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Panting is typically normal behavior for dogs. But what if a dog won’t stop panting? In some cases, this could indicate a potential problem. Here’s what dog parents need to know.
Generally, panting is a dog’s means of cooling down. The behavior allows heat and moisture to evaporate across the canine’s tongue, mouth, and lungs. It’s not unusual for dogs to pant more often during the summer months.
Some breeds, such as English and French bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers, pant more than normal compared to other dogs. Their short snouts make it harder for them to cool themselves as effectively as other dogs. Some “flat-faced” dogs also have brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). This condition refers to difficulty breathing due to the dog’s narrow nasal passages and windpipe.
But if a dog won't stop panting, there could be a problem. Excessive panting is often noisier, faster, and shallower than normal panting. Pet parents may also notice other unusual symptoms such as:
Loss of appetite
Trouble getting comfortable
While self-cooling is one of the most common, dogs can pant for many reasons. Similarly, excessive panting has many potential causes. Here are a few pet parents should know:
Many situations cause dogs to become excited:
Pet parents coming home from work
The arrival of guests
Meeting new dogs at the park
Going for a car ride
Getting a treat or meal
In their excitement, a lot of dogs start panting more than normal. They might also bounce around, move erratically, whine, or show signs of wanting to play. Their panting should slow and stop once they calm down.
Panting caused by excitement isn’t always a cause for concern. However, some dogs get overly excited. They might jump up, have trouble controlling themselves, or be unable to settle down. Other dogs get excited by almost everything — cars going by, squirrels in the yard, a leaf tumbling through the grass. In such situations, they may bark excessively in addition to panting. This type of behavior can be disruptive to everyday life.
Exercise for dogs can provide many significant benefits, such as weight loss and improved physical health. Vigorous activity or excessive exercise, however, causes their body temperature to rise. They may get out of breath and start panting to cool off, catch their breath, and help circulate oxygen throughout their body. If a dog is panting more than normal during physical activity, it may be time to take a break.
Like humans, dogs can experience stress and anxiety. Various situations can trigger them, such as sudden loud noises (such as thunder and fireworks), approaching storms, unfamiliar people or places, or their pet parents leaving for the day.
Along with panting, dogs may whine when they’re stressed or anxious, not unlike when they’re excited. One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between the two causes is the dog’s body language. Excited dogs typically exhibit signs of happiness, such as tail wagging and wanting to play. Signs of stress or anxiety include:
Hiding or pressing close to a pet parent
Lack of eye contact
Chronic stress and anxiety can negatively impact a dog’s quality of life and increase the risk of various health problems, such as a weakened immune system, gastrointestinal issues, and high blood pressure.
As mentioned above, dogs typically pant to cool themselves down. As temperatures rise during the warmer spring and summer months, dogs may pant more often. The more they pant, the more quickly they can become dehydrated. If dogs start getting too hot, their panting may become rapid and raspy, letting pet parents know they need a drink.
Too much exposure to heat can also lead to heat exhaustion. Excessive panting is one of the first signs a dog is at risk. Other symptoms include dehydration, lethargy, dizziness, vomiting or diarrhea, weakness, a rapid pulse, and fever. Without emergency treatment, this dangerous health condition can cause the dog to lose consciousness and lead to organ failure or, in serious cases, even death.
Dogs are pretty good at hiding when they’re in pain. There are some telltale signs, though. One of the most common is excessive panting. A dog may also limp, move slower than usual, and have trouble getting comfortable. They might also growl or snap when someone touches the sore area.
More frequent panting, especially when a dog hasn’t been running around, spent time outdoors, or gotten excited, can also be a sign of a chronic illness. Common illnesses that might cause a dog to exhibit rapid breathing include:
Heart disease. Heart issues can make it harder for a dog’s body to transport oxygen.
Laryngeal paralysis. With this health condition, one or both of the cartilage flaps at the opening of a dog’s windpipe don’t work correctly, restricting airflow.
Cushing’s disease. A dog’s adrenal glands overproduce cortisol, resulting in heavy panting, increased appetite and thirst, more frequent urination, and hair loss.
How pet parents address abnormal heavy breathing depends on the situation. For instance, if outdoors with a dog in warmer temperatures or they’re running around, it’s time to take a break. Encourage the dog into a shady area (or indoors) and offer them some water. Keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion, too.
If the dog is panting when they’re stressed or anxious, look for ways to make them feel more comfortable. Consider creating a “safe space” in their kennel or a closet with blankets and soft, soothing music. Calming supplements or prescription medication may also help.
What if the dog isn’t hot, excited, or stressed? There may be an underlying health issue causing the panting. A physical exam and diagnostic testing could help find the problem. From there, the vet can recommend the appropriate treatments to help manage the condition and ease the dog’s panting.
If pet parents find themselves thinking, “my dog is panting more than normal,” don’t wait. While it might not be a serious issue, a dog panting a lot could be a sign of a problem that requires treatment. Fuzzy’s professional online vets are available 24/7 to go over the dog’s symptoms and offer advice. Schedule an appointment today!