Normal vs. Abnormal Panting in Dogs
No one knows your dog better than you, so when they are stressed and panting, it can be upsetting for you as well. Of course, a little bit of panting is normal, especially if the weather is warm or if your furry running buddy has just joined you for some exercise. But what if your dog is panting more than normal, or if they are clearly distressed? Why do dogs pant? And how do you calm a panting dog?
Why do dogs pant?
There are many reasons why dogs pant, aside from heat and exertion. Stress, fear, and anxiety are common behavioral reasons for panting. So, if your dog is anxious, you might expect them to pant or show signs of stress during noisy firework season, in the car, or if you bring home a new baby (furry or human!). Every dog is different and some may cope with things that others find stressful. You can find some tips for introducing your dog to your new baby here, and your veterinarian will be able to help with any concerns you have too. However, panting can also indicate a medical issue, like pain, breathing distress, or feeling unwell. For example, it’s common for arthritic dogs to pant if their legs feel sore and stiff or if a dog has a painful ear infection or other source of pain.
How do you know if your dog’s panting is normal or excessive?
A little bit of panting when the weather is sunny or after some strenuous playtime is normal dog behavior, but what if your dog is panting excessively? How do you know if it’s a problem? First, you should consider the situation in which your dog is panting and whether this would usually cause them to pant. For instance, a young, fit dog wouldn’t normally pant while lying down when the weather is cool. Equally, if your dog has other symptoms aside from panting – perhaps they are particularly hungry or thirsty, has vomiting or diarrhea, or seems otherwise unwell - this could signify an underlying health condition.
You should also ask yourself whether they could be reacting to something stressful. If your dog is panting at night or when you are getting ready to leave the house, they might have separation anxiety. However, if they are a senior dog who is panting at night, it could indicate doggy dementia, known as canine cognitive dysfunction.
Ultimately, if your dog is panting in a situation where the cause is not apparent and they don't calm down after a few minutes, this would be called excessive panting.
How can you calm your dog if they are panting?
If your dog has heatstroke or seems unwell, you should speak to a veterinarian. However, you can try the following methods to help calm your panting dog:
Cool them down
If your dog is panting a little due to the heat, it’s worth acting quickly to cool them down before they get heatstroke. Allowing them to cool off in a river, stream, or paddling pool, or using cool water from a hose or shower should help. You can also use ice cubes or even freeze their toys in a container of water to give them a fun activity that keeps them busy and cool at the same time!
Find some shade
If your dog might be panting because they are hot, it's best to find some shade or take them inside to somewhere cool. Dogs can’t lose heat very easily, so getting them out of the sun should help quickly.
Offer them a drink
Offering your dog some refreshing water will keep them cool and hydrated in the warm weather and should help if she is panting because they are hot. Adding flavors like meat juices or low-salt stock can help to encourage your furry friend to drink.
Find somewhere calm
If your dog might be panting because they are stressed or anxious, you should try taking them somewhere calm, away from any people, noise, or hustle and bustle. Calming diffusers, collars, and sprays might also help create a calming environment for your stressed pooch to chill.
Seek veterinary advice
If your panting pooch doesn’t start to calm down, or if they have developed any other symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian for advice. Your veterinarian will be able to examine them and do any necessary tests to find out the reason behind the panting.
How do you calm a stressed dog panting?
How to calm a panting dog depends on what the cause is. If you're sure that your dog is panting because they are stressed, you should try to identify the cause of the stress. It might be another dog, loud noises like fireworks or thunder, or perhaps they may have separation anxiety. Once you know the reason, you should take them away from whatever is stressing them to somewhere calm and quiet. Long-term behavior issues like noise phobias and separation anxiety might need the input of a veterinary behaviorist.
Why is my dog panting so much while resting?
If your dog is panting while resting, they could be hot, in pain, anxious, or feeling unwell. If they have other symptoms like drinking or eating more or peeing more, they might have Cushing’s disease. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine the cause of the panting and give advice on how to treat or manage it.
Why is my dog panting excessively for no good reason?
Dogs can pant excessively for many reasons, including heat, exertion, pain, stress, and certain medical conditions. If you think your dog might be panting excessively, you should speak to your veterinarian.
When to Contact Your Veterinarian
It’s not always easy to calm a panting dog, and some causes of dog panting can be serious. Therefore, if your dog doesn’t calm down soon after being cooled and taken somewhere calm and quiet, you should arrange to see a veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to find the underlying reason and support you in getting your pooch to feel better soon.