Every dog owner knows that dogs pant. Most of the time, dogs will pant gently. Sometimes, a dog’s panting can seem extremely effortful and difficult. Panting is typically associated with cooling the dog’s body to avoid heat stroke. Dogs are not covered with sweat glands the way humans are. To regulate their body temperatures when heat rises, dogs will take more rapid, shallow breaths that encourage water to evaporate from the tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract to dissipate excess heat.
Panting is considered a normal, healthy response, but there times when it can signal something serious. Here are some signs that your dog’s panting is abnormal:
- Current panting behavior is excessive compared to past panting. It may seem especially fast or labor-intensive
- The panting sounds different from how it has sounded in the past. It may sound louder or harsher
- It occurs during times when your pet is not overly warm and doesn’t need to cool their body down
If your dog starts to pant at inappropriate times or the panting seems more intense than usual, call Winslow Animal Hospital or your local veterinarian to make an appointment to have your pet examined.
Why is the Dog Panting Excessively?
There are a number of different reasons your pet may be panting excessively.
Overheating or Heatstroke
This panting begins as normal, healthy response to heat. However, if the environment is hot, the dog may not be able to cool efficiently enough to keep the body’s temperature in a safe range. A dog’s body temperature is higher than a human’s under ordinary conditions, so you do not need to be concerned about a temperature of 100-102° Farenheit. 104-110° Farenheit, however, is dangerous. Your pet may also show:
- dark or bright red tongue and gums
- sticky or dry tongue and gums
- excessive or labored panting
- staggering / stupor
- diarrhea or vomiting, possibly bloody
- rapid heartbeat
Pain can cause changes in behavior. A pet cannot verbally tell you that they are in pain, so it’s up to Pet-Parents to look for behavior changes that may indicate that the pet is in pain, including changes in panting behaviors. If your pet is panting at odd times, such as at night when they are normally resting, it may be a first sign of trouble.
Disease of the Heart or Lungs
Excessive panting is a symptom of certain heart or lung conditions. Other signs can include reluctance to exercise or less ability to exercise, tiring quickly, heavy breathing and coughing. There may be weakness or fainting as well.
When a heart is diseased, it cannot efficiently distribute the blood supply to the body, depriving the body of oxygen. In response, the dog will pant to try to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease)
In this condition, the adrenal glands are releasing too much cortisol, a hormone that is ordinarily released in response to stressful situations that prepares the body to flee or fight a threat. In small doses as a response to stressors, cortisol is a normal, healthy response. However, a dog with hyperadrenocorticism is experiencing inappropriate release of cortisol by the adrenal glands. This can cause excessive panting, as well as these other symptoms:
- Heightened blood sugar (which increases risk of diabetes)
- Elevated blood pressure (which can lead to cardiovascular disease)
- appetite changes and weight gain
- Increased thirst and urination
- Thinning of the coat/skin
- Decreased muscle and bone mass
- Increased risk of infection
- Irritability or restlessness
Anemia is a condition in which an animal has an abnormally low volume of red blood cells and the blood is unable to carry as much oxygen to the cells of the body as they need. This oxygen deprivation triggers panting as the body tries to compensate.
Other symptoms of anemia:
- difficulty exercising
- elevated heart rate
- pale mucous membranes (around the mouth, gums, tongue become pale pink to white in color).
- loss of appetite
- rapid breathing
Problems with Muscles or Cartilage Around the Larynx
If there is a problem with the muscles or cartilage that open and close the larynx, the airway will not open properly, making breathing difficult for the dog. Loud, raspy panting occurs as the dog struggles to get enough air.
Some pets will develop an anxiety disorder, in which they frequently show anxiety symptoms. Others may develop phobias, intense fears of particular stimuli that result in anxiety symptoms. For example, many dogs will behave very differently during a thunderstorm or in response to loud noises such as fireworks. Look for:
- repetitive yawning
- whining / crying
- hiding / trembling
- licking the lips
- accidents in the house even though the pet is housebroken
The fear response is normal and healthy, but if these behaviors are occurring frequently, inappropriately, or lasting a long time, anxiety may be negatively impacting your pet’s quality of life. Talk to your veterinarian about your concerns.
If you notice excessive panting behaviors, it could be one of the above conditions. As with any unexplained change in your pet’s behavior, notice and write down details about your pet’s excessive panting behavior so you can talk about it with your veterinarian. If your dog has been panting excessively request an appointment online or call us at 856-875-1323.