Panting in Dogs: What is Normal and What Isn’t

It’s normal for a dog to pant, the thing is how can you tell the difference between what’s normal and what isn’t.

It’s normal for a dog to pant after a hike, if it’s hot out, he’s feeling anxious or just because he’s excited to see you. When it becomes a concern is if he’s doing it when there’s no reason, he’s panting heavier than normal or long after any reasonable scenario to explain it has passed.

Why is My Dog Panting for No Reason?

There’s always a reason for a dog to pant, the question really is whether or not there is a reason to be concerned. Let’s start by taking a look at what can cause a dog to pant.

They’re hot

Feeling the heat and panting to cool down is the most obvious reason. Dogs don’t sweat like we do, so they pant to cool off and regulate body temperature. Giving your dog a drink when you’re out in the hot weather, walking on the shady side of the street and going out earlier in the morning and later in the evening are the best way to handle exercising in the summer months.

Heatstroke

Just like we can suffer heatstroke in hot weather, so can dogs…and if not treated immediately they can die within minutes.

In addition to rapid panting and breathing, other signs of heatstroke are:

  • Skin almost hot to the touch
  • Dark red gums
  • Unable to move
  • Blank stare, little eye movement
  • Dizziness/disorientation
  • May lose urine and bowel function
  • Convulsions, seizures, vomiting
  • Coma, leading to brain damage and shutting down of internal organs

Here’s what to do

Move the dog to a cool or shady area

Put wet rags on him or sprinkle him with cool water, especially around his head and paws (never use cold/ice water – it constricts the blood vessels)

Use a fan, hands, or piece of paper over his body, to help water evaporate

Give him a drink, but don’t force it

Take him to a vet immediately, even if you think he’s better

Excitement

Maybe your dog is just so excited about FILL IN THE BLANK, he’s jumping around and it’s making him pant.

Brachycephalic syndrome

The inability to breathe normally is a common problem in brachycephalic dogs, or brachy dogs as they are also called. Those are dogs with flat faces like Boston Terriers, Pugs, Bulldogs and Boxers. The condition, called Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) is caused by a narrowing of the upper respiratory tract.

Obesity makes this condition worse, so if your dog needs to lose some weight here is the motivation you need to get started. Most vets have a weight loss clinic so help guide you.

Controlling exercise levels, keeping dogs in air conditioned surroundings in the summer, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti inflammatory drugs and surgery are all treatment options depending on the severity of the condition.

Poisoning

Rat poison, slug killer, anti freeze and eating too much chocolate are just some of the things your dog can ingest that are poisonous. If you think your dog ate something dangerous, call the pet poison helpline or your vet right away.

https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-safety-tips/mouse-and-rat-poison-rodenticides-poisonous-to-dogs-cats/

Adverse reaction to medication

Drugs such as Tramadol and Prednisone can cause dogs to pant. If your vet has prescribed a new medication for your dog, be sure and ask him what some of the side effects may be. It’s possible your dog won’t suffer any adverse reaction, but knowing the possibilities will at least explain any new behaviors such as panting, for example.

Panting in dogs what is normal and what is not

Obesity

With over 50% of the dogs in the U.S. considered overweight or obese, it’s a serious issue with long term consequences. Not only does it cause panting, it increases the chances of a dog getting diabetes, heart disease and makes arthritis pain even worse.

How to Help a Dog Lose Weight: A Practical Guide https://dogparenting101.com/i-dont-know-how-to-help-my-dog-lose-weight

Congestive heart failure

The heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body, and that causes things like excessive panting, coughing, lethargy and loss of appetite to name a few of the effects. Depending on how advanced the condition is, medication may give your dog months or years of good quality life. It certainly did for my dog!

Pain

Dogs are notoriously good at hiding pain. In the wild it was used as a survival tactic but in modern day family life your pup can be suffering without anyone realising. One of the first signs of pain is panting, and you’ll often see that before you notice anything obvious. Licking or chewing a particular area and possible aggressive behavior, especially if you inadvertently touch a sore area, are also common signs.

Nausea

If your dog is feeling nauseous or is going to throw up, you’ll often see them panting.

Anaemia

Red blood cells transport oxygen around the body, but anaemia means a reduction in the number of those cells. This can lead to oxygen deprivation, and a dog panting more to compensate.

Play time

Whether you’re playing fetch together or he’s running around the park with his doggie friends, panting is normal in those scenarios.

Cushing’s disease

This is the result of a dog’s adrenal glands producing too much cortisol. Typically a disease in older dogs, they eat, drink, pee and pant more. Other signs you may notice are fur loss and a pot belly.

Cushing’s shares some of the same symptoms as other illnesses, combine that with the fact there is no specific test for it, makes it a difficult disease to diagnose. Having said that, the symptoms you’re seeing combined with increases in white blood cells, liver enzymes, sugar levels and diluted urine typically point to Cushing’s.

Respiratory issues

Bronchitis or pneumonia

Lung tumors

Build up of fluid in the lungs

Obstruction

Laryngeal paralysis – This happens when the muscles and cartilage that open and close the larynx malfunction. When a dog with this condition breathes in, the laryngeal cartilages do not open properly, making breathing difficult. Restricted airflow and loud, raspy panting is the result.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can happen in dogs and are often the result of things like:

  • Obesity
  • Cushing’s
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease

Anxiety/stress/fear/phobia

Panting can be caused by anxiety, stress, fear and phobias and can be caused by:

  • Vision issues/loss
  • Hearing issues/loss
  • Separation anxiety
  • Thunderstorms/fireworks
  • Dementia (confusion and memory loss)
  • Living in a puppy mill or other abusive situation

Depending on the reason(s) for the anxiety, medication, training and of course patience can make a big difference.

Post surgery

Panting, drooling, moaning and shivering are some of the behaviors you can expect to see after surgery. Sometimes it’s due to pain, but usually because of the anesthetic. Have a conversation with your vet about what your dog may experience, how long it’s expected to last, and most importantly what you can do to make it comfortable.

When Your Dog’s Panting Requires a Vet Visit

  • Restless and panting
  • Seems to have trouble breathing
  • Panting in a way that isn’t normal for him or her
  • Doesn’t stop
  • Shaking
  • Tongue or gums are not their normal color
  • When there’s no obvious reason why – for example: it’s not hot outside, no one has walked in the door to get him excited…

If you’re at all concerned, make that call. It’s better to go and find out it’s nothing, than wait too long and discover nothing can be done.

Explain your concerns on the phone, and have them fit you in that day. Offer to sit in the waiting room if that’s what it will take, although I know during these virus times that probably won’t happen.

If they refuse to see you for whatever reason and you’re worried, find someone who can.

To make your appointment more productive, especially if you can’t go in with your dog, make a list to give to your vet.

  • What your concerns are
  • How long has he been panting?
  • Does it happen more at a certain time of day?
  • Any other new/unusual behaviors you’ve noticed
  • When did they start? At the same time? Before? Since?
  • Mention any new drugs, supplements or even diet he’s on
  • New routines or changes in the home

How to Stop a Dog from Panting

There isn’t one set way to deal with panting, because there isn’t just one cause, as you’ve seen above.

If you’ve realised the heat is an issue…

  • Walk him earlier in the morning and later in the evening
  • Buy a chill bandana, jacket and/or mat for him to lay on
  • If you don’t have air conditioning get a small fan and put it in the area where he hangs out
  • Ice cubes in his water bowl will keep the water at a better temperature

If you really don’t know, then a vet visit is a priority. He will conduct a physical exam and any extra tests he feels are needed to help with a diagnosis. Once he has the results he will discuss a treatment plan with you. Hopefully that will at least reduce the panting and make him more comfortable.

Has your dog been experiencing panting? What was the cause and what have you been doing to help? Sharing helps others, so please leave your comments below.

 

To book an appointment with an online dog trainer or for more information, please visit the help page.

 

Sources

My Dog Won’t Stop Panting, What Should I Do?

When Your Dog’s Panting Might Mean Trouble 

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs 

Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

 

 

 

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