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Panting is normal canine behavior that happens for various reasons, though not all are good. Understanding these reasons can help pet parents know what’s typical and what might indicate that something is wrong.
While flat-faced breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs pant more frequently than other breeds due to their short snouts, all dogs do it. Here are some of the most common reasons why:
Dogs don’t sweat; they pant to cool down. Panting exchanges hot air in a dog’s lungs for cooler air outside. It also allows moisture to evaporate from the tongue and nose, further cooling the dog.
Generally, the hotter the dog, the more they pant. Pet parents can help avoid overheating and heat stroke by providing their dog with plenty of water, ensuring there’s ample shade, and limiting time spent outdoors.
Dogs may pant after heavy exercise like an intense game of fetch or running alongside a pet parent. It’s not unlike a human becoming out of breath after a vigorous workout. Dogs will slow down or lay down to catch their breath and cool off. A break and some water can help avoid overheating and dehydration.
Panting isn’t always about regulating body temperature. In some cases, dogs may pant when they’re excited, such as meeting someone new, waiting for a pet parent to throw a ball, or anticipating a treat.
Dogs also pant in response to a stressful situation, such as going to the vet, hearing fireworks, or shortly after a pet parent leaves for work. They may look anxious or nervous. For instance, a dog might pace relentlessly, whine, or tuck their tail between their legs. Pet parents can help calm their stressed dogs by moving them from triggering situations to somewhere they feel safe.
Dogs are pretty good at hiding pain, but some signs, including panting, give them away:
Vomiting or diarrhea
Licking the affected area of their body
Vocalizations (whimpering or whining)
Behavioral changes such as irritability when touched or groomed (especially near the affected part of the body)
Various physical problems or conditions may also cause a dog to pant. They include:
Overeating or bloating
Certain medications (some prescriptions may increase a dog’s respiration)
Cushing’s disease (an overproduction of cortisol, the stress hormone, may cause excessive panting)
Laryngeal paralysis (the muscles at the back of the larynx become weak or paralyzed, causing panting and, often, high-pitched wheezing)
Ingesting a toxic substance or something a dog is allergic to can cause heavy panting, drooling, lethargy, and vomiting. To reduce the risk of consuming harmful substances, pet parents should keep household cleaners, vehicle fluids, medications, and human food (especially those poisonous to dogs) out of reach. Pet parents should also avoid bringing home plants toxic to animals.
Normal dog panting generally correlates with the outside temperature or the dog’s activity level. It may also relate to the situation. For instance, a dog panting while excited will often display signs of happiness, while a dog frightened of a thunderstorm may pace or look nervous.
Pet parents should take note of any other symptoms their dog might be exhibiting. Vomiting, appetite loss, lethargy, coughing, and other signs of an illness can often point toward a problem. Keeping track of a dog’s specific symptoms can aid in a diagnosis if the pet parent needs health advice from their primary vet or a licensed online vet.
The sound of a dog’s panting can sometimes indicate an issue. For example, dogs with laryngeal paralysis may make a high-pitched wheezing sound when they pant. Similarly, flat-faced breeds can make snorting sounds when they pant. The sound occurs due to a long soft palate or excess tissue in the throat.
Dogs with either of these conditions tend to be more prone to overheating and heatstroke because they don’t pant as efficiently as other dogs. Pet parents should take extra care to ensure their canines stay cool. Wheezing or snorting could indicate trouble.
While dog panting is typically a regular occurrence, unusual panting or panting accompanied by signs of illness or injury can point toward an issue. If a pet parent is ever worried about their dog’s panting, the Fuzzy Vet Team is on hand to help 24/7 to answer any questions.