Panting, like barking and tail wagging, is token dog behavior. This rapid, shallow breathing is generally paired with a lolling tongue and usually occurs after a fun-filled play session or satisfying walk.
Panting is perfectly normal behavior. However, when it’s accompanied by additional symptoms, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Read on to learn more about why dogs pant, and when panting could be a sign of something more serious than simply needing to cool off.
Why Do Dogs Pant?
Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat in order to regulate their temperature. While they can sweat small amounts through their paw pads, this isn’t enough to cool them off completely. Instead, they pant.
Panting helps to circulate air through the body by replacing hot air from the lungs with cool, external air. This speeds the process of evaporating water from the mouth and upper respiratory tract, resulting in a cooled off canine.
If your pup has been exercising or if it’s just a bit too hot outside, he’ll likely begin panting. He may also pant when he’s excited, or even stressed.
How To Tell if Panting is Normal
Panting is often paired with playtime, wagging tail included. If Fido’s body language looks relaxed (but not lethargic), there’s most likely no reason for concern. Panting should reasonably correlate with the temperature outside or the activity taking place—basically, is there a reason for your dog to be stressed, excited, or hot?
If your furry pal starts panting for seemingly no reason, or if the panting is accompanied by symptoms such as shaking, restlessness, lethargy, limping, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, or change in gum color, this could be a sign of a bigger problem.
Pay attention to the sounds your dog is making when panting, too; it’s important to know the difference between panting and labored breathing. If he’s making loud noises such as snorting or rasping, his mouth is drawn wide, or his nostrils are moving, he may be having respiratory issues.
Reasons for Abnormal Panting
Heavy, abnormal panting is often listed as a symptom of a few different medical issues:
Heatstroke. When a dog gets too hot, he could be at risk for potentially fatal heatstroke. If you notice faster, heavier panting in a particularly warm environment, offer your pup some water; you can also cool him off by bringing him indoors or into the shade, or even wetting him with a hose. Other symptoms of heat stroke include excessive thirst, glazed eyes, fast heartbeat, and bright red gums.
Avoid heatstroke by taking your dog for walks early or late in the day when it’s cooler. Never leave him in a hot car, and always have water available for him to drink.
Poisoning or Allergic Reaction. Abnormal panting may be a sign that your dog has ingested something toxic, or that he is having an allergic reaction to a new medication. Along with panting, dogs experiencing toxicity or adverse reactions to medication may also be lethargic, or vomit.
Respiratory Issues. Dogs such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers are predisposed to laryngeal paralysis, a condition in which the airway cannot open as wide as it should due to a dysfunction of the vocal cords. This is often identified by coughing after exercise and is breathing particularly noisily.
Dogs with flat faces and short snouts, such as Pugs and French Bulldogs, may pant more due to Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. Dogs with either of these conditions are more at risk of heatstroke, since they can’t cool off through panting as efficiently as other dogs.
Heart Failure. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood around the body. If the heart stops functioning properly, dogs may pant excessively to try to compensate for the lack of oxygen being circulated. Other symptoms of heart failure include weakness and coughing.
- Anaemia. When the number of red blood cells decreases, less oxygen is transported through the body. As with heart failure, dogs may pant more to try to make up the loss of oxygen.
Obesity. Overweight dogs often struggle to get fresh, oxygenated blood flowing through their bodies, and will often be seen panting more frequently than normal. Obesity in dogs can lead to other issues such as arthritis, heart failure, and diabetes—talk to your vet if you suspect your dog may be overweight.
Cushing’s Syndrome. When your dog’s body produces too much cortisol, you may notice that he pants a lot more than normal. Other symptoms of Cushing’s Syndrome include excessive thirst, peeing more than usual, and weight gain.
- Anxiety/Stress. An anxious dog may pant and pace, in addition to whining, shaking, or hiding. Pet Honesty’s Hemp Calming Chews can help to soothe your dog, especially if he gets anxious when it comes to fireworks, trips to the vet, or car rides.
You know your dog’s behavior best. If you feel that there is a reason to be concerned, call your vet immediately.