Why is My Dog Panting?

Behavior Dog Health February 22, 2024
Why is My Dog Panting?
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Why is My Dog Panting?

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Why is My Dog Panting

Dogs often pant when they’re hot, excited, or energetic, but excessive panting can indicate overheating, chronic health issues, or life-threatening trauma. Understanding your dog’s healthy breathing pattern is crucial for identifying abnormal breathing.

However, panting isn’t always indicative of an issue; it’s a natural way for dogs to cool down, regulate body temperature, and allow heat and water to evaporate from their mouth, tongue, and upper respiratory tract.

What is Normal Panting?

Dogs use panting to remove excess body heat, as it allows water and heat to evaporate across the lungs, tongue, and mouth. This is physiologic for dogs to pant on hot days or after exercise. Although they have sweat glands on their paws and ears, they have minimal cooling capabilities.

Panting is a process where a dog’s body heat is absorbed by the water on their tongue, and as they pants, the air leaving their body evaporates the water, releasing the heat as a gas, and the dog’s internal temperature is gradually lowered through both out and in breath.

A healthy dog breathes 15–35 breaths per minute at rest, while exercising dogs breathe more heavily. Over 40 breaths per minute is abnormal and warrants investigation.

 Signs of Extreme Panting in Dogs

To determine if your dog is panting heavily, count their breaths for a minute while they are resting or sleeping. A normal respiratory rate is less than 30 breaths per minute, and anything over 35 breaths is considered a cause for concern.

Your vet will have a good understanding of your dog’s normal respiratory rate from previous examinations. All dogs pant, with some being loud or quiet and some with a lot of slobber involved.

Panting is generally normal doggy behavior and is generally no cause for concern, but it can also be a warning sign of something more sinister.

There are various reasons your dog pants and situations where you should take them to the vet for a check-up.

Here are some common reasons why dogs pant:

To Cool Down

Dogs only sweat a little between their toes, not enough to cool them down. Instead, they pant to circulate air through their bodies. If their panting becomes faster, louder, or more labored, it may indicate heatstroke, which can be fatal and require immediate veterinary attention.

To avoid heatstroke, dogs should have access to shade, drinking water, or a paddling pool with fresh water. They should be kept inside when it’s hot and monitored for changes in breathing.

Older dogs may experience heatstroke faster, so it’s crucial to monitor their time in the heat.

Stress

Dogs often pant and whine when they are stressed, similar to excitement. Pay attention to their body language, such as wide, weary eyes, looking away, and yawning. These cues indicate stress and can help you determine how to make your dog more comfortable and prevent fear or increased stress.

Breed of Dog

Brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs, have short, “pushed-in” faces that make it harder for them to breathe, leading to increased panting. These dogs are at a higher risk of heatstroke due to their upper-airway challenges and difficulty panting efficiently. Monitor their breathing and panting for any changes and consult a vet immediately.

Fear or Excitement

Dogs may exhibit excessive panting during excitement or fear, such as during a storm or car ride. However, if they show signs of fear or distress when exposed to these causes, it may indicate a phobia. Minimizing fear can be achieved by using a soothing voice, minimizing loud noise exposure, and properly harnessing it in cars.

However, ongoing phobias can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life and may require treatment with an animal behaviorist. Despite the potential danger, minimizing fear can help dogs maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Medications

Prednisone or steroids may cause increased panting in dogs, even without heat, excitement, or stress. If excessive panting persists, consult your vet for advice.

Illness

Excessive panting in dogs may indicate illness, requiring a vet’s attention due to potential causes such as ingesting unsuitable food or heart or respiration issues. The vet will examine the dog, ask questions about their activities, and may recommend diagnostic tests.

Panting may also indicate anemia, leading to oxygen starvation. Other signs of anemia include an elevated heart rate, a pale tongue or gums, and lethargy. Frequent panting may also indicate Cushing’s disease, where the adrenal glands release too much cortisol.

Dogs with Cushing’s disease may experience increased thirst, urination, weight gain, hair loss, bruising, and restlessness. A definitive diagnosis and treatment are required by the vet.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is a serious health issue that can lead to dehydration and death in dogs if left untreated. Overheating can cause heavy panting, discomfort, and a lack of response.

To prevent heatstroke, take breaks, seek shade, and provide water. Avoid leaving your dog in high temperatures or for extended periods. Short-snouted dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke.

Additionally, never leave your dog in a hot car, as the interior can reach scorching temperatures within 10–15 minutes. Use the air conditioner or leave your dog at home during errands. This will help prevent heatstroke and ensure your dog’s safety.

When Should I Call the Vet?

If your dog is exhibiting increased or prolonged panting without a clear cause, it’s time to consult a vet. Monitor their thirst, appetite, and frequency of urination, as your vet may ask questions about these symptoms.

It’s also beneficial to note the specific situations that cause panting, such as after a strenuous walk or when leaving the house, to provide the vet with insights into the potential issue.

If you’re not sure if your dog’s panting is cause for concern, look out for:

  • Your dog is exhibiting more excessive panting than its typical behavior.
  • During times without apparent excitement or fear, individuals are not overly warm and do not need to cool down.
  • When it sounds different from their usual panting: louder, faster, or lasting longer.
  • When the panting seems to be taking a lot of effort.
  • When it is accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, or a lack of appetite.

Treating Excessive Panting in Dogs

Excessive panting in a dog can be treated using various medications, such as painkillers and intravenous fluids, to restore their health. If anxiety or stress causes the issue, a certified dog behaviorist may recommend special training. Rest and oxygen therapy may be necessary for healing, depending on the severity of the condition.

Hospitalization may be necessary for serious injuries or illnesses, monitoring breathing, and resolving the underlying health conditions contributing to excessive panting. Most dogs can be treated at home, but hospitalization may be necessary for serious injuries or illnesses.

Final Thoughts

Panting can indicate discomfort, overheating, or disease. Your veterinarian can provide insight into why your dog may pant without a clear explanation, so discuss any questions during your next visit with your other family doctor.

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Amy Towry is a Certified NAVC Pet Nutritionist and pet lover. She is the proud owner of two rescue cats and a rescue dog and her love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care, nutrition, and product reviews.
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