Dog panting is normal and often shows that your dog is upbeat. In some cases, however, it can be a sign of a medical condition. The problem is usually distinguishing between normal and abnormal panting. So why do dogs pant?
Here is a list of reasons that may cause it
- Cool Down
- Sign of Happiness
- Stress or Anxiety
- Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome
- Allergic Reaction
- Cushing Disease
- Lung Disease
- Physical Conditions
Here we will broadly look at this subject and dissect some of the controversial things about dog panting.
What is Dog Panting?
According to American Veterinary Medical Associations, 38.4% of households own dogs. This begs the question of whether owners understand basic things like a dog panting.
When your dog is panting, it opens its mouth and lets its tongue out. In so doing, it allows oxygen in and lowers its body temperature. Dogs have fewer sweat glands than human beings, and thus they are not so effective in cooling off your dog.
Instead, panting in dogs helps them cool off through the evaporation of moisture from the tongue and mouth. Your dog also uses panting to exchange hot air from the lungs with cooler air from the external environment.
Often panting is misconstrued as Dyspnea, also known as labored breathing. Labored breathing is a sign of distress which is characterized by difficult respiration and whining sounds. It is an indication that your pet is struggling to catch a breath or inhale in and out.
It can be a sign of underlying diseases like trauma, injury, lung disease, or conditions related to the throat. There may also be some occasions when your dog pants excessively which could be abnormal.
Excessive breathing can be caused by a thyroid condition, high blood pressure, pain, fever, or other conditions. Therefore, it is advisable to be on the lookout to ensure that your dog’s breathing is within limits.
Why Do Dogs Pant?
There are manifold reasons why dogs pant.
Dog engages in many activities like running and playing, which make them generate a lot of heat. Unlike human beings who can cool off through sweating, dogs cannot achieve coolness thanks to their thick fur. Panting is the only way to help them to cool off.
As water evaporates from their tongues, it helps to lower body temperatures. It thus helps release excess heat and let in cooler air. During hot weather or when your dog has engaged in an intense activity, it could make it overheat. Overheating may be characterized by the reddened tongue, weakness, and elongated tongue.
Your dog will pant rapidly and stick the tongue out in an attempt to ward off the excessive heat. Despite this, overheating can sometimes overwhelm your dog. Panting may not be sufficient to cool off the dog and may result in heatstroke.
When dogs are experiencing pain, they may try to conceal the pain at first. This, however, won’t last for long before they start showing signs of discomfort, such as panting. Don’t take it lightly if you encounter inexplicable panting in your dog, as it could signal a serious condition.
Other symptoms accompanying panting may include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, limping, lethargy, and pacing. Instead of dilly-dallying and risk losing your pet, it is advisable to contact your veterinarian immediately. You can also reach out to The Humane Society of the United States for the guidance on your dog’s welfare.[Source]
Sign of Happiness
Panting does not always symbolize bad things. It could well be a sign of happiness and excitement in pets. It’s not hard to tell when your dog is upbeat since there will be other signs like tail wagging.
You can also check its facial expression to see if it is relaxed. When the dogs are happy, their eyes appear to be dazzling with happiness.
Your dog can increase the tempo of panting a little when excited and slow it when things calm down. Some people see this sort of panting as a smile.
Stress or Anxiety
Just like human beings, dogs experience anxiety and fear. When a dog is anxious or fearful, it may exhibit behavioral panting. This condition is characterized by stress indicators like yawning, trembling, drooling, whining, hiding, lip licking, food refusal, and reclusive behavior.
It could be afraid of things like a visit to a veterinarian or a journey which could make it jittery. If you notice the behavioral panting ahead of an activity or event, look for creative ways to make it relax.
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome
Dogs can pant due to Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. This is a condition that makes dogs experience difficulties when breathing due to obstruction of the upper airway.
The condition limits the amount of air reaching the nostrils making it difficult for them to pant normally. This increases the risk of heatstroke due to the inability to cool themselves quickly.
Some medications can make your dog have allergic reactions making it hard to breathe. This may make it pant as it struggles to breathe.
Your pup is supposed to produce cortisol to help it control its weight, regulate blood sugar levels, and manage stress. However, Cushing Syndrome results when cortisol is produced in disproportionate quantities.
Cushing Syndrome refers to hormonal imbalance, which occurs when adrenal glands produce cortisol in large quantities. It usually affects middle-aged and older dogs, and one of the symptoms is abnormal panting. Other symptoms you may notice in your pup include
- Getting hungrier
- Loss of hair
- Getting skin infections
- Tiredness and inactiveness
- Skin infections
Anemia is a condition where red blood cells count dwindles. Since the red blood cells work to transport oxygen to body tissues, their decline causes oxygen deprivation.
Your dog’s natural response to oxygen deprivation is panting. Other symptoms include vomiting, pale gums, black stools, weight loss, loss of appetite, lethargy, and swelling of the face or jaws.
Lungs help transfer oxygen to the bloodstream. If the lungs’ functionality is inhibited, the transfer of oxygen into the bloodstream and other tissue cannot happen effectively. This leads to an increase in respiratory rate, which makes your dog naturally pant.
[Related Article: Where Does A Dog’s Spirit Go When It Dies]
Your dog could be panting due to the following physical problems:
- A medication may increase respiration or occasion panting.
- A full or bloated stomach
- Laryngeal paralysis
How to Tell whether your Pup’s Panting is Abnormal
It is not always easy to differentiate between normal panting from abnormal panting. However, there are noticeable signs that indicate all is not well when an abnormal panting set in. Here are some tips that can help you know if your pup is panting abnormally.
Try to find out if the panting is linkable to a particular activity
In most cases, your pup will pant upon performing a particular activity. It could be after running, playing, excitement, or high temperatures. Panting due to stress, high temperature, or excitement can be deemed normal. In contrast, it is abnormal if your dog pants while resting, sleeping, or when it is not overly warm.
Identify other Symptoms that are Occurring Alongside Panting
Apart from the panting, it would help if you looked out for other symptoms being exhibited by your dog. For instance, you could notice that your dog has lost appetite or has been inactive and lethargic for a while. Sometimes you could also notice that your dog is coughing. Such symptoms should tell you that your dog is not well.
Strange Sound in your Dog’s Panting
You could notice some unusual sounds when your dog is panting. The sound can be a red flag about the health of your dog. There are some dogs that are predisposed to a condition known as laryngeal paralysis.
This condition affects vocal cords making airways not open widely. As a result, the dog makes abrasive sounds when panting.
Obstruction of the airway may make such dogs unable to cool themselves properly and put them at risk of heatstroke. This can be termed as abnormal panting because normal dogs pant without making such strange sounds.
• Take a close look at the Panting Patterns
Normal panting can range from moderate to rapid depending on the activity or temperature levels. The abnormal panting pattern is excessive and rapid irrespective of the circumstances.
What to do if the Panting is Abnormal
If you suspect that your dog’s heavy panting emanates from overheating, it is not time to panic. There are basic things you can do to salvage the situation. Here are some steps to resuscitate your dog:
- You can cool your dog to lower its body temperature. Wet it using a hose and then lock it inside a shade for some time.
- Give your pup some water to drink. This will as well help in lowering the temperature.
- If the situation is getting out of hand, it is advisable to call your local veterinarian for emergency treatment.
- You can take the dog to a nearby hospital for medical attention. If you are driving to the hospital, you can run the air conditioner to cool the temperature.
It may be that your dog’s panting has nothing to do with overheating. Other symptoms could also accompany overheating.
If that’s the case, it would be advisable to contact your veterinarian right away. You can schedule an appointment with the veterinarian or ask him to tell you what to do in the interim.