Panting is something that all normal dogs do. In some cases, this panting can seem excessive, and there may be an underlying issue. This article covers some common causes and what you should do to help your pet.
Dogs, affecting any age group
Signs of excessive panting include noisy open mouth breathing, often with their tongue hanging out. Breathing is more rapid and shallow than usual.
If your dog is struggling to move enough oxygen around, you may notice a change in the color of their gums from a healthy pink to a pale or even blue color.
Your veterinarian will check your pet to look for clues on physical examination. They will listen to your dog’s heart and lungs and take their temperature.
If they have any concerns, they may recommend a blood sample as the next step, and possibly diagnostic imaging like x-rays or ultrasound scans.
The following is a list of some of the most common causes of panting:
Dogs don’t sweat, so use their tongue as a way of evaporating water and losing heat. This is usually effective but if the conditions are very hot or if your dog is unable to cope, then heatstroke can occur.
This is potentially fatal, so you must contact your veterinarian immediately if things don’t seem right. Dogs suffering from heatstroke may collapse and be non-responsive. Treatment will involve intravenous fluids and gradual cooling of body temperature.
Some dogs pant due to underlying discomfort and pain. Some painful conditions are obvious such as upset stomach but more subtle ones include arthritis or abdominal pain. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the next steps.
Some dogs will start panting when they become excited, this is especially the case in young bouncy animals! Stress and anxiety can also cause animals to pant.
Triggers such as fear of fireworks or thunderstorms and anxiety in the car can all trigger episodes of extreme panting. Behavioral training will help, as well as calming pheromones or medications.
Some medications can cause your dog to pant more than normal, even when they aren’t hot. The most common type responsible for this is steroids (prednisolone) which many dogs are on for conditions such as skin allergies or immune-mediated issues. If your dog is showing this side effect speak to your veterinarian for advice.
Some dog breeds are more prone to excessive panting, including those with flat faces such as Pugs, French bulldogs, and Shih Tzus.
These animals have BOAS, a combination of small narrow nostrils, an excess of soft tissue in the back of their throat, and other structural abnormalities. This can stop them from being able to breathe comfortably, meaning they are more prone to bouts of panting, especially when they get warm or excited.
Surgery can sometimes help improve things for your dog. Your veterinarian will be able to advise your further.
If your dog’s heart is not functioning properly it can cause a build-up of fluid on the lungs, causing panting. Some animals may develop a cough and other symptoms such as lethargy and weakness.
Breathing issues such as laryngeal paralysis, infections, and cancer could all contribute to excessive panting. Diagnostics like x-rays might be needed, with treatment depending on the cause
Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is a condition where an overproduction of cortisol (a steroid) causes a variety of symptoms including a potbelly, thinning of the fur, and drinking excessively. These animals are also more prone to panting and weight gain. The condition is diagnosed through blood tests and may require medication.
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your dog’s panting and can vary from no treatment to long-term medication or even surgery for BOAS problems. You may also be referred to a canine behaviorist if panting appears to be related to stress and anxiety.
There are no specific home remedies for panting, you will need to tackle the underlying cause. Many dogs will pant when they are overheating and might feel more comfortable with a drink of water somewhere cool.
You must see a veterinarian if your dog seems unwell or has other symptoms. Weight changes, episodes of lethargy or collapse, drinking excessively, coughing, and discomfort are all signs that need investigating. If your dog pants a lot at rest or when they are not hot, then this is another indication you should see your veterinarian.
If your dog is panting excessively, you should make an appointment with us for a check-up so we can help you determine what’s wrong. Heatstroke is an emergency, so if this could be the cause of your dog’s panting, please call us immediately, without delay.
There are several possible underlying causes for this including structural abnormalities (flat-nose dogs with difficulty breathing), underlying medical conditions, and behavioral issues.
A check-up with the veterinarian can help you to work out what the cause is
Panting happens when body temperature rises, which normally occurs because of exercise, excitement, or warm weather. So, it would be considered unusual for your dog to be panting when he was relaxed and cool.
Other symptoms which may indicate that his panting behavior is abnormal include a cough, weight loss, a change in thirst/appetite and lethargy.
Panting at night would be considered abnormal, as most dogs should be relaxed and settled. Some medications like prednisolone (steroids) can cause your dog to be disturbed and pant excessively, as can health conditions like Cushing’s disease or cardiac problems. Take your dog to your veterinarian for a check over and some advice.
Avoid overheating, by keeping your dog cool in summer. Keeping them at a lean, healthy weight can help, too. Whilst many of these conditions cannot be prevented, prompt veterinary attention will help manage the symptoms and stop them from getting too bad.
Rebecca is a companion animal vet who has always had a passion for writing and client communication. Since her graduation from the Royal Veterinary college in 2009, she has gained a wealth of experience in first opinion small animal practice, in both clinical and managerial roles. She currently works in the South West and deals with a variety of routine and emergency appointments, but particularly enjoys medicine cases. Outside of work and writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, including her bouncy flat-coated retriever George!
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