Panting happens naturally to dogs for a variety of reasons. Dogs often pant because of excitement, stress, or physical activity. During the summer, they may also be short of breath as a way to cool themselves down. Dogs with short snouts (such as pugs and bulldogs) are also prone to frequent heavy panting.
However, there may be cases when shortness of breath can be alarming. In this article, you will discover why your dog is panting and how to tell if it’s normal or a sign of something serious. We’ll also talk about how to prevent dog panting at home and with the help of a veterinarian.
Why Do Dogs Pant?
Dog panting can be a natural body response or a sign of a serious condition. Listed below are some of the most common reasons for dog panting.
Dogs usually pant when they feel excited. It is their natural response when they meet new people or when they receive treats, for instance. When your dog is excited, its pants will sound rapid and shallow, accompanied by a whining sound.
Sometimes, extreme temperatures can do a number on your pet. That’s why it’s important that your dog stays active during the winter, for example. So when the weather gets too hot, dogs will look for ways to keep themselves cool. And this explains why they pant heavily to cool down. But you may be wondering, how does panting help cool down your dog’s body? Panting allows cool, evaporated air to flow to your dog’s nose and lungs so it can cool itself from the inside out.
Curious about dog panting at night? This may be because your dog gets anxious whenever it’s separated from you. Since you spend a lot of time with your dog during the day, it may have a hard time being away from you at night. Night panting is more common among puppies.
- Pain or Injury
Your dog may also pant heavily due to discomfort, nausea, or an injury. Look out for signs of pain such as trembling, limping, or excessive licking of a body part. Pay attention to body language: you might notice your dog feeling restless or breathing rapidly.
If your dog is exposed to heat for extended periods, it may end up getting a heatstroke. As a result, your dog may show signs of excessive panting, discomfort, and restlessness. Other symptoms of heatstroke include glassy eyes, drooling, seizures, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Chronic Illnesses
Heavy panting can also be a sign of chronic heart and respiratory illnesses in dogs. Dogs with heart failure, for example, may experience heavy panting, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Those symptoms are also common in dogs with laryngeal paralysis, pneumonia, and lung tumors.
Shortness of breath can also be caused by medication. Prednisone and other steroids may have side effects, which include increased panting. If your dog pants excessively due to their medication, it’s best to consult your veterinarian for alternatives.
- Toxic or Allergic Reaction
If your dog ingests a poisonous substance or anything that triggers an allergic reaction, it may pant, drool, or vomit. Your dog may also feel lethargic. To keep them safe, store your household cleaners, human medications, and toxic food away from paw’s reach.
Normal vs. Excessive Dog Panting: What’s the Difference?
Normal dog panting comes from stress, excitement, or hot temperatures. After all, it is your dog’s natural response to everyday activities and environment.
However, if your dog is panting heavily, it may tell you something about your dog’s condition. Here are some of the things you need to check:
- Is your dog breathing rapidly when it’s asleep?
- Does your dog feel lethargic?
- Has your dog lost its appetite?
- Does your dog cough frequently?
It’s important to watch out for other symptoms to see if your dog is still short of breath. For example, excessive panting could be a sign of an illness such as laryngeal paralysis.
How to Stop a Dog from Panting
Preventing shortness of breath is easy if you know the reason behind it. Once you find out the cause, it’s easier to help your dog.
If your dog is panting excessively because of a heatstroke, for example, it’s best to let them cool down in a tub of cool water. You can also place ice packs or cold towels on your dog’s head, neck, and chest. Move them indoors to avoid further heat exposure and give them cool water to drink. This helps lower their body temperature and prevent the shortness of breath.
However, if your dog is experiencing other symptoms, it’s best to call your veterinarian. They will be able to properly evaluate your dog’s condition and treat them accordingly.
When to Visit a Vet
Now that you have a clearer idea of what causes dog panting, you may be asking, “When should I visit the vet?” The short answer is this: when you feel like something is wrong with your dog.
You can also ask yourself these questions:
- Is my dog panting even if they're not exercising or trying to cool down?
- Is my dog in pain?
- Did my dog’s panting start randomly and for no apparent reason?
If you said yes to any of these, it may be best to consult your veterinarian. No matter how small your concern may seem, your veterinarian will help you find out more about your dog’s condition.
Additionally, you may also want to check the color of your dog’s tongue and gums. If they are blue, purple, or white, it means that they’re not getting enough oxygen. You can also discuss this with your veterinarian.
Proactively Manage Shortness of Breath in Your Dog
Most cases of a dog panting are relatively harmless since it’s simply a natural response to their everyday activities or the environment. However, if it occurs when your dog is inactive or in a cool environment, it could be a sign of anxiety or a more serious condition.
Knowing the causes of unhealthy dog panting makes it easier for you to address the issue and get the right treatment. By educating yourself about the symptoms and causes of canine shortness of breath, you can make informed choices to improve your dog’s health.
Want more tips on how you can improve your dog’s health and well-being? Explore the Lick Sleeve blog.