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Dogs and Panting

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Have you ever seen a canine when their tongue is hanging out, they’re drooling and breathing heavily, and wondered, “Why do dogs pant?” There can be a few answers to this question, some of which may depend on your dog in particular.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Is Panting?

Dogs pant for many reasons, ranging from typical, everyday reasons to serious medical issues. Panting in dogs, in most cases, is a completely normal occurrence that typically means a dog is trying to cool themselves off since they don’t sweat as people do.

You will often notice a dog panting after they have done some physical activity, whether a long walk, playing ball, or running around the yard. Panting is also more common when the temperatures are higher—similar to people sweating more when it’s hotter. For instance, while a slow-paced walk in the winter may not be too exerting, going for a similar trek when it’s the middle of summer will most likely cause your dog to pant more since they are trying to cool themselves down faster.

Even though panting is entirely expected (and healthy) whenever your dog is in hotter temperatures, it’s crucial that you keep an eye out for signs of heatstroke. This can occur when a dog’s internal temperature rises above where it should be, and a dog cannot cool down fast enough. Common signs of heatstroke include constant panting, excessive drooling, increased thirst, quickened breathing, poor mobility, and upset stomach.

If you suspect your canine companion may be experiencing heatstroke, it’s crucial that you remove them from the heat and put them in a shaded, cooler place and, if possible, indoors where there is air conditioning. Offer your dog some water and ice cubes, along with using a fan or towels with cool water to continue lowering their body temperature. Severe cases of heat stroke cases need to be treated at a veterinary hospital. If your dog's symptoms are not improving within 10-30 minutes in a cooler environment, they should be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Meanwhile, it is still recommended that you get ahold of your nearby animal hospital to learn the next steps. The professionals can help guide you in immediate at-home remedies, though it is typically recommended that you still take your dog to the clinic to receive a full assessment. More often than not, pups who have experienced heatstroke will be put on IV fluids.

With brachycephalic dog breeds, who have scrunched noses and flat faces, extra care should be taken when they are in warmer weather or being exercised. These dogs naturally may pant more, as it’s not as easy for them to catch their breath. This combination means they can run the risk of experiencing heatstroke faster than other breeds, so extra care should be taken to ensure they have plenty of opportunities to stay cool and catch their breath.

Although panting is a natural behavior in all dogs, dog parents may still have related questions.

Is Panting a Sign of Pain in Dogs?

Whenever a dog is in pain or feeling a level of discomfort, panting is not unusual. Since panting can be caused by multiple factors, it can be helpful to assess the entire situation and your dog’s body language.

If you notice your dog panting, first consider whether they were just in warm temperatures or being active. In the instance that neither of those recently occurred, try observing your dog’s body language. Are their ears unusually angled back? Is their brow furrowed or forehead wrinkly? Are they limping? A dog’s body language can be an informative indicator that more might be occurring.

Whenever panting persists, and you believe your pup may be in pain, it’s important that you contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Having them perform a thorough physical examination could help determine if some type of pain is the underlying cause of the panting.

Why Would a Dog Pant While Resting?

Dog panting can also occur whenever a dog is feeling excited. If one of their favorite people just returned home, they were offered a delicious treat, or received a new toy, all of these instances could cause your dog to begin panting out of anticipation and good nature.

You may also want to consider any medications your dog might be taking. Steroids, among other medicines, may cause your dog to pant more than usual, even if they aren’t physically active.

You may be able to rule out medication as the cause, after which you may want to consider if your dog is feeling stressed, fearful, or anxious about anything. Going for car rides, visiting the veterinarian, thunderstorms, high winds, fireworks, big parties at your house, or a change in routine are all events that can cause your dog more stress. Consider if there is anything occurring around your home or in your environment that may be creating anxiety for your pup.

Excessive panting, especially when accompanied by other indicators of fear or anxiety, may mean that it’s time to schedule a meeting with your veterinarian or a professional dog behaviorist. Together they can help you with managing your dog’s negative feelings better while also working towards decreasing their overall fear and anxiety.

In addition to these reasons, there are also various types of medical issues that could cause your dog to pant while they are resting. Illnesses such as heart failure, Cushing’s Disease, and different respiratory conditions may all result in your dog breathing heavily when they otherwise should have a regular heart rate and breathing pattern. Most of these health issues will be accompanied by many other symptoms, sometimes making it a bit easier to figure out the underlying cause. Remember, never hesitate to take your dog to the veterinarian to receive an official diagnosis, as that’s the first step in getting them the treatment they may need.

When Should I Worry About Dog Panting?

Constant panting in dogs, particularly for an extended time, could indicate a more serious issue. After being in the heat or playing for a while, most dogs may lay down and pant for a short time in order to recover. However, if there is persistent panting for a longer time, such as twenty minutes or more, one of the other causes may be to blame.

While observing your dog’s behaviors, you should also keep your ears open for any usual sounds. Depending on the underlying cause, you may notice your dog’s panting change pace or rhythm or sound more shallow or raspy. Pay close attention to these signs. You know your dog best, and if you believe something unusual is occurring or that your pup may be in pain, never hesitate to contact your veterinarian or reach out to an emergency clinic.

small dog panting on a walk

How To Calm a Panting Dog

Before you are able to calm a panting dog, it will be helpful to determine what is causing your dog to pant in the first place. Exercise or play-related panting should go away on its own after about ten minutes. If you’re on a long hike, be sure to give your dog ample time to rest throughout the journey, especially if they aren’t used to long hikes. When playing outside in the yard, pay attention to when your dog is panting more and try to give them a little break before you continue.

Your canine companion’s panting can also be caused by warmer temperatures, though this can vary significantly based on your pup’s breed—some can handle the heat better than others. One of the best options is to exercise your dog early in the morning before it gets too warm or later in the evening as the sun is already setting. When your pup is outdoors, if you notice them panting, try to get them in the shade or a cooler location, give them water, and allow them to rest.

If you believe panting is related more to stress or anxiety, try to determine the cause. In the instance that you’ve already talked to professionals about your dog’s condition, keep in mind their recommendations. For example, with car-related anxiety or motion sickness (which could also cause panting and drooling), there are many types of soft chews that could reduce symptoms.

Another way to help reduce panting in your dog is to keep them at a healthy weight. Overweight pups run a higher risk of panting more since they may become overheated faster, and there’s more strain on their body when they are physically active—both creating more difficulty for them trying to catch their breath. Giving your canine companion an adequate amount of physical exercise every day (whether it be a walk, run, hike, or swim) and providing them with a well-balanced and healthy diet can help them stay at an ideal weight.

Although there are many reasons why a dog may be panting, and as a dog parent, your first reaction may be to worry that your dog is panting too quickly or too long, it’s helpful to keep in mind that panting is a perfectly normal and healthy bodily reaction that all canines experience.

An ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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