As a dog mom, you’ve probably caught your dog panting on many occasions.
Panting refers to rapid, shallow breathing. While the normal, non-panting respiratory rate for dogs is somewhere between 30-40 inhalations and exhalations per minute, a panting dog can take 10 times that many (so, between 300-400 breathes per minute).
Usually, panting is considered normal and nothing to worry about. However, there are times when panting is a warning sign for something more serious. When you catch your pup breathing heavy, it’s important to take note of his surroundings and body language to figure out the cause.
While dogs do sweat a little through their paw pads, it’s not their body’s main way of cooling down. Instead, they pant.
When dogs pant, they release hot air from their lungs and let in cooler external air. This ultimately helps evaporate water on their tongue, inside their mouth, nasal passages, and upper respiratory tract. As this water evaporates, your dog’s body is able to regulate its body temperature and cool down.
While dogs do have natural ways to cool themselves down, they aren’t always the most effective — especially if the outside air temperature is the same (or even higher) than a dog’s normal body temperature of 102° F. You may not realize it, but heat exhaustion and heat stroke can happen very quickly in dogs. That’s why excessive panting on a hot summer day is never something to ignore. In THIS article, I share essential dos and don’ts to help keep your pup safe in the heat!
Have you ever watched your dog happily play with a toy and all of a sudden start panting? My mom’s dog, Pippa, does this every time she plays a light game of fetch. You’ll immediately notice her lips widen from ear-to-ear (as if she’s smiling), her tongue protrude out, and she’ll begin breathing a bit heavier.
If heavy breathing is paired with happy body language (i.e. relaxed facial features, bright eyes, wagging tail) then it may just be a sign your dog is happy.
Brachycephalic breeds with flat faces (such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers) tend to pant more because of their anatomy. They have a narrowed upper respiratory tract and tend to experience ongoing breathing challenges.
If you have a brachycephalic breed then it’s important to monitor their breathing habits so you have a clear baseline for what’s normal.
During a car ride, vet visit, grooming session, or scary fireworks display, you may notice your dog start panting out of stress/anxiety. Termed ‘behavioral panting’, this type of panting is usually paired with repetitive yawning, licking lips, whining, shaking, pacing, or hiding.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 54% of dogs in the United States are considered overweight or obese. In most cases, it’s because we are feeding our pets more calories than they’re burning off. If your pup is packing on the pounds then you may catch him panting.
- Ribs are not visible. When feeling for the ribs, you’ll notice thicker padding above them.
- Waist is barely visible or even bulges out, when viewed from above
- Belly may look round and fall to either the same level as the chest or even further to the ground than the chest, when viewed from the side
- Fat deposits and skin folds develop near the base of the tail, back, and neck
Pain or Discomfort
Dogs are stoic creatures and much better at hiding their pain than people. Plus, they can’t just tap us on the shoulder and say, “Hey, I don’t feel good.” So, it’s up to us to look for warning signs. Some signs a dog is in pain:
- Agitation and aggression
- Excessive grooming
- Change in activity level
- Clear physical limitations
- Accidents in the house
- Excessive panting
If you notice your dog excessively panting out of nowhere – and you can’t figure out why – get to the vet for a health check.
Other Medical Issues
Panting is also a symptom for other medical issues, such as:
Cushing’s Disease – Cushing’s disease is a condition in which the adrenal glands produce an excessive amount of the hormone cortisol in the body. Excessive panting is just one of many symptoms. Find out more about canine Cushing’s disease HERE.
Heart Problems – Dogs who suffer from heart problems may pant as they struggle to catch their breath. Some other warning signs include fatigue, frequent coughing, reduced ability to exercise, and reduced appetite.
Respiratory Disorders – There are several respiratory disorders, such as laryngeal paralysis and pneumonia, that can trigger panting.
Anemia – Dogs pant when they’re starving for oxygen. Dogs who suffer from anemia have an abnormally low level of red blood cells and insufficient hemoglobin to carry oxygen to their tissues.
If you suspect your dog is panting due to heatstroke, pain, or another medical condition then contact your vet immediately. As with any medical condition, the sooner the problem is diagnosed and treated, the better!