Whether it’s after a quick session of play or a bout of excitement, you’ve heard your dog pant before. Panting is perfectly normal for a dog and is a trait that is often taken for granted by dog owners. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “Why is my dog panting?”
The reasons behind why a dog pants are varied and not limited to excitement or activity. Heavy panting or abnormal panting by dogs can be a warning sign of much bigger health problems. To understand whether your dog’s panting is normal or not, we need to understand the reasons behind why dogs pant in the first place!
Why Do Dogs Pant?
Although panting is normal, when and how often they pant is determined by several reasons. Every dog owner needs to pay attention to their dog’s panting. Here are some of the most common reasons why dogs pant!
The main reason for panting is for dogs to cool themselves down to regulate their body temperature. A dog’s typical body temperature ranges from 101 F to 102.5 F. As temperatures rise, so does a dog’s. Unlike humans, dogs don’t have practical sweat glands to help lower their overall temperature when it becomes hot.
When a dog’s overall temperature rises during the sweltering summer months, increased panting helps cool them off. When a dog pants, they actively exchange the hot air in their lungs with cooler air from their surroundings. This process provides an efficient means for dogs to prevent overheating and helps to oxygenate their blood.
Whether it’s a reward of a tasty treat or greeting their owner after a long day at work, dogs get easily excited, and that leads to panting. This type of panting is often rapid, shallow, and short-lived. As a dog owner, it’s also the most affectionate and rewarding!
Any type of activity that engages a dog can make them pant. Activities like a playful session of catch at the park during the day or a brisk walk at night are followed by temporary panting. The stress of the activity determines how intense and prolonged a dog’s panting will be.
Whether wanting to go for a walk or being cranky because they missed out on sleep, restlessness is common for a dog and usually isn’t of concern for most dog owners. However, heavy breathing and excessive panting can be a result of unusual restlessness caused by several behavioral and physical issues such as anxiety, stress, pain, and cognitive issues.
Is Panting Common for a Dog?
Panting is as normal for a dog as breathing and sweating are for a human. The amount and intensity of the panting is directly related to their activity and their surrounding climate.
However, dog owners should always be vigilant about unusual or excessive panting from their dogs. Sometimes, panting can be a worrying sign of an underlying health problem. But not all dogs are the same, and the amount of panting can be directly related to their breed and overall health.
Do Some Dog Breeds Pant More Than Others?
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs pant the same way. Some dog breeds pant more than others. How often they pant is dependent on the breed, size, and structure of their face and snout.
Long-Snout Dog Breeds
Breeds with longer snouts exhibit more normal panting behavior associated with short-term excitement and activity. Because of their extended snouts, these breeds can properly take in oxygen and showcase typical panting behavior when engaged in continuous physical activity. Large dog breeds tend to have longer snouts than smaller breeds.
Some of the most common long snout dog breeds include:
- Bull Terriers
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
Short-Snout (Brachycephalic) Dog Breeds
Unlike their long snout canine cousins, the brachycephalic breed is predisposed to heavy panting. Often characterized by their small flat faces, brachycephalic breeds have compressed facial structures and constricted upper airways.
As a result, this breed suffers from lifelong breathing issues such as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and pants more than other dog breeds. Associated risks from dogs suffering from this syndrome include:
- Rapid breathing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Heat intolerance
Despite their many breathing issues, brachycephalic breeds are still very popular. Some of the popular dogs from this breed include:
- Shih Tzus
- Boston Terriers
Although panting issues are more common amongst the brachycephalic breed, they are not exclusive to them. All owners, regardless of the breed they own, need to be vigilant about their dog’s panting.
What is Considered Abnormal or Excessive Panting for Dogs?
Always remember that panting is a regular and normal part of a dog’s behavior. Confusion often arises with owners on differentiating between normal panting and abnormal or excessive panting. Let’s take a look at what is considered abnormal.
When is Dog Panting Abnormal?
Abnormal panting occurs during inappropriate times when panting is not expected. Such panting typically occurs during the following instances:
- Unrelated to heat relief when the climate is mild.
- Sudden onset panting unrelated to excitement or activity
When a dog is panting excessively, it is usually accompanied by noticeably heavier breathing and louder noises. Dogs pant louder as their labored breathing becomes raspier and harsher with each breath.
It can be a concerning situation when owners start to hear excessive panting. Owners might want to rush their dog to the vet immediately when such a situation occurs. However, dog owners need not panic as some of the causes associated with abnormal panting are not necessarily signs of a medical emergency.
Why Is My Dog Panting Excessively?
There are several reasons why your dog is panting excessively. We previously discussed how breed disposition and BOAS in certain breeds can lead to excessive panting. Regardless of your dog’s breed, here are some of the main reasons why they may be panting excessively.
Heat Stroke and Body Temperature
As we mentioned before, dogs mainly use panting as their primary way to help them cool down when they become overheated. Whether it’s after vigorous activity, being outside on a hot day, or being dehydrated, dogs can become dangerously overheated at any given moment. Panting helps to maintain their optimal body heat.
You can help prevent your dog from becoming a victim of heat exhaustion by doing simple tasks to help them cool down. Simple remedies include:
- Giving your dog proper shade when outside.
- Limiting your dog’s outside time, especially on hot days.
- Always providing your dog with a supply of cool water to stay hydrated.
- Never leaving your dog inside of a locked car when going shopping or running errands.
These simple, common-sense procedures can help keep your dog cool and prevent them from becoming a victim of heat exhaustion.
Most dogs show signs of distress when in pain. They often nurse their pain site and have an obvious change in mood. One of the first signs of pain is labored panting.
If you notice your dog is panting and feeling upset and in pain, it might be time for a trip to the vet and a physical exam to find out the root cause of the pain. There is no time for caution when dealing with your dog’s pain, for it can lead to other more severe health issues later on.
Obesity is not just an issue that afflicts humans; it’s also a condition that can lead to lifelong problems for many dogs. Obesity in dogs is defined as being more than 30% over their ideal body weight. In the United States, 56% of dogs are considered obese.
Although they might look cute with their pot-bellied appearance, obese canines can have trouble getting around, become easily tired, and start to pant more often.
Obesity raises serious health issues that don’t just affect panting but can also be a precursor to issues impacting their overall health. Such serious health issues associated with obesity in dogs include:
- Heart disease
- Bladder stones
- Become less heat tolerant
- Difficulty breathing and moving
Heart and Respiratory Disorders
Just like their owners, dogs get old and develop age-related health issues with their hearts and lungs. These issues are known to make panting worse.
Heart failure is of major concern for middle-aged and older dogs. Oxygen deprivation can occur when a dog’s heart does not do an efficient job at pumping blood. The more the heart is stressed, the more excessive and frequent the panting will become.
Lung disease in dogs is a major concern and can directly increase a dog’s respiratory rate and lead to difficulty breathing and heavy panting. Respiratory disorders are more commonly found in brachycephalic breeds. Issues with their constricted upper respiratory tract can lead to several disorders, such as laryngeal paralysis, which makes their breathing extremely difficult.
Illness can lead to increased panting. A common disease that afflicts elderly dogs is Cushing’s Disease. This disease is caused by cortisone overproduction and ends up causing a hormonal imbalance in dogs. Heavy panting is one of the earliest symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in a dog.
Anemia is another illness that reduces a dog’s ability to get enough oxygen due to reduced red blood cells. Like lung and heart disorders, anemia leads to poor oxygen circulation and results in heavy panting.
It’s always best to seek veterinary care to determine if you suspect your dog is suffering from an illness and you notice abnormal panting.
The biggest sign of change in a dog’s normal behavior is – you guessed it – more intense panting. That doesn’t suggest that there’s something wrong whenever you hear more panting.
Sudden and concerning shifts in your dog’s mood, from gnawing and tearing at furniture, incontinence inside the house, constantly hiding or showing signs of fear, and excessive and anxious whining are signs of concern.
If you notice any sudden mood changes for your dog that are out of the ordinary, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately, as it can be a warning sign of larger problems.
Should You Go to The Vet for a Dog Panting Too Much?
Get to know your dog’s breathing and panting patterns before you get veterinary care. Your dog’s panting patterns are dependent on the size, breed, age, and underlying conditions.
However, any abnormal panting can signify something serious and can become a medical emergency. You should take your dog to the veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms and warning signs associated with excessive or abnormal panting:
- Panting occurs suddenly without any stimulating activity or exposure to hot climates.
- Panting becomes intensified, labored, prolonged, or starts to worsen.
- Your dog sustains an injury or shows signs of being in extreme discomfort or pain.
- If your dog already has underlying health conditions.
- Vomiting, diarrhea, glassy eyes, and elevated temperature (above 104°F).
- If you notice a dark color to your dog’s gums or tongue, usually blue or purple in color. These are indicators that your dog is suffering from oxygen deprivation and has trouble breathing.
Final Thoughts – Why is My Dog Panting?
Panting is completely normal behavior and you usually won’t need to worry about it! By understanding why a dog pants, owners can better understand whether their dog is in distress or not. Not all dogs pant the same way and panting is not always an issue of concern, but it can be given the dog’s breed, age, and health history.
Owners should always closely monitor their dog’s panting patterns. If the panting becomes labored or accompanied by loud noises and other symptoms associated with health issues, you should probably take them to the vet. In the meantime, don’t stress too much about their panting!