Why do dogs pant and when you should worry

Last Updated on March 9, 2023 by Woody Pet

Does your dog gasp for air as if she joined a marathon? Panting or heavy breathing is the body’s way of taking in more air to keep up after strenuous chores. In dogs, panting normally occurs even if they did not participate in any activity.

So why do dogs pant? Is this health-related or a sign of an underlying problem? The truth is, there is no single reason why dogs pant. The reasons may vary and you will have to consider other factors such as the animal’s size and breed when examining the real cause. For instance, an old dog panting may already be suffering from heart failure. Short-nosed breeds may also pant more than long-muzzled dogs. But what if the panting is done excessively?

Find out when should you worry about your dog’s heavy breathing. Here are the answers to some of your burning questions about a dog’s panting:

Why do dogs pant?

Why do dogs pant

What You Need to Know About A Dog’s Panting

It’s the dog’s way of cooling itself

Dogs have sweat glands but they don’t work as efficiently as a human’s sweat glands. They are small and can only be found in their paws and their ears. Because of this, our fur babies have to rely on panting to cool themselves off. When a dog pants, she releases extra body heat.

The normal respiration rate in domestic dogs goes anywhere between 15-30 breaths per minute. You can monitor your pet’s respiration rate at home by counting the frequency the chest rises and falls. It’s advisable to do it as your pet rests like when she’s sleeping so you will be able to get more accurate results.

An old dog panting heavily should be monitored daily. Senior dogs are susceptible to many health issues like joint problems and congestive heart failure. A dog with joint problems may resort to panting as a reaction to the pain caused by her joints. In animals with a heart attack, the panting is associated with other symptoms such as coughing and appetite loss.

It may be a symptom of motion sickness

Are you wondering why do dogs pant in the car? It can be because they don’t feel comfortable riding a vehicle. Motion sickness is very common and it can affect any breed. A dog that is not used to riding a car will likely pant while she’s inside.

But what if your dog is used to riding a vehicle and still pants? Why do dogs pant in the car when they are accustomed to it? It may have something to do with the fact that she feels hotter inside and panting helps her release that heat.

Otherwise, your pet may be panting in the car because she does not feel well or she’s feeling anxious while she’s inside. She might have bad memories of car rides, like going to the vet for check-ups. She might be feeling nervous about your destination and not about the riding experience itself. 

You can use a calming spray before the ride. Calming sprays for dogs contain pheromones, the chemicals released by the mother dog to calm her puppies. The scent of calming spray, mostly because of the infused lavender adds a calming effect to the product.

It can be a reaction to certain medications

Certain medications such as prednisolone and prednisone may cause panting in dogs. If your dog is currently taking steroids probably because of skin problems and immune system irregularities, she may pant as a side effect.

Any drug taken in excess amounts can cause panting. Hypothyroidism is one of the conditions where dogs pant as a side effect to the medication. If your pet is currently on medication and suffers from panting, immediately inform your vet. Your doctor may need to have your dog checked if the panting continues even after the medication stopped. 

It can signify problems of the heart and lungs

Think of a panting dog like a sweating human. If we don’t sweat, we may suffer from overheating and worse, heatstroke. The same is true with our canine friends. If they don’t pant, they are susceptible to exhaustion which can also lead to heatstroke. 

If you will notice, dogs with short muzzles like Pugs pant heavily because they find it more difficult to regulate their temperature. This is why these dogs are more susceptible to lung problems. Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome is a life-threatening condition characterized by difficulty breathing. 

Your dog may not be getting enough oxygen

It’s possible dogs pant because they can’t get enough supply of oxygen to survive. Aside from panting, other warning signs to look out for are the color of the dog’s gums and tongue. If it looks purplish or appears like white, chances are your dog needs more oxygen to breathe properly. 

If the problem becomes complicated and turns to life-threatening diseases like congestive heart failure and lung cancer, your dog needs to receive oxygen therapy. Your vet will also run basic tests such as blood and urine test to confirm the diagnosis.

Administering this kind of therapy is done in the vet’s office. Your vet will use a machine called an oxygen conserver tank. This device is also used on other domestic animals such as cats. 

Why do dogs pant conclusion

A panting dog is a healthy dog, as long as the panting is not done too much. Excessive panting accompanied by other symptoms such as sudden changes in weight and loss of appetite can be a cause of concern.

There’s nothing much to worry about if the difficulty breathing goes away on its own. But if you notice warning signs such as having a hard time sleeping and lethargy, seek your vet’s advice. Normally, these symptoms are seen in old dogs panting. Your pet needs to be checked by a vet to rule out any possibilities of heart and lung disorders.

If you want to know if your dog’s breathing rate is on the normal range, do it while your pet rests or while she’s asleep. Avoid doing your home evaluation after your dog played or run because the breath rate will go higher following strenuous activity. If the result is higher than the average rate, consult your vet for advice.


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