Is your puppy panting or breathing like they just ran a marathon? I expect you’ve sometimes wondered, maybe even worried thinking ‘why is my puppy breathing so fast?’ Or, what causes my puppy to breathe fast? Puppies pant or breathe fast for many reasons!  We’re going to help you understand why puppies breathe fast in this article.

As you’re keen to learn more about puppy panting, you’re in luck as we’re going to be revealing the inside scoop on:

  • Why do puppies breathe fast?
  • What to do when you see your puppy panting
  • When you might want to think about taking to your vet about your puppies breathing

We have a lot of information on puppy body language and why puppies do certain things inside the Zigzag puppy training app, it’s worth a download and to start your free trial as you’ll get heaps of information, including info on puppy sweating! We also have a team of Zigzag puppy coaches ready to answer any of your questions.

Golden retriever smiling
Photo by John Price on Unsplash

Why is my puppy breathing so fast?

1. They are too hot!

Seems obvious right? Puppies are pretty rubbish at regulating their body temperature. A hot puppy will almost certainly pant, and while adult dogs should always be monitored when they are exposed to extremes of temperature, puppies should be extra closely monitored.

Dogs can’t sweat the same way we can. Instead, they pant when the environment is too hot for them and they are trying to cool themselves down. The hot air is exchanged for cool air that is sucked in when they pant.

Your puppy might also breathe fast when they’ve been playing with another dog and have got worked up, increasing their body temperature.

2. They are stressed, fearful or anxious

Puppies can be a bundle of emotions! Emotional responses bring about physiological changes in the body, heart rate increases so they need to take in more oxygen. This causes panting or rapid breathing.

Your puppy can be stressed for various reasons such as:

  • Being frightened or feeling overwhelmed such as a trip to the vets
  • Hearing loud noises such as fireworks
  • Being worried when travelling in a car, train or bus
  • Being left on their own before they’re able to and potentially developing separation-related problems

It’s a good idea to look at the rest of your puppy’s body language to see if you can spot other signs of fear and anxiety.

3. Excitement!

Gosh, our puppies get really excited, don’t they? Excitement and happiness will also cause your puppy to pant! When puppies become over-aroused, such as during a play session or after some wrestling with another dog or puppy, you’ll often see their breathing rate increase and they’ll pant.

Does your puppy look like they are ‘smiling’ when panting? This is usually a good sign that they’re having a great time. There is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’ so keep play sessions short and sweet so that they don’t become fatigued or overwhelmed. Puppy playtime should not look like Fight Club.

4. Tiredness

When you’re wondering ‘why does my puppy breath so fast?’, it could be due to tiredness. When a puppy is overtired, they can become stressed which can cause them to pant. Puppies need to sleep a lot, so if your puppy is breathing fast, it might be good to let them have a rest and see if some shut-eye helps with the panting.

5. Pain or Fever

This is a good one to look out for because puppies pant when they’re stressed, this can often be because they’re in pain. If your puppy has an accident and immediately starts panting or their panting is unexplained, it can be worth checking them over[1]  to see if there are any areas of discomfort. Having a fever can also cause your puppy to pant as they attempt to bring their temperature down.

If the panting is accompanied by obvious areas of pain, diarrhoea, lethargy or illness do seek out veterinary advice. Puppies can get sick very quickly especially if they’re not eating or drinking.

Brown long coated small dog running through grass
Photo by Hugo Kruip on Unsplash

What to do when you notice your puppy panting?

If it’s a warm day and you notice your puppy breathing fast you might want to try these things to help them cool down, so they don’t need to pant so much.

If your panting puppy is in the sunshine, get them in the shade

Yes, we know the saying ‘Only mad dogs and Englishmen’, and yes, many silly dogs will lie in the baking hot sun and pant! It doesn’t mean we should encourage it, so help them out and bring them inside or into a shady area.

Grass is better than concrete as a shady spot if your puppy is breathing fast

Grass tends to be cooler than concrete or tarmac which hold onto the heat more. If possible, choose a shady grassy spot over a paved one to ensure the ground is cooler.

Give your puppy a frozen toy

Frozen Lickimats and stuffed chew toys can help to bring a puppy’s temperature down. Or, why not make them some popsicles?

Make sure they have plenty of fresh, cool water to help reduce their temperature and panting

Water should always be available to your puppy so that they can cool themselves down and not become dehydrated.

Pop damp towels on the floor

Some puppies and dogs will like lying on them and some won’t but it’s worth a try to see if your puppy wants to cool their tummy down on a wet towel.

PRO TIP: If you think your puppy is breathing fast because they’re stressed, anxious or fearful, then the best advice is to take them out of that situation to a place of safety. It’s quite simple really.

Jack Russel puppy wearing an American flag bandana
Photo by Jonathan Slater on Unsplash

When to talk to your vet about puppy panting?

Whilst most of the time your puppy is breathing fast is probably due to the reasons we’ve outlined, such as temperature change or emotional reasons, laboured breathing or heavy panting with an unknown cause can be a sign that your puppy is unwell.

In these instances, and we don’t mean to frighten you, then this kind of breathing can be caused by any (or none!) of the following

  • Gastric Torsion AKA Bloat or gastric dilation volvulus (GDV) to be technical.  This is where the dog’s stomach becomes twisted and filled with gas. It is mainly seen in deep-chested breeds and if your puppy starts to heave or dry retch you should always seek veterinary advice.
  • If your puppy has a fever, they will be panting to bring their temperature down, you should find out why they have a temperature by speaking to your vet as it can be a sign of infection.
  • Respiratory problems – any kind of struggling to breathe, or raspy breath should be checked out with a Vet, better safe than sorry.
  • Laryngeal paralysis is an illness usually seen in Labradors and Setters, although it can affect other medium and large breed dogs too. This is when the nerves of the laryngeal muscles become weak or paralyzed. When this happens the muscles relax, and the cartilages tend to collapse inwards resulting in laryngeal paralysis and a dog who is struggling to breathe, coughing or who has noisy breathing.
  • Cushing’s disease aka hyperadrenocorticism – is where the body (adrenal gland) produces too much of the hormone cortisol, resulting in serious illness and causing excessive panting.

As always, if your puppy suddenly starts to do something unexplained and you’re concerned, do give your Veterinary surgery a call, they’ll be happy to give you some peace of mind.

We hope you’ve found this article on puppy panting informative! Most of the reasons your puppy is breathing fast are to do with lowering their body temperature, or because they got a bit carried away, or were feeling worried.

Perhaps you’d like to learn more about why puppies do certain things – we have a lot of information in our Zigzag puppy training app, or while you’re here why not check out our article on Why puppies shake.