Why is My Dog Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

When we notice a change in our dog’s behavior or physicality, it’s normal to wonder if something might be wrong. So when a dog owner notices that their dog’s breathing suddenly quickens during sleep, it’s not unusual for them to be concerned.

Dogs that are breathing fast while sleeping may be experiencing exciting dreams, sinus congestion, allergies, or pain. Additionally, some dog breeds naturally breathe more quickly. Concerned pet owners should contact a veterinarian if their dog begins wheezing, drooling, or panting during sleep.

If you’ve been wondering why your pup is breathing quickly while sleeping, then you’re not alone. Let’s discuss why dogs might breathe more quickly while asleep, whether it’s dangerous, and what pet owners can do to help.

Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

As dog owners, it can be very comforting to watch our pups sleep blissfully, their chest chests rising and falling.  But when you notice that your dog is breathing super fast while catching some z’s, you’ll likely feel your own heart begin to race with worry and wonder.

Fortunately, there are a few primary reasons why your dog is breathing fast while sleeping, and only one requires an emergency trip to the veterinarian. In general, the most common reasons your dog might be breathing fast while sleeping are:

  • Dreams
  • Allergies

If you struggle to recognize the differences between these three experiences, you might find yourself constantly worrying about your poor pup. However, you should be able to establish a baseline or normality after a few weeks or months of observing your dog. 

Once you know what to expect (and what symptoms are abnormal), you can handle potential health emergencies and bad dreams with an equal amount of confidence. Let’s start by addressing the most straightforward reason your dog might be breathing fast during sleep: dreams.


Most mammals (and some birds) dream and your dog is no exception. Many pet owners enjoy watching their dogs twitch, run, and bark while fast asleep. After all, it’s fun to wonder what your pup is dreaming about.

However, a dog’s breathing may change as they enter or exit REM sleep. They might also start to breathe more quickly while excited or nervous. Consequently, both nightmares and good dreams can cause your dog’s breathing to become more rapid. 

Still, this breathing pattern should vanish as soon as your dog awakes. If it doesn’t, but your dog isn’t exhibiting any other worrisome symptoms, then your pup could be experiencing a minor allergy attack.


Just like humans, dogs can suffer from allergies, particularly seasonal allergies. When pollen hits the air and you begin to sneeze, your dog might also start feeling congested. 

Later on, when they go to sleep, this congestion can cause their airway passages to constrict and fill with phlegm, making it difficult to breathe. When this happens, they may breathe more rapidly to keep their blood-oxygen levels at a suitable level. 

Dogs with shorter, smaller nostrils (brachycephalic dog breeds) are more prone to developing such breathing problems than those with long, wide nostrils (more on this below). However, a stuffy or squashed nose isn’t the only physical reason why a dog might be breathing fast. 

Pain due to a sudden illness or injury could also be to blame. That’s why it’s essential to contact a veterinarian when in doubt.

When To Contact a Veterinarian

If you suspect that your dog’s rapid breathing is a sign of distress, you’ll want to contact your veterinarian right away. Doing so could be the key to your pet’s survival. 

Your dog cannot tell you that it is in pain, and many dogs attempt to hide symptoms of injury or disease, making it more challenging for pet owners to catch problems early on. Still, you should contact an emergency veterinarian if you notice that your dog is breathing fast while sleeping and:

  • Panting heavily
  • Using their whole abdomen to breath
  • Drooling excessively
  • Wheezing or making odd sounds
  • Refusing to stand up and walk around after waking

Even if your dog is only suffering from minor seasonal allergies, your veterinarian can prescribe a helpful treatment to help ease their breathing issues and feel healthier. That said, it’s crucial to point out that some dog breeds are more prone to breathing problems, and these breeds may breathe fast while sleeping due to their unique biology.

Do Some Dog Breeds Breathe Faster Than Others?

Some dog breeds breathe faster than others when at rest. This is primarily due to two reasons:

  • Certain breeds (like the Pekingese, Pug Dog, or French Bulldog) have narrow nostrils that can complicate breathing.
  • Smaller dogs tend to breathe more rapidly due to a faster resting heart rate.

If your dog has a flat, squished-up face, it might have shorter, thinner nostrils that don’t allow for a lot of airflow. If this cute flat-faced pup develops a cold, a sinus infection, or allergies, they may struggle to breathe. 

Small breeds weighing 30lbs or less have faster heart rates that require them to breathe more rapidly. However, this rapid breathing is usually normal and nothing to be concerned about. Still, there are a handful of things pet owners can do to help make their dog’s breathing (and life) a little easier.

What Can I Do To Help My Dog 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 a lot of problems, including breathing difficulties. Feeding your dog high-fat foods can lead to excessive weight gain, and this extra fat can weigh on your pup’s lungs. When this happens, they have to work harder to catch their breath. This is very similar to the condition when overweight people have sleep apnea.

A simple, veterinarian-approved diet could help your four-legged friend shed some weight and breath a little more easily. Of course, diet isn’t the only culprit behind puppy breathing problems. 

If your home is inundated with perfumes, colognes, air fresheners, or cigarette smoke, your dog might also be suffering from indoor allergies. Naturally, the first thing that owners should do is quit smoking indoors or around the dog, as pet owners who smoke tobacco may be shortening their pet’s lives and their own life. But an air purifier can help with the harder-to-prevent airborne pollutants.

Install an Air Purifier

Even the cleanest home can have poor indoor air quality, which is why many pet owners have invested in air purifiers. Not only do these fantastic devices help keep your home’s air fresh and pollutant-free, but they can also grab onto small strands of floating pet hair and pollen.

The Molekule Air is a fantastic option for those hoping to achieve the cleanest possible air quality. It can cycle up to 600sqft of air, destroying and catching allergens, bacteria, and other airborne pollutants. 

It’s not inexpensive, but the benefits to both you and your dog can make it a smart long-term investment. Pets and pet parents with sensitive sinuses can enjoy an improved quality of life when using an indoor air purifier.

Visit a Veterinarian

If your pet suffers from severe seasonal allergies, your veterinarian may prescribe helpful medications to ease their congestion and help them breathe more freely. Visiting a veterinarian to seek advice for your pet’s breathing changes is one of the best things you can do, as they are obviously the most qualified to diagnose the cause of your dog’s issues.

Pet owners should also visit their veterinarian regularly to ensure that their dog is in tip-top shape. By scheduling regular exams, you can help your dog stay healthy and avoid breathing difficulties. 

Still, if you notice that your pup is lethargic, struggling to eat, or experiencing rapid breathing, you shouldn’t wait for your next vet appointment to seek help. Trust your instincts when it comes to health emergencies, and always err on the side of caution. Doing so just may help you save your pup’s life.


Dogs might start breathing fast while sleeping due to a change in sleep cycle or a stuffy nose. But rapid breathing can also be a symptom of a life-threatening illness or injury. If you notice additional symptoms, like heavy panting and drooling, you should visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Still, in most cases, fast breathing isn’t a sign of severe distress or pain. Some dog breeds, like the French Bulldog and the Chihuahua, breathe heavier and faster than others. Additionally, allergies can affect a pup’s breathing, especially if they become congested. 

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