Why Do Dogs Pant?

Like most symptoms in canines, panting can signify many things – not all of which are a cause for concern. There are also many different types of panting so being in tune with your dog’s behaviors is a key component of making sure he’s okay. Panting can indicate anything – from happiness to dire illness. Whenever you’re in doubt, you should go to the vet but you can also use the following guidelines to help you save your money.

When Panting Is Normal

Dogs don’t perspire as much as humans do so panting is a way of helping them to cool off. After your dog engages in exercise don’t be surprised to see him panting. Let the panting also tell you when your dog has had enough exercise. When his panting gets ragged, labored, and uneven, it’s time to get your dog some water and let him rest.

Don’t forget that an obese dog will pant more readily than a fit dog. While it’s important to exercise your overweight dog monitor his activity so that he doesn’t overdo it. A dog can easily overheat because of his inability to sweat profusely.

When dogs get excited they will pant also. Has a beloved family member come after a long time away? Was an exciting new animal or person introduced? Is there a party or cool event happening around the dog? These are all causes of healthy panting which tell you the dog is happy.

When Panting Is Abnormal

Although exercising your dog is a completely acceptable thing to do he cannot cool down as fast as you can. He also will overheat more quickly. Because of this excessive panting is a sign that you are over-exercising your dog or you are exercising in weather that is too hot for him.

Breeds with flat faces or pushed-in noses are more predisposed to abnormal panting because they cannot take in air as efficiently as a long-nosed dog. These breeds include pugs, Boston terriers, and bulldogs. These breeds should not be exercised so strenuously. A light stroll on a cool day is the best way to exercise them. Or train them to walk on your treadmill!

When you see this labored panting/breathing, cool him down quickly by slowing down to a stroll. Get him into an air-conditioned car or house. Provide him water. In some cases, an emergency vet will be in order.

Often, abnormal panting occurs when there is no discernable reason for the panting. If there were no external events to precipitate the onset of panting, the cause may be a physical ailment. Dilated cardiomyopathy, Cushing’s disease, anemia, and laryngeal paralysis are all possible causes of excessive panting but these must be diagnosed by a veterinarian.

Another often-overlooked cause of panting is psychological. Stress, fear, and excessive anxiety will cause a dog to pant. Car rides can be a cause of major stress, for example. Many dogs get car-sick so you may notice your dog panting very heavily with a lot of foamy saliva dripping out of his mouth. Sometimes vomiting will also accompany the heavy panting. Although you should consult your vet, Benadryl and Dramamine are frequently given to dogs in these situations. Your vet can prescribe the correct dosage.

Worry, But Don’t Worry

You know your dog best. You can tell when your dog’s panting is abnormal. If you don’t know of any reason why your dog should be panting (e.g., he’s not exercising and nothing is stressing him out), then a vet visit should be the next to-do on your list.

By Gabrielle Allemeier


PetMD.com: Panting – Normal or Not?
Healthy Pets: When Your Dog’s Panting Might Mean Trouble

About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.