You know that it’s normal for your dog to pant, especially on a hot day or after a bout of vigorous exercise.
But what’s not normal is if your dog’s panting heavily and you can’t seem to find out why. How many breaths does your dog take every minute?
Your dog will likely take between 10 and 30 breaths every 60 seconds when at rest. If your dog’s a larger breed, he will likely take more breaths per minute than a smaller one.
When your dog pants, he can take up to 400 breaths a minute!
As a dog owner, you should be aware of your dog’s panting, what’s normal for it, and try to find out what could be causing excessive panting because in some cases your dog’s heavy panting can be a sign of a medical emergency – he just can’t tell you what’s bugging him.
With that in mind, let’s check out some heavy panting causes and what you can do about them.
- Why Do Dogs Pant?
- What Does Panting In Dogs Look Like?
- Common Causes For Dog Panting
- Why Does Your Dog Pant At Night?
- Is Your Dog Just Panting Because It’s Old?
- When Should You Worry About Panting?
- How To Prevent Panting In Dogs
- Related Questions
Why Do Dogs Pant?
Dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves down on a hot day or after running around the block in the way we can. So, to cool down their bodies, they engage in panting.
This helps oxygen to circulate around their bodies. It also helps water from their upper respiratory tract and mouth to evaporate so that they can cool down. Panting may even cause their tongues to get cold!
You’ll likely notice that dogs will pant when they play. This isn’t a cause for concern. The important thing is to see that the dog looks happy – its eyes and other facial features will look relaxed and its tail will be wagging. It might even look like your dog’s smiling!
What Does Panting In Dogs Look Like?
When your dog pants, he’s basically breathing with his mouth. His lips will be pulled back as he draws in breath, then his nostrils will quiver when he exhales.
His tongue will stick out and you might be able to hear his breathing. Healthy panting shouldn’t be accompanied by troubling breathing sounds, such as rattling or whistling.
You might notice your dog pants more when it’s really hot or they’ve been running around in the garden a lot. However, it’s a red flag if you notice that your dog’s panting for no good reason or the panting is more intense than usual. What’s going on?
Common Causes For Dog Panting
Here are some of the most common reasons why your dog might be panting heavily.
Your Dog’s Breed
Some dog breeds will pant more than others. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs, are an example.
The reason why this happens is because these breeds have squished faces that make it harder for them to breathe properly. This, however, makes them more susceptible to getting heatstroke.
If your dog’s been outside in the sun on a hot day, he or she could have heatstroke. This can cause a dog to pant heavily because its body is overheating. You need to find ways to cool down your dog quickly, so do the following:
- Move your dog inside or into a shady spot where it’s cool.
- Gently and slowly submerge your dog into cool water – you want to avoid cold water as this makes blood vessels narrower.
- If you can’t submerge your dog into water, such as because it fights you off when you try, wet a few towels and place them on your dog’s head, chest, and neck. This will do the trick.
- Let your dog drink cool water. If he doesn’t want to drink, you can try giving him some ice cubes to lick.
- Never splash your dog with the watering hose. On extremely hot days, this water can be hot. Even if the water’s cold, you want to allow your dog to cool down gradually.
- After cooling down your dog, make sure you take him to the vet.
Heatstroke is one of the reasons you should never really take your dog for a walk until temperatures are below 68 degree F. Anything more such as 80 degrees F could be too hot for your dog.
If your dog’s battling a fever, this could cause him to feel hot and pant. A fever is also a sign of an underlying condition.
The normal temperature for dogs is 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, so if it’s higher than this you should take your dog to the vet as his panting is alerting you to a bigger issue that needs to be investigated.
If your dog’s suffering from a chronic health condition, this can cause it to battle to breathe and pant. Here are some common health conditions that can cause your dog to pant heavily even when it’s not a hot day.
- Heart failure: If your dog’s battling heart failure, this can show up as symptoms such as laborious or difficult breathing. Other symptoms include exercise intolerance.
- Cushing’s syndrome: This is when your dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, but if this is what your dog’s suffering from then heavy panting won’t be the only symptom. Your dog will likely experience excessive hunger, thirst, and/or have a pot belly.
- Respiratory problems: Conditions such as pneumonia and lung tumors can all show up in the form of heavy panting.
- Anaemia: If your dog has a shortage of red blood cells, which circulate oxygen around the body, this is known as anaemia and it can cause a lack of oxygen. A dog with anaemia might pant more in order to try to get more oxygen.
- Laryngeal paralysis: This is when the muscles that close and open the larynx (located at the back of the dog’s throat) can’t move. This can cause panting. Laryngeal paralysis is common in large dogs and you’re likely to find that if your dog has this condition they will also make a high-pitched, wheezing sound.
- Dog bloat: This is a life-threatening condition that comes on suddenly and needs immediate attention from a vet. Dog bloat symptoms include panting, drooling, pacing, and retching without being able to vomit. It’s caused by a build-up of air and food in the stomach, which can sometimes cause the stomach to twist and cut off blood supply. You can find out more about this condition by reading “How To Cure Dog Bloating Problems.”
You know when you hurt yourself badly and this affects your breathing?
Dogs also experience this. If they’ve been hurt, it could show by how they’re panting heavily. They might also show other signs that they’re in a lot of pain, such as by being restless, not wanting to eat, or whimpering when moving around or when you try to touch them.
If your dog has an anxious personality, this could cause it to feel stressed out which can lead to panting and other breathing problems.
However, if your dog is anxious, you’ll probably notice other symptoms, such as restlessness, lip licking, drooling, and dilated pupils. Some dogs are more prone to anxiety than others, such as Bichon Frise and border collies.
If your dog is overweight, this can lead to a variety of health problems. It can also cause them to pant intensely and excessively as they battle to get enough oxygen because it’s more difficult for them to move around.
If it’s allergy season and your dog seems to pant heavily after being outside, your dog could have allergies. There could be something else that your dog’s allergic to, which is causing panting and wheezing, such as a food or treat that doesn’t agree with them.
If your dog’s nursing puppies, severe panting is a sign of eclampsia. This is a dangerous illness that results in low calcium and can cause the dog not to be able to stand or walk. Tremors are also common with this condition.
Panting After Giving Birth
This is something else to be aware of if you have a dog who’s given birth to puppies. Sometimes dogs that are nursing will start panting excessively, and this can be brought on by tiredness or even feeling hot because they’re crowded by so many puppies.
Nursing in itself can also make a dog pant, and this is due to the release of oxytocin which causes mild contractions in the dog’s uterus, as Pet Helpful reports. That said, you shouldn’t just ignore it. Ask your vet about it because the panting could be a sign of something more serious.
If your dog never used to pant excessively during or after exercise, but now they do, this could be a sign that they’re exercise intolerant. There are many reasons for this, such as if the dog’s got a health problem or is overweight.
If your dog’s ingested or inhaled a toxin in the home, they might experience breathing distress that can result in heavy panting. Puppies are at greater risk of ingesting toxins than adult dogs because of how they’re very curious and will want to chew on everything.
If your dog’s feeling a bit dehydrated, this can cause him to pant. Make sure Fido always has a fresh supply of water, especially on particularly hot days.
Why Does Your Dog Pant At Night?
At night time when you’re at home with your dog and relaxing after a long day, it can be very alarming to see that your dog is panting excessively or heavily. Any of the above mentioned reasons could be to blame, but your dog might also be dealing with anxiety.
If your dog’s separated from you at night, such as if you put them in another room to sleep, this could give them anxiety and make them go crazy. This is more common with puppies.
You should help the dog to feel calmer, such as by letting it sleep in the room with you.
If that isn’t possible, try to make their room less lonely by putting a radio on softly so that the dog has company. If you have more than one dog and they get along, letting them sleep in the same room will also help to ensure that they feel comfortable and happy.
If your dog pants at night even though you’re with him, then something else could be going on, such as an underlying health condition. It’s therefore important to consult with your vet.
Is Your Dog Just Panting Because It’s Old?
When your dog gets older, it’s normal for the ageing process to take its toll. Your senior dog might be panting more than younger dogs because of this. However, you should never just assume your dog is panting more regularly or excessively because he or she is old.
The dog could be panting because of a health condition, especially since many health conditions will strike a dog when it’s older, such as arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease.
When it comes to the latter, Alzheimer’s disease can make your older dog pant. Your dog might also experience difficulty when trying to get comfortable or get stuck in places in the home, such as in corners.
When Should You Worry About Panting?
If your dog is panting and it’s not a hot day and/or they haven’t had exercise, or it’s just unusual for them to be panting in the way they are, you should consult with your vet.
This is also important if your dog is panting suddenly, the panting is intense and won’t go away, your dog seems to be in pain, and/or your dog’s gums are purple, blue, or white. These colors signify that your dog is not getting enough oxygen.
Another test you should do to see if your dog’s panting points to a serious problem is to check his Capillary Refill Time. This is how long it takes for your dog’s gums to get their color back after you’ve pressed them.
You can do this test on your dog by using your thumb finger and pressing it on the gum. When you remove your thumb, the gum should blanch.
Within two seconds, the gums should regain their natural color. If it takes longer than that for the gums to get their color back, you should take your dog to the vet right away.
How To Prevent Panting In Dogs
While you can’t always prevent dog panting, sometimes there are things you can do to try to prevent your dog from panting excessively.
- Prevent overheating: This is very important. If it’s a hot day, make sure that your dog doesn’t spend too much time outdoors. Make sure your dog has lots of fresh water available to prevent them from getting dehydrated. You can also wet them with cool water to keep them hydrated.
- Prevent stress: Some dogs are naturally more anxious than others, so you want to make sure that their environment is stress-free. For example, if they get anxious about visitors, try to limit how many people come to your house. If your dog becomes fearful before thunderstorms, keep them in a room with the curtains closed to reduce their stress.
- Monitor them for illnesses: While you can’t always prevent your dog from falling ill with a chronic condition, you should always monitor your dog for signs that they’re sick and take them to the vet so that they can be promptly treated. If your dog’s on medication to treat a condition, keep an eye on them as panting could be a side effect of the drug. Steroids are medications that are known for causing panting in dogs, including increased thirst and urination.
- Brush their thick fur: Some dog breeds have thick coats that can cause them to pant more when hot. Think Saint Bernards and Alaskan Malamutes. You can help them to regulate their body temperature and cool down by brushing their coats so that they don’t overheat.
How can you tell the difference between panting and labored breathing?
Labored breathing is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as crying, whining, whistles from the windpipe, and whistles from the nose.
What are common signs your dog’s overheating?
Along with panting, you’ll likely see that your overheated dog has wide eyes, weakness, and has a bright red tongue as well as bright red gums.
While panting is a normal behaviour in dogs, it’s a red flag if it happens out of the blue and seems different from what’s normal for your dog. If your dog’s panting in a strange way, you should bring him to the vet to find out what’s wrong with him.
As we’ve seen in this article, there are many reasons why dogs can engage in heavy panting, from injuries and underlying health conditions to ingesting poisons around the home.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.