Why Is My Dog Panting? (And Should I Be Concerned?)
by Jessi Larson
As a dog owner, you may take a look at your pup’s breathing and wonder “Why is my dog panting?”
For the most part, this is something that you shouldn’t have to worry about – panting is your dog’s main way of cooling off or catching their breath after vigorous exercise.
But in certain cases, panting can be an indication of an illness or overheating, both of which require immediate veterinary care.
So if you’re trying to figure out why your four-legged friend is panting, here are some reasons as well as possible warning signs you should consider.
The General Reasons for Dogs Panting
For the most part, panting is a completely normal behavior for your dog. The reason dogs pant is either from excitement or because they don’t have a means to cool their body off with sweat, so they use panting to cool off during warm weather or after exercise.
It’s important that you get to know your dog’s normal breathing and panting pattern so you can identify when the panting has become abnormal or heavier than usual.
When to Seek Help
If your dog’s panting doesn’t seem like a part of its usual breathing, or if you notice other behavior in your dog that doesn’t seem normal, such as shaking, restlessness or any sign of physical discomfort or pain, it could be pointing to an underlying health issue. This should be evaluated by a vet as soon as possible.
Also, if at any point you notice your dog struggling for breath and see a change in the color of their gums or tongue, take your dog to the closest veterinary emergency care, as these can be signs of low oxygen levels.
Possible Underlying Health Issues
While not every dog panting is a sign of trouble, there are some serious health conditions that cause heavy panting in pups.
If you suspect any of these to be at play, you should visit an emergency veterinary clinic at once. Here are the conditions to watch out for:
1. Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is one of the most serious causes of heavy panting in dogs and should be addressed as quickly as possible.
If you suspect your dog might be panting due to heat stroke, immediately take them to a cool spot and offer cool (not cold) water as well as ice packs around the neck and chest.
As soon as you’ve successfully cooled your dog down, take them for a visit to the local vet.
Some other symptoms of heatstroke include, glassy eyes, fatigue, seizures and vomiting.
Heat related illness can be fatal to your dog and should be taken extremely seriously. The best way to avoid heat stroke is prevention so always offer your pet a cool, shady spot with plenty of water, especially during the hottest months.
Another cause for abnormal panting in dogs can be poisoning or an allergic reaction. As sad as it may be, poisoning is one of the most common causes for veterinary visits in dogs.
Despite your best efforts, there are plenty of environmental toxins out there that can be ingested by your dog and cause a serious reaction. For example, chocolate, raisins, toxic plants, rat poison or antifreeze are all common toxic substances for dogs.
If you suspect your pup has ingested something that could cause potential poisoning, it’s important to visit a veterinary emergency service.
3. Heart Failure
Excessive panting in dogs can also be a sign of heart failure. Just like in humans, the dog’s heart is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood through the dog’s body. However, as the heart muscles weaken, they may eventually give way to a full heart failure.
Besides excessive panting, dogs will display various signs of heart failure some of which include fatigue, coughing and the inability to exercise.
4. Respiratory Infection
The reason behind your dog’s excessive panting could also be a respiratory disorder or infection that’s preventing normal breathing. Some examples of possible conditions that can cause abnormal panting include pneumonia, laryngeal paralysis and lung tumors.
Much like in humans, obesity is a growing problem in dogs and can cause a variety of health issues, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis – just to name a few.
If your dog suffers from obesity, excessive panting may signal that there isn’t enough oxygen making its way to vital organs.
Anemia is caused by a drop of red blood cells, which also carry oxygen throughout your dog’s body. Because of this, anemia can cause excessive panting in dogs due to oxygen deprivation.
7. Brachycephalic Syndrome
Brachycephalic dog breeds, or those with flat faces, often have a problem breathing normally. This is especially aggravated when eating meals or after heavy exercise.
This condition, referred to as the Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), is a result of the narrowing of your dog’s upper respiratory tract.
8. Cushing’s Disease
Cushing’s disease occurs when your dog’s adrenal system produces too much cortisol. Dogs that are affected are usually middle-aged and up and may display symptoms such as increased panting, increased thirst, frequent urination and increased appetite.
Final Thoughts: Why Is My Dog Panting?
If you’re still wondering, “Why is my dog panting?” remember that this is a normal behavior in most cases.
Dogs can pant from excitement, exercise or simply to cool down. However, excessive or abnormal panting can also be a sign of a serious medical condition, including heat stroke, poisoning or heart failure, and requires immediate veterinary attention.
If you suspect any of these to be at play, you should take your dog to get checked out by a vet as soon as possible.
How to Find the Right Veterinarian to Care for Your Dog
As you can see above, it’s important that you have a veterinarian you know and trust.
When you have a trusted vet who knows your dog’s overall health and history, it’s much easier to figure out what’s causing their current ailment.
In this case, you could quickly schedule an appointment or even email or call with the question of why is my dog panting?
To find that dependable doctor, follow these steps.
1. Look Locally
First things first: Find a vet that is near you. If heaven forbid something happens to your dog and it’s even remotely urgent, you’ll want to be able to get to the clinic in a short period of time.
This is also important if you have to take time off work for vet appointments. It’s tough enough to get away from work but even tougher when you factor in extra drive time.
For the most part, vet visits are usually planned. You know when your dog’s due for an exam or need vaccinations.
But as we’ve learned throughout the years, things come up. Your dog ate something funky and doesn’t seem like himself. You spot a weird growth and can’t stop worrying. Your dog has a cut on his face that needs a few stitches.
Or in this case, you need to know why is my dog panting.
If your vet is closer, that makes things much easier.
2. Read Online Reviews
This is probably an obvious statement, but reading online reviews is incredibly important as a consumer.
And now there are more sites than ever with reviews – Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc.
Search around and see what people are saying about each clinic you’re looking at.
3. Ask for Recommendations
Another useful tip is to ask around. Where do your neighbors take their dogs? How about friends, family and co-workers in the area?
If your dog is taking training lessons or going to doggy daycare, get the opinion of people at these organizations, too.
This is a great method because you’ll get honest, qualitative feedback that can help make your decision.
4. Do a Test Run
Once you find a vet clinic that seems like a good fit, make an appointment for your dog to be seen.
In this initial appointment, the vet will conduct an assessment of your dog’s health. But really, you’ll also be working on an assessment of your own.
Things to consider as you figure out if this is the right place for you and your dog:
- Facilities – The first thing is to take inventory of the clinic. Is it clean and comfortable?
- Veterinarian – Most importantly, what do you think of the vet? Did they explain things clearly? How was their bedside manner? How did your dog respond to them?
- Support staff – It’s not just the vet you have to consider. You’ll actually be spending just as much time with the support staff, which includes the vet technicians, front office team members and so forth.
- Service – How was the level of service? Is the staff pleasant? Was it easy to make an appointment? How is the communication?
5. Trust Your Gut
As always, trust your gut reaction. It’s more important than people realize.
If you had a good first impression of the clinic and the team and your dog responded well, by all means proceed.
If something felt off and the experience wasn’t what you had hoped for, don’t be afraid to look for other options.
Bonus Tip: Find an Emergency Pet Hospital
While you’re looking for a standard vet clinic, it’s smart to also identify emergency pet hospitals in the area.
This is a place to go if your dog needs care urgently and you can’t wait for the next available appointment at your regular vet.
If your dog has a serious issue come up outside of the normal office hours or on the weekend – and it will happen – this is the place to go.