Panting is normal for all dogs, and all dogs pant more in hot weather or after strenuous physical activity. Some breeds, like brachycephalic dogs, also pant more than others. Why do dogs pant? How can you tell if your dog’s panting should be cause for concern? And what are the causes of excessive panting in older dogs? Read on to learn more.
Why Do Dogs Pant?
Dogs don’t sweat through their skin; to help regulate their body temperature, they pant instead. Panting is your best bud’s way to release heat and cool down if the weather is hot or after exercising or playing. The panting typically slows down and then stops once he has properly rested or soon after he’s taken inside a cooler/air-conditioned environment.
Dogs also pant when they’re excited. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Boston terriers and pugs, tend to pant more than other breeds because their flat nose makes it harder for them to breathe. Dogs who are overweight pant more heavily because of their increased body temperature.
When Is Panting a Cause for Concern?
If your dog is relaxed and is in an environment with a comfortable/cool temperature, panting may be a sign of an underlying problem. You should take your pet to his vet as soon as possible, especially if your pet pal’s been panting more than he’s not. He may become dehydrated if the problem is not immediately addressed.
Being overweight is, of course, always a cause for concern. Overweight dogs have an increased risk for overheating, among many other, serious health problems. Even just mild physical exertion, such as walking up or down the stairs can cause an overweight dog to pant excessively.
Excessive panting in older dogs, whatever the reason, should be addressed immediately as their body is not as efficient in regulating internal temperature.
What are the Causes of Excessive Dog Panting?
Firstly, you must be familiar with your dog’s behaviors and activities so you can determine when the panting is not normal or is excessive.
Below are the most common causes of excessive dog panting.
- Heatstroke/becoming overheated. Extremely hot weather, whether outdoors or indoors and even if your dog is not engaging in any physical activity, can rapidly increase his body temperature and make him pant excessively. Symptoms include:
- Thick and sticky saliva
- Bright red tongue
- Difficulty walking
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Dehydration. Especially if the temperature is higher than what’s comfortable for Fido, not having easy access to or adequate water will also cause overheating and excessive panting. Symptoms include:
- Dry or tacky gums
- Severely dry nose
- Sunken eyes
- Stress or anxiety. If your pet is exposed to any known stressors, such as fireworks, thunderstorms, car rides, or a significant change in his life, you may observe heavier-than-normal panting.
- Excitement or overexertion. Excited panting is easy to spot and is something you should be familiar with. It typically occurs when you get home from work when you’re taking your pet out to play or exercise, or when he sees his favorite treat or toy. Excessive panting is also normal during and immediately after any type of moderate to hard physical activity.
- An underlying condition. This usually applies to older dogs, but may also occur among younger ones. Respiratory illness, heart failure, anemia, or Cushing’s disease can make your pet’s organs work harder or less efficiently. Excessive panting in older dogs is one of the most common symptoms of these diseases. Heavy panting may also be a sign that your four-legged pal is experiencing some pain.
Other symptoms that accompany excessive panting, especially in overweight, obese, or older dogs, and which should prompt immediate treatment include:
- Severe breathing difficulties
- Difficulty getting up
How Can You Prevent or Treat Excessive Panting?
It’s always better to prevent excessive dog panting than to have to treat it. Here are some basic guidelines to help keep Fido’s body temperature in check.
- Make sure your dog is adequately hydrated, especially during hot days. If the temperature inside your house is also too hot, you can help him maintain a comfortable body temperature by using a cool, wet cloth to dampen him every now and then. He may also like having some ice cubes in his water bowl.
- Keep Fido indoors as much as possible when temperatures outside are not ideal for any kind of activity. If you must take him out, do so at night when the weather is cooler.
- Don’t forget to bring water with you when you take him out for a walk.
- When he spends time outdoors, give him frequent breaks - preferably in the shade - and plenty of clean and cool water. Monitor his behavior and keep his outdoor activities short.
- If his excessive panting is stress-related, limit his exposure to his common stressors and figure out a way to keep him calm when he does get exposed to them.
It’s also possible that your pal’s heavy panting is a symptom of an underlying condition. If you notice any of the following symptoms alongside the excessive panting, and especially if you have an elderly dog, you should have him checked by a veterinarian.
- Constant heavy panting accompanied by restlessness.
- Coughing or difficulty breathing.
- Excessive panting even in cooler/comfortable temperatures and while at rest.
- Continued panting even with frequent hydration.
Whatever the cause, prolonged excessive panting can eventually lead to dehydration. Until you’re able to get him to a veterinary clinic, emergency care should include frequent hydration, keeping him as relaxed and comfortable as possible, and making sure he’s not overheating.