Is panting normal or should you be worried if you see your pooch doing it? We’re answering this question and many more about panting in dogs in today’s post, so keep on reading!
What exactly is panting?
Panting is a phenomenon that occurs in dogs as a result of them being too warm, being in pain, or other reasons that we will discuss in the sections below. If you didn’t know, panting is a lot more common in puppies and geriatric dogs, especially those that are obese.
Rapid and open-mouthed breathing is used by dogs to cool down, but it’s actually one of the few mechanisms they have at their disposal. Unfortunately, dogs are not outfitted with sweat glands like people are, meaning they have to use alternate ways of lowering their body temperature.
Panting can be defined as physiological rapid breathing. If your dog is making sounds, crying, or whining or if you hear any wheezing along with their breathing, something is wrong and you have to go to the vet clinic — it is not normal panting.
Why do dogs pant? The most common reasons
- Cooling down
The first and most obvious reason for your dog’s panting is that your pet is just too hot. As inefficient as this method of cooling off might seem to you, it’s one of the few that your dog can use since besides it, they sweat through their paws — and that’s about it.
Panting is more common in brachycephalic breeds as they have a harder time lowering their body temperature — their breathing just isn’t as effective.
If you know that your dog is warm and they are suffering from a chronic health issue (respiratory or cardiac health issues are the most dangerous ones), getting them out of the sun (or out of the hot car) is extremely important.
- Excitement, joy, or stress
Dogs tend to pant more when they are excited and if you’ve ever been away from home for at least several hours, you probably know that your pooch loves to come and greet you and look as if they’re smiling — but they’re just panting.
Joy is another reason but you should know that in all of these cases, your dog’s panting should be shallow. Sometimes, the dog might also whine but will obviously not be in pain at all.
Since panting is a way that dogs use to calm themselves, it can be used in stressful situations, too. But in this case, you should be able to notice other symptoms such as wider eyes than normal, withdrawal or trying to hide, trembling, or crying.
Playing calls for a bit of effort and when it’s done right under the sun, it can be serious exercise. While all dogs love to play and spend time outdoors, you have to keep in mind your pooch’s specific health status, whether they have any health conditions, or if they generally don’t do that well in the heat.
Take short and frequent breaks just to be on the safe side of things. If your dog continues to want to play, be firm and keep them next to you for several minutes until their breathing (and heart rate, by the way) calms down. Then you can play again for 5-10 minutes, take another break, and so on. This is also a good and safe way of increasing your dog’s resistance to exercise if you want them to lose some weight.
Pain is a possible reason, and it shouldn’t be overruled, especially if your dog is already undergoing therapy for a specific condition, if they’ve just had surgery, or a painful accident has happened that has led to wounds or made them experience pain, discomfort, or nausea.
Some dogs can be agitated and whine and try to get their owners’ attention, while others can be withdrawn, show their sadness on their faces, and pant to soothe themselves. Go to the animal hospital if you think your dog is in pain for any reason.
- Medication side effects
Even though panting is not a common adverse reaction to medications, some dogs can exhibit this symptom, especially if they are taking (or are administered) steroids. Corticosteroids have an amazing effect in the way of decreasing inflammation and lowering pain levels, but they have serious side effects and should never be given to dogs other than under the guidance of a vet.
When should you be worried?
Not all types of dog panting are an emergency, so it can be a little challenging to tell when you have to go to the vet clinic as soon as possible and when you should wait for a while.
If you know that your dog spent some time outdoors engaging in exercise or in the hot weather, you have to do your best to cool them down as quickly and effectively as possible. If that doesn’t work and they continue to be agitated, whine, and have a strange behavior, you should take your pet to the vet.
Look for any other symptoms — is your dog nauseous? Are they drooling? (possible signs of bloat)
Does their voice sound the same when they cry or whine? Do they respond to your commands, or have they become unresponsive?
If you have any doubts whatsoever, call your veterinarian or go to the animal hospital right away. Some conditions (such as bloat, which we have just mentioned) can be true emergencies, and they can put your dog’s life at risk. Time is of the essence in treating them.
Preventing heatstroke in dogs
Your dog doesn’t have the same ways of cooling down that people use — they can’t turn on the AC when they need to if they’re left alone in the car. When you go shopping at the supermarket, never leave your dog alone in your vehicle — it can get extremely hot in there and quickly, and they have no way of escaping. Leaving a car window slightly open is not enough.
Some breeds can get overheated faster than others, such as those that have a thick coat. A Labrador Retriever will have a harder time regulating their body temperature in a hot environment compared to a Doberman Pinscher.
If you believe your dog is about to develop heatstroke or is just too hot, there are some things that you can do — hose them down, keep them indoors in the shade, or let them rest in a quiet place and place ice packs (covered in towels) next to their body.
One thing that we have to add is that dogs that are very hot tend to drink a lot of water to cool their bodies, and unfortunately, if you allow them to have as much water as they want to drink, they can risk developing bloat — and fast.
Give your dog just a bit of cool water at a time, take a break, and then allow them to drink some more — this is necessary to prevent gastric dilatation volvulus, which can be deadly in dogs.
When taking your dog to the animal hospital, run the AC in your car continuously to help your dog cool down and also pant less.