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Why Do Dogs Pant?

Lab Dog Panting

Why Do Dogs Pant?

Dogs can pant for a variety of reasons. Most reasons are normal and pretty common, but others may be a cause for concern. As dog owners, we need to understand and recognize the signs and symptoms associated with heavy panting. Read on to understand the difference between normal panting and panting that warrants a visit to the vet.

Causes of Panting in Dogs

Perhaps the most common cause of heavy panting in dogs is due to vigorous exercise. This, of course, is nothing to stress about. This is just your dog trying to cool himself (or herself) off. Just make sure your pup has plenty of water, some shade, and some breaks during exercise.

Then, of course, there are some more serious causes for heavy panting in dogs. Dog owners should become accustomed to how often or heavily your dog normally pants (it can depend on age, size, breed, etc.) so they can be able to recognize abnormally heavy panting.

Bulldog panting

Serious Causes of Dog Panting

Heatstroke

  • Excessive panting and signs of discomfort can indicate heatstroke in dogs. A dog overheating may also be unable or unwilling to move around. 
  • Older, overweight, or brachycephalic (Pugs, Bulldogs, and other flat-faced breeds) are more prone to heatstroke.
  • While heatstroke can happen due to high temperatures and vigorous exercise, it is often caused by careless dog owners leaving the pup in a hot car or not providing them adequate water or shade outside.
  • Place your dog in a cool bathtub or run cool water from a hose over him if you suspect heatstroke. And, of course, call your vet immediately.

Poisoning

We all know dogs like to eat anything and everything - most of which aren't edible or suitable for them! Your dog may exhibit heavy panting after they have consumed something toxic.

If your dog is excessively and continuously panting with no apparent cause, take them to the vet immediately.

Chronic Illness

Chronic illnesses such as Cushing's Syndrome, heart failure, and respiratory disorders can all make your pooch pant heavily.

  • Heart Failure can cause breathing difficulty, reduced exercise tolerance, and coughing. Treatments can include medications such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics.
  • Cushing’s Syndrome occurs when too much cortisol is being produced by your dog’s adrenal glands. Symptoms can include heavy panting, excessive hunger, thirst and urination, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance. Treatment may consist of adrenal-suppressing drugs or surgery.
  • Respiratory Disorders in dogs can vary from mild to severe. Just like humans, your pup can catch a cold. While these colds range in severity, they are always something dog owners need to be cautious about. Along with heavy panting and labored breathing, severe respiratory disorders symptoms include sneezy, coughing, wheezing, nasal and eye discharge, eye inflammation, coughing up phlegm or mucus, and fever. Treatment depends on the condition.

Injury or Pain

Since, sadly, our furry friends can't talk to us - it's up to us dog owners to identify whether or not our pup has suffered an injury or type of trauma that has resulted in pain. Heavy panting is a potential indicator that your precious pooch is in some pain. Other signs that your pup has suffered an injury are enlarged pupils, reduced appetite, them licking or biting the site of injury/pain, and restless and anxious behavior. Medications such as prednisone may help.

What To Do When Your Pup Is Excessively Panting

Of course, all of the severe causes of a dog panting mentioned above warrant a call or visit the vet immediately. Your veterinarian will know the best route to identify the root cause of your dog's panting and will conduct the proper treatment specific to your furry friend.