Why is My Dog Panting So Much?

Filed in Dog Health on July 19, 2021

why is my dog panting so much

We’ve all seen and heard our dogs pant, with their droopy tongues flopping. We usually think of panting as a sign that our dog is very hot. After a big game of group fetch at the dog park, it seems every dog stops to pant and cool off.

But what if your dog keeps breathing heavily long after you’ve hung up the leash and settled on the sofa? You may be asking yourself why is my dog panting so much?

There are reasons why your dog may pant in a cooler climate. If you’ve wondered why your dog is breathing so fast or heavily, this article may explain the mystery behind rapid open-mouth breathing.

Keep reading to learn some of the many reasons why pooches pant.

Common Causes of Panting

While a veterinarian may be needed to determine exactly why your dog is panting so much, the most common causes include:

• Cooling Off
• Heat Stroke
• Anxiety or Fear
• Fever
• Strenuous exercise
• Pain
• Cushing’s Disease
• Steroid medications
• Obesity
• Heart and Respiratory Diseases

Let’s take a closer look at each of these causes of panting and why your dog may be panting so much.

Cooling Off

Have you ever wondered why your dog doesn’t feel sweaty, even after a hot July trot to the park for some frisbee action? Your dog’s main way of keeping cool is through evaporative cooling.

Their open mouths and rapid shallow breaths, often over 200 breaths per minute, allow increased evaporation over moist surfaces.

This includes the tongue, mouth, and lining of the respiratory tract. Dogs do have sweat glands, but these are isolated to the paws.

Heat Stroke

Dog alone inside a car

Usually panting and access to cool water and shade are enough while outside on a hot day. But if your dog is confined to a hot car or other space without circulation, panting can’t keep up with the extreme temperatures in stagnant hot air.

Dogs with heat stroke will pant, have bright red gums, a long tongue, and weakness. Death can occur quicker than you think.

Dogs with short faces such as pugs and bulldogs are even more prone to heat stroke due to brachycephalic airway syndrome. Their tiny nostrils and floppy soft palates don’t let much air in!

Golden retrievers and Irish setters are prone to laryngeal paralysis, making them more susceptible to heat stroke. The harder they breathe, the more their upper airway closes.

Plan to leave your pooch at home or take them with you when you park.

Anxiety or Fear

Just like people, some dogs are prone to generalized anxiety or stress, while others have situational panic. Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety when their owners leave for work.

Others only show fear during thunderstorms or on the Fourth of July. Other triggers include car trips, appointments with a veterinarian, or visits to the groomer.

Nail trim? Nooooo! A restless panting dog may be telling you he needs some professional help, pronto.

If your dog seems anxious frequently or with many triggers, your veterinarian can advise you on behavioral therapy and medication such as fluoxetine hydrochloride (Reconcile ®) or clomipramine hydrochloride (Clomicalm ®).

Natural supplements such as Purina Pro Plan ® Calming Care mixed in the food, Zylkene ®, or Anxitane ® have all been known to help take the edge off.

Concurrent training is the best route to success, so don’t expect a magic pill to cure their worries.

If your furry pal tries to climb in your lap or into the bathtub during thunderstorms, your vet may prescribe an “event medication,” to be given before a stressful event.

When the forecast calls for storms, giving trazodone, gabapentin, or Sileo® ahead of time can help your dog face his fears and prevent hours of panting.

Fever

Dogs get fevers just like people do. Fever may be due to an infection, cancer, or immune-mediated disease such as Chinese shar-pei fever syndrome.

Our dogs’ normal body temperature is higher than ours. In fact, a temperature of 102.5°F is normal. When the thermometer shows 103°F or higher, we get concerned.

Strenuous Exercise

dog panting after exercise

Even on a cold day, anyone who has jogged uphill knows that it’s harder to hold a conversation with your pals. Why? You need to open your mouth and breathe harder, or pant, to keep up with the increased oxygen demand of your muscles.

Dogs also pant when they exercise strenuously. This increases the rate of oxygen uptake in the lungs and ensures the muscle cells get what they need to keep your dog chasing squirrels or sprinting after a ball.

Pain

Dogs experiencing severe pain may pant. An example is a dog suffering from bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with gas and can twist.

Deep-chested dogs seen pacing, panting, and showing restlessness should see a veterinarian immediately. Other causes of acute pain may include trauma, gastrointestinal upset, snake or spider bites, burns, and a slipped intervertebral disc.

Cushing’s Disease

Also known as hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s disease occurs when there is an excess of cortisol, a corticosteroid, in your dog’s body.

This may be due to a benign tumor in the pituitary gland, or an adrenal gland tumor. The hallmark symptoms of this disease include excessive thirst, urination, appetite, and panting.

Cortisol leads to liver enlargement, weak respiratory muscles, and excess fat deposition in the chest and abdomen. These changes all lead to shallow less efficient breathing, triggering panting.

If you are wondering why your dog is breathing so hard while lounging lazily in your cool living room, Cushing’s disease may be to blame. If this describes your dog, be sure to bring these concerns to your veterinarian.

Steroid Medication

Similar to Cushing’s disease, corticosteroid medications such as prednisone can increase panting. Usually this occurs when the medication is given for a while, or at higher doses.

A veterinarian may prescribe steroids for allergies, autoimmune disease, cancer, or intervertebral disk disease. Panting resolves when the medication is tapered down as directed by your veterinarian.

Obesity

Obese beagle panting

Dogs packing the pounds are prone to panting. The extra body fat places pressure on the respiratory muscles, making every breath more shallow.

Obesity can lead to a reduced lifespan and quality of life, so be sure to talk to your vet about safe weight loss if your dog needs to slim down.

Heart and Respiratory Diseases

Panting may also occur in older dogs or dogs with serious heart or lung disease. If your furry friend begins panting suddenly, and there is no obvious explanation, seek veterinary attention without delay.

Conclusion on Why Is My Dog Panting So Much

I hope you’ve learned some of the more common reasons why your dog may be panting so much. The good news is that many of these conditions, such as overheating and anxiety, are either preventable or treatable.

By understanding what leads to heavy breathing, and partnering with your veterinarian, you can take the lead on keeping your panting pal calm and comfortable.

About the Author

Dr. Jacqueline Dobranski, DVM is a contributing writer to Dog Endorsed. She received her D.V.M. from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997, and her B.S. from Cornell in 1992. She earned a Graduate Certificate in Shelter Animal Medicine in 2015. Dr. Dobranski currently practices small animal medicine in the Washington DC area.

Comments (2)

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  1. John Teets says:

    We recently adopted a Greyhound, Ziggy. She seems to have a lot of anxiety and is constantly panting. Is this something that should go away over time? Hopefully the longer we have her the less anxious she will be. Fingers crossed.

    • Todd says:

      It really would depend on the cause. I would definitely check with your vet since this article is not meant for specific advice. I wish your dog good luck.

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