Dogs pant often, or at least it seems that way. Panting in dogs is generally considered healthy, especially after a long walk, play sessions, or any physical activity. However, excessive panting is different and it causes owners to wonder, why is my dog panting so much? Unfortunately, there are
less common cases where underlying issues may be the culprit. To find out if your dog is panting in a healthy or unhealthy manner, we’ve outlined some things you need to know below.
Why Do Dogs Pant?
A dog pants for the same reasons humans sweat – trying to lower the body’s temperature. This is usually because the dog has been active and needs to cool down. However, there are a few other reasons why your dog may be breathing heavily. It’s always important to assess your dog’s situation carefully.
Since dogs can’t tell us what’s wrong, dog owners have to pay attention to a dog’s body language. So, let’s go over some of the most common reasons a dog pants.
Dogs Need to Cooldown Somehow
Unlike humans, when dogs get hot, they can’t sweat through their skin because their fur is too thick. Dogs can sweat through their paw pads, but it does not sufficiently cool them down like panting does.
When dogs pant, they are quickly releasing the hot air from their lungs and replacing it with cold external air. This speeds up any evaporation of water in their mouth, upper respiratory tract, and tongue. When the water evaporates it regulates a dog’s body temperature and successfully cools them down. According to the AKC, the normal temperature of a dog is between 99.5 and 102.5°F.
Anxiety or Stress
If a dog is feeling anxious or fearful, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol may also raise the body temperature and trigger panting in the dog. A few other clues you may notice along with panting due to anxiety are:
- Licking of the lips
- Yawning repetitively
However, many of the same hormones involved in distress are also released during happy excitement. Panting or some of those other behaviors mentioned above may also be seen if your dog is anticipating a good snack or going on a walk. The key is to look at the rest of the dog’s body language. Low, slow, or stiff body posture and round eyes during panting let’s you know the dog is feeling worried or afraid. The face and lips look tighter and, since the mouth is not open as wide, the tongue usually remains in the mouth. Panting in distressed dogs seems to be more rapid than the air temperature warrants. Interestingly, dogs usually stop panting, at least temporarily, when feeling very worried, frightened, or threatened.
A happy-dog pant is usually accompanied by loose body language, almond-shaped eyes, and a more wide-open mouth with loose lips. This allows the tongue to extend or loll out the side more than seen during stress panting or panting due to the medical issues below.
Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome
Brachycephalic dog breeds are dogs with flat faces and short noses. Dog breeds such as French Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pugs are prone to pant more often due to Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome.
Their narrowed nostrils and upper respiratory tract causes these dogs to have difficulty breathing. Their flat faces make them more at risk of overheating or heat stroke since they can’t quickly cool themselves down. They tend to pant more often due to this difficulty in maintaining lower body temperature compared to other dogs. Blue-colored gums and tongues can indicate a potentially fatal lack of oxygen.
What is Abnormal or Excessive Panting in Dogs?
Remember, panting is common in all dogs. It is normal and necessary for a dog to pant in effort to cool down after physical activity or when they are in warm environments. However, in some instances, panting can indicate a medical problem.
Why is my Dog Panting Excessively?
It’s normal for a dog to pant when they get excited, have a lot of energy, or are hot. However, rapid, prolonged, or loud panting outside of these situations is a bit different. It could indicate that your dog has a chronic underlying health issue, is dangerously overheated, or has experienced something traumatic and life-threatening. Some of the more common reasons dogs pant excessively include:
Dogs are known to be good at hiding pain. At times, they do it so well that owners don’t realize they’re in pain until the problem worsens. If your dog is panting because they are in pain, then they will most likely pant at strange times, like at night, while resting.
A dog that is overweight might struggle to breathe in fresh air and get oxygenated blood into their system. If you believe your dog’s panting might be due to a weight issue, you should get them checked out by a vet to discuss proper diet and exercise. Obesity in dogs can lead to more serious issues like diabetes, heart failure, arthritis, and other diseases that can decrease their lifespan.
Bloat is a common term for Gastric Dilatation. It forms when gas builds up in the gut and is unable to be released. A distended stomach is very uncomfortable and is potentially life-threatening if associated with twisting of the stomach. Simple bloat can be intermittent and cause abnormal pressure to body parts including the lungs which will make a dog breathe heavier than normal. The pain can also trigger panting.
Related article: Dog Bloated Stomach Home Remedies [Tips & Prevention Guide]
We already know dogs pant as a way to cool down. In warmer months, like during the summer, dogs are more susceptible to overheating. Heatstroke Syndrome occurs when the dog’s body temperature surpasses 106°F and the organs begin to fail.
If your canine is overheated, you may notice a faster and heavier pant than usual, and he may appear to have trouble breathing. Take your dog to a cool, preferably air-conditioned area and provide water to drink as soon as possible. However, heatstroke can be fatal and if you have any concerns that your dog may be suffering from more than basic overheating, you should immediately head to the veterinary ER and not waste time trying to cool your dog. Signs your canine may have heatstroke include weakness or collapsing, vomiting, skin hot to the touch, and dark or bluish gums or tongue.
The most common sources of allergic reactions that may result in panting or other respiratory signs are reactions to medication and insect bites or stings. Signs of allergic reactions in dogs may include swelling, hives, or even anaphylactic shock. Sudden onset of panting, along with coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting, pale or bright red gums, collapse, or bloody diarrhea are signs of anaphylactic shock and you should immediately seek veterinary care if you suspect this potentially fatal condition. Keep in mind the most common signs of allergies, such as those triggers by food, airborne allergies, and more, usually affect the skin and gut of dogs. Before starting your dog on any medication, it’s best to ask your vet for a second opinion.
Heart problems might be the culprit of excessive or abnormal panting. Various issues with the heart may cause dogs to pant often since they struggle to catch their breath, even when they exert little energy. Dogs might also cough and show signs of weakness.
Cushing’s disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, is a condition in dogs that causes their body to produce an excess of the steroid hormone cortisol. This is more common in middle-aged and senior dogs.
Signs of Cushing’s disease include weight gain, thirst, thinning of hair and skin, a potbelly, and you guessed it, panting.
This one might seem like a no-brainer. Abnormal breathing can be due to respiratory issues like pneumonia. This infection causes inflammation in the lungs. Other symptoms of respiratory problems in dogs include trouble breathing, fever, coughing, and lethargy. Respiratory disease will not cause necessarily cause panting, but trouble breathing can lead to stress and overheating, both of which often result in panting.
When to See a Vet if Your Dog is Panting too Much?
On average, dogs take around fifteen to thirty breaths a minute, depending on their age and size. You should get to know your dog’s breathing patterns and normal panting to better notice anything out of the ordinary. Keep in mind you cannot take a respiratory rate while your dog is panting.
If you believe your dog’s panting is unusual and could mean something more critical, you should see the help of a veterinarian as soon as possible. Things like heatstroke and bloat in dogs can be fatal, while other conditions can worsen and lead to more serious issues.
It’s normal for dogs to pant. It’s the best way for them to cool down. Dogs will pant heavily after activity, exposure to heat, or when they feel anxious or excited. Some dogs are more hyper than others so they will often pant more often and heavily than a calm dog. However, normal panting should not be consistently excessive or at random times. Heavy breathing could be a sign that your dog is coping with something more serious, and at times fatal. Proper care and attention can help prevent many of the reasons why dogs pant abnormally.
Ensuring your dog isn’t exposed to heat for long periods can avoid heatstroke. Giving your dog nutritionally balanced food can prevent health problems like heart disease and obesity. If you have a brachycephalic dog breed, you shouldn’t overexert them as they already have difficulty breathing. Being aware of your dog breed and its needs, and learning their normal behaviors is the best way to be proactive. When in doubt, ask your vet, because they do know best. While you’re here why not take a moment to learn more about Holistapet? You can also take a look at our beneficial dog treats with CBD and other healthy ingredients.
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