All the Reasons a Dog Pants and What it Means

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Ever see a dog panting in a perfectly cool room and wonder what the heck they were panting for? 

Panting is a very normal behavior in all dogs and it's most commonly their method of cooling down. Dogs don't sweat the way us humans do so when they pant at appropriate times, it's nothing to be concerned about. However when done abnormally, panting can be a good indicator that something else might be wrong with your pooch.

If your dog is panting during times that it's not hot, there are some other causes for panting that you can explore...

Feeling Hot

As I've mentioned already, the main purpose for panting is to cool them down and the hotter they are the heavier they are going to pant. A hot dog is not a happy dog. The way your dog pants could be a good indicator that you need to take extra measures to cool them down. Excessive thirst, pale gums, increased pulse, and glazed eyes can also be good indicators that they’re too hot. 

It doesn't take long for a dog to get heat stroke so it's something you want to watch out for on extra hot days or days when you and your pooch are putting in some extra work.


Heat stroke could kill a dog within minutes. It rapidly starts killing your dog’s body cells causing their brain to swell and seizures to occur. Dehydration also can cause kidney failure and a lack of blood supply to the GI tract can cause ulcers.

If you notice your pooch being sluggish and you suspect they could be close to having heat stroke then the first thing you need to do is move them inside or at least a shady area.

If you can, you should submerge them in cool water and give them some water to drink as well. DO NOT put them in cold water because it could restrict their blood movement. Once your dog is under control you can take them to the vet. 

In general, it's a good idea to leave your dog at home in the AC when the temperature is higher than their normal body temperature. The normal body temperature of a dog is around 102 F. If the temperature is higher than theirs, panting isn't going to do a lot to keep them cool. 

Behavioral Panting

If you’ve ever taken your dog on a walk they’re usually all over the place before you go. Sometimes dogs will start panting when they're excited which is nothing that you need to worry about. 

However, dogs also will sometimes pant when they’re stressed or feel anxious which is something you should worry about. Some other behaviors they might show are yawning, pacing, whining, licking their lips, trembling, hiding, or uncontrolled bowels. 


Panting will sometimes continue a little afterwards if the situation was particularly stressful. Sometimes, when a dog is too stressed out they will exhibit aggressive behavior as well.

Getting this type of panting under control will require keeping your pup out of the stressful situation that is causing it or better yet, working with them to build confidence and socialization so the situation isn't stressful to begin with.


Trouble Breathing From Allergies or Poisoning

Some dogs pant a lot when they are having issues with their breathing or feel like they're going to vomit (drooling and panting could be signs that your dog is about to barf. This can be useful information). 

Some dogs have allergies to some foods, bug bites, airborne pollen, mold, or dust. If a dog's reaction to their allergy is bad enough, it could cause them to have a lack of energy which can also be accompanied by vomiting. For bite reactions, the area might also swell up. The stress of this situation alone may cause your dog to pant more than normal.

Pain

Panting at inappropriate times can also be a good indicator that your dog is in pain. It can be hard to tell for sure if this is the reason they could be panting unless the source of the pain is visible or they're licking a specific area constantly. A change in their movements could also help rule this reason out (limping, shaking, arched back, etc.). If you notice your dog's panting pattern is unusual, pain should be one of the first things to check first. 

Arthritis can occur in older dogs and could cause them to constantly pant. Small movements like getting up, laying down, or using the stairs can be tough for dogs with arthritis. Pain medications can help solve this problem but it is not curable.

There are products that can significantly help with hip and joint pain caused by aging and arthritis such as glucosamine supplements.

Other things to look for in a pained dog include enlarged pupils, lack of appetite, reluctance to lie down or get up, restlessness, anxiety, and licking or biting at the pain site. 


Illness

There is a plethora of diseases and other physical problems that dogs could develop and they all have their own unique set of symptoms and problems. Some diseases can cause dogs to pant which makes it a good indicator that something else could be wrong.

One disease dogs can develop is heart disease. Heart problems in general could cause a dog to pant excessively because their heart isn't pumping blood properly and their tissues are being deprived of oxygen. A dog could be panting to make up for that lack of oxygen. Symptoms that could indicate heart trouble are a reluctance to exercise, tiring quickly, coughing, and possibly fainting. Sometimes heart problems will also cause the lungs to accumulate fluid.

Obesity can also cause some dogs to pant a lot. Too much unhealthy food or too little exercise could lead to heart disease, cancer, physical problems, and diabetes. Diabetes causes your dog to have a lack of energy and can lead to other internal problems. 

Not sure if your golden retriever is over weight? Check out this post to find out.

Panting is something some dogs do when they have lung disease. Lung disease prevents oxygen from getting into the bloodstream which causes a lack of oxygen in their tissues. The symptoms are very similar to those of heart disease since it essentially causes the same problems. Lung tumors can also make it hard for dogs to breathe. 

Laryngeal paralysis causes the muscles that open and close the larynx to malfunction making it hard to breathe. Paralysis symptoms could include panting, loud breathing, coughing, change in barking sound, lack of energy, and a high rectal temperature. 

Cushing’s disease causes the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol. Too much cortisol could increase panting, thirst, urination, weight gain, skin thinning, bruising, loss of hair, and restlessness. 


Medication

Just like with human medication, dog medication can come with a long list of possible side effects. There are a number of medications that could cause excessive panting in dogs. When a vet prescribes your dog a medication, it's a good idea to ask them about the possible side effects you can expect. If you have any other concerns about your dog, you should call your vet. 

If your dog tends to swell up when they come into contact with pollen or some other substance they're allergic to, steroid therapy could be the way to go. However, steroid therapy is one type of medication that includes panting as a possible side effects. Some of the other possible side effects of steroid therapy mimic those of Cushing’s Disease but the panting should stop a few weeks after the medication has stopped being given. These side effects could also include an increase in drinking as well as urination.

If you think that we’ve missed anything or you have any other questions related to why a dog might be panting, feel free to leave a comment on this article and we will get back to you!

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