How many breaths per minute is normal for a dog while sleeping? A Step-by-Step Guide

Dr. Debra’s Answer:

Thank you for your question about normal breathing rates in healthy, young, larger-sized dogs. Normal respiratory rates for most dogs range from 10 to 30 breaths per minute. Panting dogs can breathe over 200 breaths per minute. Many factors impact normal respiratory rates including exercise, excitement, ambient temperature, and humidity. For example, it is common for a dog’s resting respiratory rate to be on the lower end of normal, and then abruptly double or triple as they walk into the veterinary clinic due to excitement or stress.

Most of our clinical concerns surrounding respiratory rates focus on increased rates and increased effort. These abnormalities can be caused by heart disease, lung issues, and various metabolic conditions.

This Week’s Question:

My smaller dog falls in the healthy range of about 15 breaths per minute while sleeping, but my larger dog only breaths between 6 – 9 times per minute when asleep. He is 55lbs, 3 years old, quite hyper, and by all accounts healthy. I’ve tried to Google to make sure this is normal, since breathing once every 10 seconds gives me 9 seconds of terror that he isn’t breathing, but all I have found is information on average breathing rates and potential ailments for increased respiration, not reduced.

Is there anything I should be worried about with him breathing so slow, or is this sort of like how human athletes have slower respiration, heart rate, and lower blood pressure at rest, and this is just a sign of his athletic nature?

Did you know that your pet’s respiratory rate can tell us a lot about their heart and lungs? An increase in the resting respiratory rate (RRR) or their sleeping respiratory rate (SRR) may indicate a trip to your vet before their next annual appointment.

What is normal? A normal range for the sleeping respiratory rate in dogs is 6-25 breaths per minute while the range for a resting respiratory rate is 14-35 breaths per minute. Cats differ a little with both their SRR and RRR at 8-35 breaths per minute. Respiratory rates should be checked at least twice a week around the same time each day. A consistent elevation in respiratory rates should be further examined by your veterinarian. It could be an indicator of disease in your pet.

How can I get an RRR or SRR at home? A breath consists of a full cycle of chest movement in and out. You will want to count how many of these cycles occur in a 30 second time frame and simply multiply that by 2. The RRR should be done while your pet is calm and has not had any physical stimulation for at least 30 minutes. For the SRR, your pet needs be sleeping for at least 15 minutes and not twitching or “running” in their sleep. You never want to check a respiration rate when your pet is panting.

How to Measure a Resting Respiratory Rate in a Dog