Why is My Dog Breathing Heavy While Sleeping?

Some people feel worried about little things that don’t matter. A sleeping dog breathing fast through its nose can be one of these things. This can make some people feel worried.

However, you don’t have to fret as it is entirely okay for a sleeping dog to breathe fast. A greater percentage of dogs that exhibit this behavior are in perfect health condition, and you shouldn’t be worried about it. This guide will clarify some healthy sleeping behavior of a dog and what fast breathing may mean in dogs.

Heavy Nasal Breathing of Dogs While Sleeping

REM sleep! This is what causes the majority of the cases of dogs breathing fast while sleeping. REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) occurs when your dog is fast asleep. During this period, the dog transcends to a deeper stage of sleep.

The VCA Hospitals explained on their vet website that during REM, the deeper stage of sleep takes place and is indicated by fast eye movements. The eyes move very fast under the eyelids, the muscles are relaxed, but the mind is super active. So, since the mind is active, the dog may hum during its sleep and breath fast.

Both Old and Young Dogs May Experience REM Sleep

Both adult dogs and even puppies may experience this situation; it may occur less often in adolescent dogs. However, even though you do not need to be nervous about it majority of the time, it is not always normal. You only need to study your dog well, so you can determine if the fast breathing in your dog is normal or not.

There are a couple of things dog owners should check, so they can determine whether the fast breathing in their dogs is normal. The first thing is how long the breathing lasts for. If it is just for some minutes while it’s asleep, everything’s okay with the dog, but if otherwise, you need to see your vet.

A dog goes into REM sleep at about 20 minutes into its sleep. During this period, you would observe some physical reactions from the dog, which means that it is in a deep sleep. These physical reactions include;

  • Deep breathing
  • Fast breathing through the nose or mouth
  • Stretching/kicking
  • Jerking
  • Talking; barking/woofing/whimpering
  • Paddling of paws like they are swimming

So, as long as your dogs go back to their normal behavior after they wake up from this deep state of sleep, then you have nothing to worry about. Furthermore, please do not touch or move near your dog when they are experiencing their REM sleep. This is because the dog may react badly out of shock and may result in a bad incidence.

The Abnormal Deep Sleep State in Dogs

If the dog is active and exercises well, then fast breathing during its sleep is normal. Particularly as the VCA vet Hospital confirms that a dog’s normal breathing rate is about 15 to 30 breaths per minute. This may increase when the dog is excited.

How Rapidly Should A Dog’s Breathing Be During Sleep?

Usually, a dog’s breath shouldn’t be more than 30 times in a minute. If more than that, it may be categorizes as abnormal, and you should book a meeting with your vet doctor. This may be more dangerous in brachycephalic dogs – these are the flat-faced dogs.

Frequently Asked Questions On REM Sleep

I believe that you have been enlightened on the reason behind dogs breathing fast through their nose/mouth. Dogs may show some other symptoms while sleeping, which is why we have compiled the following questions on what to expect from a sleeping dog.

How Long Should A Dog Sleep in A Day?

There have been lots of questions concerning how long a dog should sleep in a day, and it will be discussed in this guide. It may vary in different dogs, and so many people may be amazed that the age and the breed of a dog may influence it. The American Kennel Club confirms that the breed and the dog’s age determine how long it sleeps. 

Puppies sleep more; they may sleep for the larger part of the day – say about 20 hours in a day. Alternatively, adult dogs sleep for a shorter period – about 10 to 12 hours a day. This is because an adult dog is more active, which makes it more unique and cute. 

The older adults may also sleep for a long time because they become less active as dogs grow older. They then become less engaged and then sleep more. So, if your adult dog sleeps for an extended period, you shouldn’t fret. 

It is due to its age or may be as a result of a very busy day also. Nevertheless, if you notice any strange behavior, or disposition, or any digestive disorder, please visit your vet. If you also observe some strange behavior, please do not hesitate to call your vet so your vet can diagnose the dog.

A good and healthy life should be maintained for your pet for the longest life span possible.

Reasons Dogs Sleep That Much

It may be interesting to find out that sleeping helps dogs. However, Sleep Help reveals that dogs’ major reason behind deep sleep is that dogs spend more time sleeping than humans. Unlike humans, it doesn’t take dogs much time to enter REM sleep; they require lesser time to reach their deep REM sleep.

According to Sleep.org, dogs can get their REM sleep at approximately 20 minutes, but it takes humans about 90 minutes before they can be fast asleep. Humans have dedicated times to sleep because it takes a longer time to go deep into sleep. Dogs can’t enjoy this since they don’t have a dedicated time to sleep. 

Unlike humans who schedule when to go to a store to pick what to eat and when to sleep, dogs do not schedule the times for themselves. In this case, the dogs are presented with the opportunity to hunt when hunting presents itself and rest when the opportunity comes. They only live their lives based on daily hunting. 

Their period of hunt and rest depends on what nature brings. So they sleep whenever they have the opportunity. So, it is during this sleep that your dogs may start breathing fast through their nose. That is just how it has been designed.

Humans would have to schedule their time to achieve this feat, which may not allow humans to catch some sleep, especially during the day. Although dogs may sleep due to boredom, sleeping for up to ten hours is certainly not because of boredom.

A research was conducted by The New York Times on wild dogs and was published in an article. The article stated that wild dogs sleep for 30%  of their time, which is certainly not because they are bored.

Do Dogs Dream?

When dogs experience REM sleep, their brain activity is similar to humans. Since, since dogs wouldn’t tell us if they indeed had a dream, however, we can assume, based on this fact, that dogs can dream too. Also, since dogs don’t sleep the same way as humans, we can say that their dreams may be different from humans’ dreams too.

Dogs can only dream when they are fast asleep. Dogs can have less complicated dreams than humans because of differences in intellectual abilities. It may also be because humans spend more time in REM sleep than dogs. 

Dogs spend about 10% of their sleeping time in REM sleep, while humans spend about 25% of their sleeping time in their REM sleep. This is another reason why a dog can be awesome – they don’t usually have nightmares, unlike humans.

Should Sleeping Dogs Be Woken Up from Their Deep Sleep?

As mentioned earlier, we advised that you do not wake your dog while it’s fast asleep in its REM sleep. There is an exception, though, if it is medically a problem for the dog. But if there are no medical issues attached to these physical reactions during a dog’s deep sleep, it is advisable that you let the sleeping dogs lie.

Owners may be scared that their dog is having a nightmare due to the physical reactions the dog may be exhibiting. They may recklessly want to rescue the dog from sleep as they do not want the dog to suffer. They should not wake the dog to avoid injury to them and the dog itself. 

No matter how long dogs sleep, they don’t sleep as long as humans. So whatever dreams they might be having, it won’t be for long, and they will be returned to life where they feel safe and secured.

What Is the Difference Between Dreaming And Seizure in Dogs?

There is not much difference between the physical reactions of seizures and nightmares. The dog may exhibit the same physical reactions. However, Purina claims that the major difference between these two is that there are more powerful physical responses in seizures than in dreams. 

Physical reactions from seizures also last longer than that of a dream. Another significant difference is that when the dog wakes from sleep, it regains consciousness and may only act sleepy. But, a dog struggles to regain consciousness from seizures, and it becomes confused and restless.


In conclusion, when a dog breathes fast and heavily through its nose while sleeping, it doesn’t always mean that it has health issues. Most of the time, this fast breathing through the nose is completely natural for dogs. Normally, dogs done remain in the REM state of sleep for long as it only lasts a few minutes.

However, if this breathing continues for an extended period, please consult your veterinary doctor. It is necessary that you consult the vet anytime you observe any unusual behavior with your dog. The vet will examine your dog thoroughly to diagnose what exactly is wrong with your dog.

Finally, dogs can be entertaining to humans even in their sleep as they may act out their dreams with the kicking of legs and woofs.

Some owners may feel so concerned about how their dogs jerk and breathe so fast during their sleep. However, if they are not sure if it’s a dream or something else, you may require a veterinary doctor’s service. If you think that it is not REM sleep, please consult a professional veterinary doctor.

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