Why is My Dog Panting So Much?
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It is a common misconception that dogs do not sweat, at least not completely. They do sweat on their paws and nose as these are not covered in fur. However, even their fur areas have sebaceous glands which exude moisture, natural oils and scents. What is true, however, is that they cannot appropriately regulate their heat through paws and nose alone. This is the main reason why dogs pant; as a form of thermoregulation. A contented dog will pant, a tired dog will pant and so too will a hot dog. However, this panting is on an as required basis, so if you see your dog panting much more than usual, it is something which should be investigated. oneHOWTO helps you with this investigation by answering the question why is my dog panting so much?
- Why does a dog pant?
- Excessive panting due to age
- Excessive panting due to type of dog
- Excessive panting due to heat stroke
- Excessive panting due to an underlying condition
- Excessive panting due to an underlying condition
- Excessive panting due to poisoning or allergic reaction
- Panting for communication
Why does a dog pant?
Before we can determine why it is a dog might be panting excessively, we should state why a dog pants in the first place. As we said, dogs do have some sweat glands located on the paws and nose. It is not as simple as saying dogs don't sweat on the rest of their body due to fur. There are hairless breeds which will not sweat here either, even if they produce moisture from sebaceous glands. But why is not sweating an issue for dogs?
The simple answer is that dogs regulate their body in a different way. Panting allows the dog to cool down by allowing air to pass over the tongue and moisture to evaporate. A dog's normal breathing will be about 10 to 35 breaths per minute, but when they pant this number will increase. By how much it increases is usually down to the individual dog, the amount of exercise they have done and the heat of the day. As the tongue cools, this regulates the rest of the dog's body heat.
Dog's will also pant due to thirst. A dog may be able to cool down with panting after exercise on a hot day, but if they are dehydrated, then this is not good for the dog. This is just one reason your dog might be panting more than is healthy. We're going to look at the reasons why your dog might be panting more than usual.
Excessive panting due to age
If you are an older person or you have been around older people, you know that ageing has an effect on the body. The things which were done without a second thought during youth can become chores. For example, simply walking up the stairs can leave some older people breathless, even those who are relatively fit. The same goes for dogs. If your dog is older, you will probably notice that their mobility reduces and they can't run as fast as they used to.
Older dogs are also more susceptible to issues like arthritis which makes movement more arduous and, sometimes, even painful. The older your dog gets, they will start to pant more after less exercise. It doesn't mean they are in pain, but simply means you will need to reduce the intensity of exercise routines, gave them the right supplements to maintain joints and provide them with a happy existence to keep them going longer.
If you think your dog might be getting a little long in the tooth, then check out our article on signs of old age in dogs to learn more.
Excessive panting due to type of dog
The size and shape of your dog will also have a bearing on their panting. This is usually dependent on the breed. Dogs with long snouts and muzzles have longer tongues to accompany them. This means they are better able to cool themselves and will need less panting to regulate their temperature and to catch their breath.
Brachycephalic dogs are those with a shortened snout which is usually caused by selective breeding over the years. Dogs like Pugs and Shih Tzus have this type of muzzle and they are known for their short staccato breathing. There is some controversy over the keeping of these dogs as some argue it is a malformation which leads to a reduced quality of life in the dog.
If you listen to many brachycephalic dog's breathing you will hear that they are faster than most dogs. They also make odd snorting noises and can even seem like they are in discomfort. If you have a pug or similar type of dog for a pet, this makes it a little more tricky when trying to decide if their panting is normal.
Excessive panting due to heat stroke
Dogs love to be outside, especially in the summer when the grass is long and the weather is fine. However, if the weather is hot, your furry compadres might feel this heat more than you expect. If you dog has been out in the sun too long, overexerted itself or is suffering from dehydration, then they can end up with heat stroke.
If your dog has heat stroke, then they will try to regulate their heat through panting. If the dog is excessively panting, this could be a sign they are overheated. If your dog reaches a temperature more than 104 ºF/40 ºC, then they are likely overheated. Just because a dog feels warm, doesn't mean they are necessarily suffering from heatstroke. The best way to check is to take a rectal temperature.
If your dog is suffering from heat stroke, you will need to cool them down, but not too rapidly. If you try to cool your dog too quickly, they can get a shock. Cool them down with cool but not cold water. Bring them into the shade and out of the heat source. You can put a cold pack on their groin near the femoral artery. This is usually behind their hind leg. You can give them some ice to lick, but don't put them into ice cold water. once your dog has cooled down, take them to the vet to ensure they don't need any further medical attention.
Excessive panting due to an underlying condition
Another reason your dog might be panting so much is due to an underlying medical condition which is leading to overheating and/or shortness of breath. Often, these might be heart or lung conditions. Panting in your dog can be an indication of a heart problem in your dog. This may be the case if they are panting at rest, not just after exercise or when they are in the heat.
Respiratory issues with the lungs can also lead to excessive panting. If you fear your dog has any issues with their lungs or heart, it is imperative they go to the vet immediately to check the seriousness of a potential condition. However, panting in these circumstance could also be down to something more benign such as heartburn or indigestion. Some dogs, like Labradors, cannot regulate their eating well, so ensure your dog hasn't simply eaten too much if you are worried about their panting.
A specific disease in dogs which makes them pant a lot is called Cushing's disease or Cushing's syndrome. Cushing's disease is a hormonal imbalance which makes the dog produce too much cortisol. Otherwise known as hyperadrenocorticism, it is an endocrine disorder which affects dogs and can cause excessive panting.
Excessive panting due to an underlying condition
Dogs don't just love to eat the food you provide them. They are known to eat almost anything under the sun, unfortunately including that which they shouldn't. If you notice your dog excessively panting, it could be due to an obstruction in their airway. However, if it is an obstruction which is causing abnormal panting, then it will probably be accompanied by an attempt to regurgitate whatever it is. If your dog is choking, then it will probably be obvious. If they cannot dislodge it themselves and you cannot see the obstruction to help, then bring your dog to the vet immediately.
Excessive panting due to poisoning or allergic reaction
If your dog is panting abnormally, then it could be due to an illness which is not caused by an underlying condition. Your dog might also have taken it upon themselves to ingest something toxic. If this is the case, then they may be becoming ill and their panting is a sign. They will likely also show other signs such as vomiting, lethargy or painful noises. If they are exhibiting these signs, then take them to the vet.
Similarly, if your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction, they may also display abnormal panting. While dogs generally have a good immune system, if they eat something they shouldn't or have come into contact with something they are allergic to, they can become ill. Even foods which are fine for humans to ingest, such as chocolate or grapes, can be very bad for your dog.
Another medical reason your dog may have excessive panting is due to a side effect for medication they are taking. If you have been giving your dog medication or even supplements, check the packet to ensure they are suitable for them.
Panting for communication
Dogs don't only pant for thermoregulation. They also pant as an emotional response. If they want to communicate this emotional information they can do so in different ways such as barking, howling or panting. If your dog is panting abnormally and trying to attract your attention, then they may be wanting to tell you something.
It could be that your dog is in some sort of pain. This could be due to an underlying condition, but it could also be down to something more immediate like a thorn in their paw or a strained muscle. They could also be suffering from some sort of anxiety or stress. If your dog is panting at you, it could be they are nervous about something. They may even be too nervous to want to bark in case this agitates their situation further. They might even want to communicate something to you about the weather as some dogs can get agitated by changes in climate.
If your dog is panting due to agitation like the above, then providing some calming reassurance should be enough to regulate their breathing again.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Why is My Dog Panting So Much?, we recommend you visit our Breathing diseases category.