Everything You Need to Know About Panting in Dogs

July 30, 2018

The Meaning of Panting in Dogs

It is basically the accelerated and shallow breathing that allows for evaporation of water on the animal’s tongue, in its mouth and in its upper respiratory tract. As this is happening, the animal’s corporal temperature is regulated.

It is good to know that dogs do not perspire in the same way as people, and that panting helps them to control the heat and cool down. That is why panting in dogs is more frequent in the summer.

Pug lying with its tongue out
Although it may seem that the dog is making an extra effort to pant, the truth is that for dogs that is not the case, due to the elasticity of their lungs and airways.

The normal respiratory rate for dogs is a maximum of 40 inhalations per minute. When panting, this rises to 300 inhalations per minute. It is necessary to know that there are two types of panting in dogs: normal and abnormal.

The former appears when the body overheats, and is considered to be natural. The latter, though, can be a sign that the animal has a health problem.

So, how can you know for sure? Well, when the dog’s breathing is excessive. This tends to occur when the dog is not hot, the ambient temperature is not elevated, when breathing sounds noisy and “rough,”, or when you notice that the animal is making a great effort to be able to breathe.

On the other hand, there are some breeds that are more prone to excessive panting due to the shape of their snouts. In the case of the Bulldog, the Pug, the Boxer or the Boston Terrier (among other brachycephalic dogs), they may have difficulty breathing and make a lot of noise while inhaling. In addition, these dogs suffer a lot from high temperatures, and even from car rides.

 

Abnormal Causes for Panting in Dogs

After discarding the dog’s bodily temperature and the ambient temperature, and even the dog’s breed, as possible causes, panting can be a warning signal to which we must pay attention, since your dog’s life could be at risk. So, how can you know when a dog is panting normally, and when it is not?

 

1. Before a Heatwave

It is one thing for a dog to pant because the temperature has risen in the summer, and quite another if the animal has been exposed to the sun at noon for several hours. When a dog’s body overheats, it will begin to pant.

If, after a few minutes, this behavior does not diminish, and we also see that the animal has glazed eyes, shiny gums and palpitations, it is because the dog is suffering with heat stroke. It is very important that you cool the animal off with cold water, place the dog in the shade or even put him as close to a fan or air conditioning, as possible.

 

2. Pain

Panting in dogs can be a way of expressing pain or discomfort in the face of disease. It is their way of communicating without using words. You should pay close attention if your dog’s breathing changes, especially if they suddenly start panting for no apparent reason. It could be that, in that exact moment, you dog experienced a pain, or his pains have become more acute. If any of these happen, take your dog to a trusted veterinarian as soon as possible.

Puppy smiling

3. Obesity

A good part of the canine population suffers from obesity due to poor diet and lack of exercise. Obesity can shorten a dog’s life expectancy and prevent the animal from regulating its bodily temperature properly. This will inevitably result in more panting. If a dog’s breathing is strained when it takes a few steps or has some physical activity (such as looking for a toy or climbing the stairs), it may be due to excessive body weight. If this is the case, change the dog’s diet and go out on a walk together every day.

 

4. Pulmonary and Cardiac Diseases

Canine dilated cardiomyopathy can cause panting, as well as other symptoms: a dilated abdomen, heavy breathing, coughing, fainting, weakness and lack of energy.

5. Stress or Fear

When dogs are nervous or are in stressful situations, such as during storms or even on New Year’s Eve celebrations (because of fireworks), they may very well start panting. That being the case, dogs will change their behavior and pace back and forth around the room, while shaking, trying to hide, and even loosing the ability to control their bladder or bowels.