As dog owners, we all have our own beliefs and perceptions about dog behavior. Whether this is about their wagging tail or barking, it is natural to believe that these common behaviors are normal. This is the same for panting. However, what happens when your dog pants a lot? Is this a health concern or can it signify that something is wrong? A dog panting can mean a variety of things, both normal and worrisome.
A dog panting can become a concern depending on the frequency, timing, and accompanying symptoms. This is why today we are going to explore all the causes of panting and when it may be time to change something or go to the vets. Some breeds may be more inclined to pant than others, as may some individuals. Most commonly though, panting is an indicator of something. So let’s take a look into why your dog is panting a lot of what to do.
What Causes Panting In Dogs
The most common cause for a dog panting is to help regulate their temperature. This is done through the quick exchange of air from inside to outside the lungs to release hot air and bring in cool. This aids evaporation on their tongue and therefore helps them to move heat away from them in two ways. However, there are more reasons than just cooling for panting to exist. An emotional change, diseases, and even injuries can play a role.
Heatstroke can be easily summarized as when a dog cannot cool themselves down. This may be because of their thick coat, too hot of an environment, or no access to anything to cool them. It is important to note that this is a fatal condition for any dog. Within ten to twenty minutes this condition can kill a dog. This is why advocating for not leaving your dog in a hot car is so crucial, it really is that dangerous. So be aware of the hot temperatures in Summer.
Panting is a sign that your dog may be overheating, but this does not necessarily mean they are suffering from heatstroke. Other signs of heatstroke include vomiting, shifting, lethargy, and even unresponsive behavior. Furthermore, the panting displayed in this case is often heavy and rapid as a desperate attempt to rid themself of heat. As dogs cannot sweat as much as we can, this is the main technique of heat release.
Dogs with thicker coats, obese, or short-snouted, also known as brachycephalic dogs, are much more at risk of heatstroke than other dogs. Any signs of heatstroke and your dog will need an immediate vet visit and treatment to try to help. Panting does not mean your dog has heatstroke, but always monitor their accompanying behavior to see if this is a worry.
Pain and Stress
Both pain, stress, and other quick emotional changes like anxiety or excitement can lead to your dog panting. They all share the common cause of an increase of adrenaline and cortisol which leads to this behavior. This is through an internal rise in body temperature and also an increased demand for oxygen. These causes lead to your dog panting regardless of the temperature outside. If your dog is panting because of excitement for a walk then this is not a concern. However, if they are anxious either generally or because of a change of situation, this will require some support to make them feel better. Cushing’s disease is also a cause for panting due to an increase in the hormone cortisol being produced. This will require a vet visit and treatment.
Pain is another cause for a dog panting a lot. Beyond the release of adrenaline and cortisol from an injury or general pain, there are also other symptoms which can lead to panting. Discomfort and pain can cause your dog to feel stressed or anxious which may increase the behavior. Furthermore, they may feel nausea and therefore have a higher frequency of drool and panting due to feeling like they may vomit.
The purpose of a dog’s heart is to pump oxygen all around the body through the blood. When your dog’s heart begins to fail, then your dog will struggle to receive the necessary amount of oxygen they need. This is why heart failure can cause panting. By increasing a dog’s breathing to the level of rapid panting, they are taking in more air to try to gain a higher level of oxygen. Therefore, they will hopefully be able to satisfy their required need for oxygen and get it passed around the body.
You can identify heart failure from more than panting though. Be aware of lethargy as the main symptom. Will your dog being able to take in less oxygen, they will feel weaker and less able to participate in exercise. Therefore, they may be lying down more, sleeping more, and playing less. Walks and toys may also be of less interest to them because they struggle to participate. Furthermore, your dog may also be coughing. This is because of fluid entering the lungs because of the heart’s inability to function properly. The heart has to work harder to perform its normal job, and therefore the pressure to move blood around the body increases. This pressure is what leads to liquid being pushed into the lungs which causes your dog’s cough.
There are multiple diseases that can affect the respiratory system. Any one of these diseases can lead to an increase in your dog’s panting. Some that are more common or more likely to produce symptoms include tumors, pneumonia, or kennel cough. All respiratory infections lead to your dog struggling to breathe. Whether because of a blockage, inflammation, or fluid build-up. These all lead to a dog struggling to breathe properly and therefore they will do so more frequently or with more conviction. Therefore this is why they pant.
Other symptoms that may accompany the painting include coughing, lethargy, and gagging. Coughing can occur due to fluid build-up and irritation, as your dog’s body is trying to dislodge that unpleasant feeling. This is the same for liquid build-up in the lungs. Dogs will cough to try to remove it to allow better breathing. Gagging exists for the same purpose.
What Should You Do For a Panting Dog
Any concerns and we always recommend a vet visit, especially in the case of heatstroke. Dogs panting a lot could indicate minor worries such as an anxiety-induced situation, or severe such as heart failure. By going to a professional they will be able to conduct tests to identify if the cause is worrisome. Then, they can provide you with treatment or recommendations. If it turns out to be anxiety, you then can begin exploring the cause to help change things for your dog.
Some important tips we can give though is how to keep your dog cool. This can prevent heatstroke, general panting, discomfort, and stress in a lot of cases. Always be sure to provide your dog with cool water to drink at any time, especially for those that lose a lot of fluid through drool. Furthermore, make sure your dog has access to cool areas in the heat. Shaded spots, AC, and even cooling mats are wonderful tools to help your dog feel chill. Finally, ensure your dog is well-groomed and does not have a long coat in hot areas. This can make them feel constantly uncomfortable as well as be a safety issue.
Dog Heavily Panting: FAQ
More concerns or questions about your dog panting? Don’t fret, here are some frequently asked questions with answers to help expand your knowledge.
Although panting is normal in dogs, it is the frequency and accompanying symptoms that can indicate if it is a problem. If you find them shaking, being lethargic, coughing, or generally acting differently alongside panting then something may be wrong. Due to the many different causes, there is no one set of symptoms that could indicate a problem. It all depends on the exact cause. However, if your dog is panting a lot more than normal, or is doing so throughout the day at intervals, this is often a sign that something is wrong or something requires a change. A vet visit can answer what this needs to be.
Normal dog panting will occur when a dog is overheating or is feeling an extreme emotional change such as anxiety or excitement. Other panting has worrisome causes. Panting in itself is rapid breathing for short periods of time to help cooling most commonly. The average number of breaths per minute for a dog is 30-40. However, smaller dogs will take more breaths than larger dogs in that time period so it does depend. Panting only becomes a concern with frequency if it lasts a long time or happens regularly through most days. Of course, it depends on your dog and their situation though.
Dogs can certainly pant when they are happy. If they become excited then they may begin to pant due to an adrenaline rush. Certain dogs that drool more frequently may also pant more, so they may pant regardless of emotional state. Although it is more common for their tongue to just hang then to pant.
Dogs do sweat but not in the same manner as us. They only have sweat glands on their paws, and as this is such a small area of their body, it often does not help them to cool down a lot.
A dog can overheat if their fur is not properly groomed, although it depends on the environment. If your dog lives in a cold area or an area appropriate for their fur type, then they will not overheat. However, if a thick-coated dog lives in a hot area then they may have to have their fur kept short so they do not overheat.
There are many different reasons your dog may be panting. This is why regular vet checkups are so important to help identify when something is wrong. If you feel you need an urgent vet visit then pursue that to ensure your pup is healthy. A dog’s happiness is the most important thing, so be sure to check any worries you have that could interfere with that need.