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dog parent basics

Why is my dog panting?

How to know when your dog’s heavy breathing is from a walk around the block or a sign that something may be wrong.

Updated August 20, 2021

Created By

Madison Blancaflor,

The essentials 

  • Dogs pant as a way to regulate their body temperature — They don’t sweat like humans do, and panting is a way for them to circulate air and lower their body temperature.
  • Excessive panting can mean something is wrong — It’s normal for dogs to pant when hot or excited, but abnormal panting can be a sign of an underlying disease or other health issue.
  • If you notice a change in your dog’s panting habits, make sure you see a vet — Paying attention to your dog’s normal breathing and panting patterns can help with early detection.

Panting is a dog’s way of cooling off 

Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans do. While their paws have sweat glands, they’re only minimally helpful at cooling. Instead, dogs pant as a way to “sweat” water from their mouth and upper respiratory tract. Panting also helps circulate air throughout a dogs’ body — It’s their way of regulating temperature.

You’ll likely notice your dog panting after exercise, when it’s hot outside, or when they’re excited. There are also certain medications — such as steroids, opioids, and thyroid medications — that can cause increased panting as a side effect.

Are some dogs more prone to panting?

Certain dogs are more likely to pant than others, specifically older dogs and brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds: French bulldogs, bulldogs, boxers, cavalier King Charles spaniels, shih tzus, Boston terriers, mastiffs, and pugs.

Both older dogs and pups with flat faces are easily overheated, so they may pant more often and heavier than other dogs.

👉 While panting is completely normal, abnormal or excessive heavy panting can be a sign that something’s wrong.

How do I tell if my dog is panting too much? 

Keeping an eye on your dog’s behavior is the best thing you can do.

According to the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, dogs generally take anywhere between 15 and 30 breaths per minute when resting or sleeping. Knowing where your dog typically falls in that range can help give you a baseline for their breathing patterns. This will help you determine when they’re breathing and panting more than usual.

Is your pup panting harshly even when they’re resting in an air-conditioned room? Are they taking longer than usual to stop panting after exercise? These are both signs that your dog is panting excessively, and something could be off. If you do notice excessive or abnormal panting, call your vet immediately.

🚨 Watch out for abnormal panting that sounds raspier or louder than normal, or panting that is accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, loss of coordination or change in the color of their tongue or gums.

Here’s why your dog may be excessively panting 

Panting can be a sign of many underlying health conditions including:

Heat exhaustion or heatstroke

This happens when your dog’s temperature rises to a dangerous level. Other symptoms of heatstroke include drooling, seizures, vomiting, glassy eyes, erratic heart rate, and weakness.

🚨 Immediate action is required if you suspect that your pet has heatstroke because it can kill dogs in as little as 15 minutes.

You can prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke in your dog by following these steps. Avoid exercising with your pup during the hottest part of the day in the summer (plus their paw pads can burn). Never leave your dog in a hot car or outside for long periods of time and always be sure to give them lots of water and breaks when exercising.

Anxiety or stress

Have you ever been told to do deep breathing exercises to help calm yourself down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed? Similar to human breathing exercises, panting may help a dog calm down. Chronic panting, even when your pup hasn’t exercised or been in the heat, can be a sign that they’re feeling stressed or nervous about something.

First, try to identify the stressor and remove it. For anxious pups that seem restless and pace a lot, exercise can help work off some of that energy and calm them down. Routine commands (sit, down, and heel) and familiar physical contact can also help calm your stressed furry friend.

Pain

Dogs may pant when they’re in pain or discomfort because of an injury. Look out for other signs of trauma, including enlarged pupils, reduced appetite, abnormal restlessness, and licking or biting a particular spot on their body.

👉  If you suspect your dog is injured, be sure to call your vet.

Obesity

Obesity can cause a number of health issues. If your dog is overweight and excessively panting, it could be a sign that they aren’t getting enough oxygen circulated throughout their body. Additionally, overweight pups tend to get overheated more quickly.

Talk to your veterinarian during your pup’s next checkup to discuss proper diet and exercise. It’s also important for them to examine your dog and determine that they haven’t developed any health issues associated with obesity such as arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes.

More serious health conditions

Panting can also be a sign of more serious illnesses:

  • Heart failure
  • Lung disease
  • Cushing’s disease (when their adrenal glands produce too much cortisol)
  • Respiratory disorders (including dyspnea and tachypnea)
  • Laryngeal paralysis (which causes breathing difficulty and can obstruct your pup’s airways)
  • Medication allergies
  • Poison
  • Anemia

While these problems are more rare, it’s important that you take your dog to see the vet. If you’re noticing abnormal or excessive panting, they can rule out both the common and more rare potential underlying causes.