problems.

Pet owners should also visit the veterinarian regularly to ensure their dog is in top condition. By scheduling regular checkups, you can help your dog stay healthy and avoid breathing difficulties.

Still, if you notice your puppy is lethargic, has trouble eating, or is short of breath, you shouldn’t wait for your next vet appointment to seek help. When it comes to health emergencies, trust your gut and always err on the side of caution. Doing so may help you save your puppy’s life.

  • Install an air purifier

Even the cleanest homes have poor indoor air quality, which is why many pet owners invest in air purifiers. Not only do these amazing devices help keep the air in your home fresh and pollution-free, but they can also catch floating pet hair and pollen.

Molekule Air is an excellent choice for those looking to achieve the cleanest possible air quality. It can circulate up to 600 square feet of air, destroying and trapping allergens, bacteria and other air pollutants.

It’s not cheap, but it’s good for you and your dog and can make it a wise long-term investment. Pets and pet parents with sensitive sinuses can enjoy a better quality of life when using an indoor air purifier.


Although there are a variety of health conditions that can cause a dog to breathe quickly while sleeping, most dogs who do this do not have any health problems at all. A little caution doesn’t hurt, but don’t panic until you’ve at least consult your veterinarian. You might be able to make the sleeping dog lie down!