Dog Panting 101: Why Do Dogs Pant? And What To Do If Your Dog Is Panting?

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Dogs pant, that’s just one thing that makes them, well, dogs! Whether your dog feeling hot on a bright and sunny day, feeling tired after some demanding physical activity or feeling all excited and happy to see you (at least I hope they feel that way!), dogs like to pant.

The main reason dogs pant in these circumstances (and others) is to cool their bodies down.

Since dogs have a very small amount of sweat glands in their skin (unlike us humans who have many, many sweat glands), they can’t cool their bodies down by sweating, so they do so by panting.

However, not all dog panting is equal. The normal panting that happens for a reason is completely fine, but any panting that happens excessively or for no apparent reason might be a sign of potential problems!

Excessive or unexplained panting can be a symptom of a serious health issue, and has many reasons.

So, let’s start off by covering everything you need to know to be able to answer the question of “why do dogs pant” and “why is my dog panting a lot?”.

Why Is My Dog Panting A Lot? What Causes Excessive Panting In Dogs?

As we established above, it’s completely normal for dogs to pant every now and then when they’re hot, want to catch a breath after some exercise or are excited. However, it’s not normal for dogs to heavily pant and for long durations of time.

Here are some of the most common reasons that cause dogs to pant excessively:

  • Heatstroke: One of the most common reasons that lead to heavy panting in dogs, and one of the most serious as well. As soon as you suspect that your dog is suffering from heatstroke, you have to act very fast and get professional help, because time is a crucial element that will determine your dog’s chances of recovery. If you’re too late, heatstroke can lead to permanent brain damage in your dog and sadly even death. Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs include: Excessive panting, lethargy and weakness, increased heart rate, increase in temperature all the way to 103-104 degrees, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and seizures.
  • Poisoning/Intoxication: When your dog heavily pants and starts to vomit, this can be a sign that they have ingested poison and are intoxicated.
  • Heart Failure: The most common symptoms that show on your dog when they go through heart faliure are great difficulty in breathing, tiredness, and excessive coughing.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: Cushing’s syndrome is a very common hormonal imbalance in dogs caused by excessive production of cortisol in their body, and becomes apparent in your dog when their appetite increases, they get thirsty much more frequently and experience hair loss in various spots in their body. Hypothyroidism is also a common hormonal imbalance in dogs, which is accompanied by unexplained weight gain, lethargy, increased thirst and changes in the quality of the coat.
  • Respiratory Disorders: Such as pneumonia and lung tumors.
  • Pain: Since dog’s can’t communicate to us that they’re in pain due to injuring a part of their body, excessive panting may be the way they choose to communicate such a thing to us. You can also clearly tell that your dog has been injured if you see their pupils have become abnormally enlarged, they’re refusing to eat like normal, they are restless and anxious and they are licking/biting one specific part of their body, which is usually the part they have injured. If you think your dog has injured any part of their body, you have to immediately get them to professional veterinary care. Your dog might also be in pain due to other issues, such as bloating and pancreatitis.
  • Medicine: Medications that are usually given to dogs for various reasons, such as prednisone, may cause heavy panting.
  • Eclampsia: Which is a disease that strikes nursing mothers where a drastic decrease in their blood calcium levels causes them to not be able to stand or walk like they used to.
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions in dogs often prevent them from easy breathing, which leads to heavy panting.
  • Fever: Fever in dogs is often accompanied by your dog not wanting to eat, not wanting to move around as much and over-all changes behavioral changes that you will easily notice. If your dog’s temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, this is a very dangerous situation and your dog needs immediate professional care.
  • Infections: Any infections from viral infections, bacterial infections all the way to fungal infections might lead to excessive dog panting.
  • Irritations: Such as ones in your dog’s airways.
  • Storms: Some dogs start heavily panting when an electrical storm passes by, but return to normal when it goes away. Other dogs also start to heavily pant due to fear when they hear thunder and see lightning if there’s a storm outside.
  • Obesity: Just like obesity is a main reason human beings breathe heavily, the same is true for dogs. Because obese dogs are more likely to heat up and get tired way too early on in any physical activity, you can expect them to heavily pant at the simplest of things. An obese dog is a dog that isn’t living their life to the fullest, so please try your best to keep your dog as fit as they can be at all times!
  • Stress/Shock: If your dog is panting excessively and shaking as well, this can be a big sign of stress.
  • Low Blood Sugar: Dogs start to excessively pant and shake if they have abnormally low blood sugar levels. All you need to do here is give them the tiniest bit of anything sugary (ideally honey) and they will be just fine.
  • Heart-worm: If your dog is at an advanced stage of heart-worm infection and they haven’t been treated properly yet, they will experience heavy panting.

I Have A Panting Dog, What Should I Do?

So, how exactly can you tell if your dog’s panting should be a reason for you to worry?

The simplest way would be to stay on the safe side and get them to professional medical care if you notice that they’re panting heavier than usual or for no apparent reason.

After all, you are the one that lives with your dog and sees them on a day to day basis, so you know what they’re like in normal circumstances and if there’s something abnormal going on or not.

So again, these are the situations where you need to get your dog checked on by professionals immediately:

  • Increase in the frequency of panting
  • Increase in the intensity of panting with no apparent stimulus (such as exercise)
  • Panting for longer-than-normal periods of time (for more than ten minutes)
  • The color of your dog’s tongue and/or gums becomes blue or white, which usually means that your dog isn’t getting enough oxygen to their body

These can be signs of serious problems in your dog, which is why a professional has to get involved in these cases immediately.

If you know your dog really well, you will easily be able to tell normal panting from abnormal panting that is a reason for worry.

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