Why Do Dogs Pant?

by Lovejoys Pet Food on March 13, 2017

Panting in dogs is totally natural. In fact, many animals use this method to keep themselves cool.

Because dogs can’t sweat like us, they must breath quickly to evaporate water from their mouths and nasal passages. This lowers their body temperature.

However, just like humans, changes in a dog’s physiology can be a response to different emotional or external factors; heat isn’t the only thing that makes us sweat! In some cases, excessive panting is associated with more serious issues.

Luckily, an adult dog or puppy breathing fast is normally no cause for concern. The following list explains some of the main reasons for panting.

1. Cooling Down

Primarily, dogs pant to keep themselves cool in hot weather. This is a completely natural process.

Thermoregulation makes sure an animal’s body works properly by keeping it within a certain temperature range – even on a hot day.

Although their paws can release small amounts of sweat, breathing is a dog’s main mechanism for keeping cool. Because this process causes them to lose liquid, it’s important to give them plenty of water.

Source: Les Chatfield

2. Exercise

Body temperature doesn’t always depend on the weather. When animals exercise, the energy powering their muscles is released as heat.

After running, a dog’s internal temperature will be very high. Panting helps cool them down.

When should I worry?

If the panting is excessive or sounds hoarse, you should consider the following:

  • Have you tried moving the animal into shade?
  • Have you given them something drink?
  • Is their breathing slowly returning to normal?

If their panting continues, it could be a symptom of something more serious.

Don’t panic! Although overheating is normally the cause, noticing anything abnormal early gives you a better chance of helping your pet.

3. Stress and Excitement

Dogs can be just as energetic emotionally as they are physically. In fact, there’s often a crossover.

Have you ever noticed how expressive your dog seems? Panting can often reveal their mood.

It’s quite normal for excitement to lead to an increase in body temperature, especially if your dog is running around.

But can this be a sign of negative emotions?

Yes. Dogs often use the action of panting to calm themselves down in stressful situations. A broad grin and pinned back ears can be a tell-tale sign of anxiety.

Infrequently, this behaviour can be a symptom of more serious psychological issues.

4. Illness

Our canine companions are just as susceptible to illness as we are. Although dogs can’t communicate with us, abnormal panting is often a good indicator that something’s wrong, and can sometimes be the result of a swollen stomach.

After cancer, ‘bloat’ is the second biggest killer of dogs. Taking its name from the distended abdomen, this condition occurs when the stomach becomes twisted. This is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment.

Is your dog’s panting coupled with hair loss and strong hunger?

This could be Cushing’s Disease – a result of excess cortisol. Treatment will involve either medicine or surgery.

It’s important to keep an eye on your pet. Abnormal behaviour can easily be a sign of pain.

Medical assistance should be sought immediately if you suspect anything, because it’s difficult to gauge severity.


5. Allergy/Poisoning

Dogs are sensitive to a lot of things. Foods and medicines we consume on a daily basis can be deadly to our pets, including:

    • Chocolate
    • Grapes
    • Xylitol sweetener
    • Paracetamol


Heavy panting often presents alongside diarrhoea, vomiting and seizures in poisoning/allergic response. As with anything related to your dog’s health, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And seek medical assistance if you suspect something’s wrong.

6. Panting In Brachycephalic Dogs

Dogs with short faces, known as brachycephalic breeds, often have difficulty breathing.

Because of blockages in the airways, Bulldogs and Pugs tend to pant more than others. What’s excessive for one breed could be normal for your dog.

Because of poor breathing, these types of dogs can often struggle in warm weather. Being unable to pant properly means they can’t regulate body temperature effectively.

It’s always important to make allowances for your breed. Make sure you keep your dog cool on a hot day.

Panting is so common that we can struggle to notice abnormalities. Keeping a watchful eye is part of our responsibility as pet owners, but, as explained, there are a variety of different reasons for panting in dogs, and a lot of the time, it is a totally natural occurrence.

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