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Breed & Health Resources

Why do dogs pant?

By Heather Burdo

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It’s normal for dogs to pant when they are hot or excited, but what about when it’s something else? Excessive panting in dogs isn’t a good sign if it’s out of the norm for your pup. Here are some things to keep in mind when your dog is panting.

First, what causes a dog to pant?

  • To cool off - They can’t sweat through their skin like we do, so dogs pant to circulate the necessary air through their body to cool down. Fun fact: Dogs do sweat through their paw pads!
  • Excitement or stress – It’s normal for a dog to pant when they are excited or fearful. Common causes of panting due to stress include vet visits, separation anxiety, and fireworks. If you think your pet may be panting due to stress, do what you can to remedy or remove them from the stressful situation.

Dogs take around 10-30 breaths per minute. Get to know your dog’s everyday breathing, so you can easily identify when something has changed. It’s normal for a dog to breathe harder after physical activity. And some dogs, like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers, are more prone to heavy breathing than other dogs due to their short snouts.

When is panting a cause for concern?

Aside from being hot, excited, or stressed, there are other reasons your dog may be breathing heavy. It’s important to know what is leading up to the panting so you can get your four-legged-companion proper care.

Potentially dangerous reasons for excessive panting:

  • Heat stroke - Panting is one of the earliest signs of an overheated dog, so pay attention if your dog is panting excessively when the temperature rises.
  • Poisoning - Make sure your dog didn’t rummage through the trash and eat something he wasn’t supposed to. Ingestion of toxic substances can lead to panting.
  • Chronic illness - Certain illnesses like respiratory disorders, Cushing’s disease, or heart failure could cause rapid panting.
  • Pain - When dogs are panting a lot, they could be dealing with pain and discomfort. Take a look at your dog’s gums - white or pale gums could indicate anemia (a lack of red blood cells). Not having enough oxygen can lead to a dog breathing heavy.

Why do dogs pant at night?

If your dog is panting more than usual at night, there are some things you can check out before you book a vet appointment.

  • Heat exhaustion - Check out the spot where your dog normally sleeps. Make sure he is getting enough air circulation and not sleeping on material that is too warm.
  • Anxiety - If you recently moved into a new home or had a change in your home, your dog’s panting at night could be from anxiety. Patience is required during this time. One trick is to go for a long walk a few hours before bed time to calm him down.
  • Dog dreams - Dogs panting a lot at night could be a result of dreaming. It’s possible your a dog to be dreaming of chasing something, resulting in heavier breathing. As long as your dog isn’t acting lethargic or whimpering at night, it should be okay. Psychology Today reveals that dogs begin to dream about 20 minutes after they fall asleep.

When to Call the Vet

If your dog starts panting suddenly and can’t stop - and there is no obvious culprit for it - call to schedule an appointment with the vet. If you think something is causing your dog to be in pain or discomfort, you will want to make sure they are seen soon, especially if the panting is intense. Check your dog’s gums. If they are white, purple, or blue your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen.

The sooner you are able to figure out the cause of your pup’s panting, to sooner your dog can feel like himself again.

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