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Why Is My Dog Panting Heavily? Causes and Treatments

All dogs pant, particularly when they’ve been exercising or they’re too hot. That rapid shallow breathing with their tongue hanging out is a sight we’re all used to seeing and isn’t usually anything to be concerned about. However, panting heavily or panting for a prolonged period of time could be a sign of something more serious.

 

Why do dogs pant?

Panting in dogs can be normal and it serves a number of purposes. So, why and when do dogs pant?

 

To cool down

Dogs cannot sweat through their skin to cool down in the way that people do. Their paws can sweat a little but they have such a small surface area in comparison to the rest of their bodies that this does very little to help cool them down. When dogs pant, however, they are exchanging hot air from their body with cooler air from the environment. Panting causes moisture to evaporate from their upper respiratory tract, speeding up the cooling process and allowing them to effectively regulate their body temperature.

 

When they’re anxious

Panting can sometimes be a behavioral sign that a dog is uncomfortable or worried. For example, you might observe behavioral panting when your dog visits the veterinarian, or if he is scared of loud noises such as fireworks. 

 

Brachycephalic syndrome

Dog breeds with flat faces such as Bulldogs and Pugs have shorter nostrils and an abnormally narrow upper respiratory tract which makes breathing more difficult for them. This condition is referred to as BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome). As a result, these breeds tend to pant a lot more than other dog breeds because they struggle to take in enough oxygen to meet their body’s requirements. Brachycephalic breeds are also more susceptible to overheating and heatstroke than other dogs because they do not pant as efficiently.

 

When is my dog’s panting abnormal?

If your dog is panting more heavily than he usually does after exercise or if his panting sounds harsher and he is using more effort to pant, then there could be something wrong. You should also be concerned if your dog is panting a lot when he hasn’t been exercising or if she is panting when she isn’t hot.

 

What are the causes of heavy panting in dogs?

There are several causes of heavy dog panting:

 

Pain

If your dog is injured then his panting might be due to stress. Arthritis in dogs can cause them to pant more heavily than usual, particularly at times when they would usually be sleeping, such as at night-time.

 

Heatstroke

Heatstroke is most likely to occur on a hot day, for instance, if a dog overheats while out exercising, or if he is left in a hot car. Brachycephalic breeds are more susceptible to heatstroke and can develop it even on a cooler day.

 

Alongside heavy panting, other signs of heatstroke include a rapid heartbeat, excess salivation, and bright red gums and tongue. Left untreated, heatstroke is life-threatening so contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has overheated.

 

Allergic reaction

Just like in people, an allergic reaction can cause swelling of the head, neck, or tongue which makes breathing more difficult. If this occurs, your dog is likely to pant heavily in an attempt to breathe normally. Contact your veterinarian straight away if you suspect your dog is having an allergic reaction.

 

Obesity

Overweight dogs often have breathing difficulties which result in excessive panting. Obesity can have serious consequences for all of your dog’s body systems so speak to your veterinarian about a weight-reduction plan. 

 

Cardiac disease

Heart disease means that the heart does not pump blood around the body as efficiently as it should. This leads to reduced oxygen delivery to the lungs, resulting in heavy panting as your dog attempts to take in more oxygen.

 

Respiratory disease

Respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, laryngeal paralysis, pneumonia, and lung tumors could all result in heavy panting in dogs.

 

Anemia

Anemia is a reduction in red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. As a result, anemia can cause heavy dog panting as they try and compensate to meet their oxygen demand.

 

Cushing’s disease

Also referred to as hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s disease results in excess cortisol being produced by the adrenal glands. As well as excessive dog panting, other signs of this disease include a pot-belly, thin skin, hair loss, weight gain, and excessive thirst.

 

What are the treatments for heavy panting in dogs?

The treatment for heavy panting in dogs depends entirely on the cause. Your veterinarian will perform a full clinical exam and may suggest other tests such as blood tests and x-rays to diagnose the cause of your dog’s heavy panting.

 

Brachycephalic dogs might require surgery to widen their nostrils and remove the excess soft tissue from their upper respiratory tract which opens up their airways and enables them to breathe better.

 

Treatment of heatstroke involves gradual cooling of the body temperature alongside supportive care such as intravenous fluids and medications to reduce inflammation. If your dog’s heavy panting is due to obesity, then weight loss can greatly reduce the severity of his panting. Weight loss can also help greatly reduce the pain experienced from arthritis although additional pain-relief medication is usually required.

 

Allergic reactions are usually treated with antihistamines and anti-inflammatory medications. Cardiac disease is often treated with medications to reduce the severity of your dog’s symptoms which often includes a reduction in panting. Cushing’s disease is also treated with daily medication which can help stop your dog from panting so heavily.

 

If your dog’s panting is due to anemia, then your veterinarian will probably suggest further testing to determine and treat the underlying cause of the anemia. Some diseases such as lung tumors may not be treatable, although medication can sometimes improve your dog’s symptoms for a while.

 

Conclusion

All dogs pant when they’re too hot or after exercise. You will soon get to know what’s normal for your dog so if you are concerned that he is panting more heavily than usual, or he is panting when he normally wouldn’t be, then contact your veterinarian to get him checked over. If you suspect an allergic reaction or heatstroke, then take your dog to the veterinarian in an emergency.



FAQs

 

Is dog panting normal?

All dogs pant from time to time, usually if they have been exercising or if they are too hot. Heavy panting in a dog is not normal and could be a sign that something is wrong. 

 

Why do dogs pant?

Dogs usually pant to cool down because they cannot sweat through their skin like people can. Sometimes a dog will pant when he’s anxious or scared. Abnormal panting can be a sign that your dog is unwell so you should take him to a veterinarian to get him checked over.

 

What if my dog is panting at night?

It could be that the room is too hot, or it could be a sign of anxiety. In older dogs, it can be a sign of pain from arthritis as they find it difficult to get comfy. Your veterinarian will help to determine the cause of your dog’s panting at night.