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Is Your Dog Panting Too Much?

All dogs pant, especially when it's hot outside. But if your dog is panting excessively in conditions when he is relaxed and at a comfortable temperature, it may be time to seek guidance from a veterinarian, who can help you identify the underlying cause of this behavior. Here's everything you need to know about dog panting.

Why Dogs Pant
Dogs pant for a variety of reasons, but most commonly because they are hot. Unlike people, dogs can't sweat through their skin. Instead, they pant to release heat and cool down. If your dog was just running and playing, or if it's a hot day, it's normal to see him pant, explains Dr. Lori Scarlett, a veterinarian and the owner of Four Lakes Veterinary Clinic in Madison, Wisconsin. But some dogs, like those that are overweight or brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs and Boston terriers, will pant more than others.

If your dog is panting excessively, however, it could be a sign that something is wrong. "If your dog is panting in an air-conditioned house, while resting, and hasn't really done anything to get overheated or excited, then that panting isn't normal," says Dr. Scarlett.

Causes of Excessive Panting
There are many reasons why your dog may be panting excessively. In order to determine the cause, pay close attention to your dog's behavior and activities when the panting occurs.

Heatstroke and dehydration are some of the most common causes of excessive dog panting. If your dog becomes overheated, his saliva will become thick and sticky, and his tongue may turn bright red. He may also be weak, have difficulty walking, and experience symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. Signs of dehydration include dry or tacky-feeling gums, a very dry nose, sunken eyes and lethargy, Dr. Scarlett explains.

The best way to prevent your dog from getting overheated is to monitor the amount of time he spends outdoors during extreme weather. "If you must be outside, be sure to take frequent breaks, rest in the shade and have clean, cool water available for your dog," says Dr. Scarlett. On a really hot day, you can help your dog maintain a comfortable body temperature by wetting him with cool, but not ice cold, water. Go over these tips with your dog walker so your pup will stay safe and healthy, even under someone else's watch.

Stress or anything that causes anxiety in your dog can also cause excessive panting. Loud noises, such as fireworks and thunderstorms, or significant life changes, such as the addition of a new pet or baby into the family, can bring on anxiety-related panting. Avoid the stressor, if possible, explains Dr. Marie Haynes, a veterinarian and the creator of the website Ask A Vet Question. For instance, if loud noises cause your dog to panic, move him to a sound-proof area when there's a thunderstorm. You may also want to consult with a dog behaviorist, who can train your dog to cope with certain situations.

For more tips on handling anxiety caused by noise, check out 6 Ways to Help Ease Your Dog's Fear of Loud Noises.

Panting can be brought on by any type of stress or over-excitement, but it can also be a result of an illness or chronic condition, such as Cushing's Disease, heart disease or a pulmonary disease. Your dog's excessive panting may be caused by pain, discomfort or a fever related to an illness. "If you are noticing that your dog is panting constantly and can't seem to get relief then there could be a chronic health issue in play," says Dr. Haynes.

When To Call Your Vet
If your dog is severely distressed, coughing or struggling to breathe, take him to see the veterinarian right away, as these can all be signs of a serious problem, as is the case if your dog is displaying any signs of dehydration or heatstroke. You may also want to consult with a veterinarian any time your dog is panting excessively for no apparent reason. Your vet can perform tests on your dog to determine the underlying cause of this behavior, and prescribe medications, such as Xanax or Prozac, if necessary.

Shahrzad Warkentin owns an energetic rescue dog. As a freelance writer, she has had several years of experience covering pet care and health.

Why Do Dogs Pant?

Panting is a normal behavior. Dogs sweat a little through their paw pads but they largely depend on panting to expel hot air from their lungs and draw in cool air to cool down, notes veterinary behaviorist Dr. Lore Haug of Texas Veterinary Behavior Service in Sugar Land, Texas.

While it’s normal for dogs to pant after a long walk or in sweltering temperatures, panting during rest (or in a temperature-controlled home) could be a sign of other issues such as discomfort or pain. Certain medications, including steroids, opioids and thyroid medications can cause increased panting and overweight dogs are also more prone to rapid breathing. Anxiety is another common cause of panting.

“Just like we use breathing exercises [in yoga and meditation] to tap into our anti-fight or flight response, dogs do the same thing,” Haug says. “Panting can help dogs relax and distract them from discomfort.”

Haug looks for physical cues to determine why a dog won’t stop panting. A dog that is anxious tends to have his mouth open, lips pulled back and tongue in his mouth while a dog panting due to heat usually has his tongue hanging out of its mouth.

Dogs may pant for a combination of reasons, including pain and anxiety or weight issues and medication side effects.

Monitoring your dog’s behavior to determine whether it is related to temperature or only happens during certain situations ( like thunderstorms ) may help explain why your dog won’t stop panting. A physical exam can also help your veterinarian determine the root cause of chronic panting.

Why Is My Dog Panting? Reasons Include Injury, Disease, And Anxiety

Tank, my Lab, and I returned from our weekly agility class and plopped down in the living room to relax. Two hours later, I noticed that Tank was still panting as if he had just exercised. That didn’t seem right. I watched him carefully the next day and saw he was panting heavily even after he just walked outside for break. The veterinarian diagnosed laryngeal paralysis and recommended corrective surgery.

What if I hadn’t noticed? Tank could have collapsed and died from lack of oxygen. Dogs pant all the time for various reasons. How do you figure out if something is actually wrong? Sometimes dogs pant because they are anxious about something, and other times panting can be a symptom of chronic disease. Here’s what to know about why your dog might pant.

Reasons A Dog Might Suddenly Pant

Heavy exercise: It’s normal for a dog to pant after exertion, and you can expect his breathing to return to normal after he rests. If he gets regular exercise, he’ll recover more quickly. Hard exercise, such as chasing a ball, will cause more panting than a stroll around the block.

Heat: Dogs don’t sweat, so the only way they can cool themselves is by panting. On a hot day, limit your dog’s exercise, especially if he is a snub-nosed (brachycephalic) breed such as a Pug, Bulldog or Boxer. These breeds can quickly succumb to heat exhaustion, even after no exercise at all on a warm day. If your dog is drooling excessively, doesn’t want to get up and walk, seems confused, has a rapid heartbeat, or suddenly collapses, heatstroke may be the cause. Read more here.

Anxiety/Fear: Panting, yawning, blinking, lip licking, and pacing are all signs of stress. Thunderstorms, car rides, or meeting new dogs can all cause anxiety, and your dog’s physical signs and body language are the only way he can tell you he’s uncomfortable.

Insect or snakebite: A bee sting can cause an allergic reaction in a dog, just as it does in humans. In addition to panting and drooling, the bite site might swell. In an extreme case, the dog may collapse. The same signs might indicate snakebite.

Poison: Snail bait, rat poison, antifreeze, and other household items can quickly make your dog really sick. Signs include panting, seizures, lethargy, and vomiting. If you suspect your dog has ingested something toxic, take him to the veterinarian immediately, even if it’s late at night.

Injury: You throw the ball for Rex, and he suddenly cries out as he runs after it. As he limps back to you, he is panting and whimpers when he puts weight on his rear leg. Even a minor injury can be painful and cause him to pant.

Bloat: This life-threatening condition requires immediate veterinary care. It is most common in large, deep-chested dogs. If your dog is panting, salivating, biting at his sides, pacing, and retching without vomiting, bloat is a possibility, especially if he has recently eaten. Read more about bloat.

Diseases That Cause A Dog To Pant

If none of the above situations apply, panting might be a sign of chronic pain or a disease that affects breathing, especially in older dogs. The following conditions may cause your dog to pant in pain or from respiratory difficulties.

Arthritis: This painful condition can cause panting when your dog moves around, even if it’s just to resettle himself on his bed. The most obvious signs are limping or difficulty standing up and lying down.

Heart disease: If the heart doesn’t pump properly, the body doesn’t get enough oxygen, causing pets to pant. Other signs include lethargy and exercise intolerance. Read more about heart disease.

Obesity: Overweight dogs may have difficulty breathing when active, causing them to pant. Obesity also aggravates arthritis because stiff joints must carry more weight.

Laryngeal paralysis: In this condition, the vocal folds in a dog’s throat cease to work properly, either not moving at all or moving out of sync when he tries to breathe. An affected dog will tire easily, be sensitive to heat, pant excessively, and take an abnormally long time to recover from exercise. Read more about laryngeal paralysis.

Cushing’s Disease: This disease of the adrenal gland has signs that include hair loss, increased appetite, increased drinking and urination, and panting. Read more about Cushing’s disease here and here.

Finding the cause of your dog’s panting is not always an easy task, and an urgent situation can present the same signs as a not-so-urgent problem. Always consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Dogs don’t sweat like we do. Although they do excrete some sweat through their paws, the primary way they cool down is by panting and circulating air throughout their body. Because dogs are not as efficient a t cooling themselves down as we are, it is important that they always have access to fresh water and shade.

Most of the time this is nothing to be concerned about, however if you notice that your dog is excessively panting, they could be experiencing heatstroke. Heatstroke can be fatal, so it is imperative that dogs are closely monitored during extreme temperatures, walked during the cooler times of the day, and never left in a car. Please be careful with senior dogs as they are more prone to heatstroke. Read more about heatstroke here.

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