Why Do Dogs Pant?

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
Updated on 18 November 2020
Expert Content

Does your dog pant a lot?

If so, you should make an appointment with your regular veterinarian at the earliest possible opportunity.

There are a variety of different reasons why your dog may be panting.

Most commonly dogs pant to regulate their body temperature but pet owners should learn about the other possible reasons for panting.

If you’re concerned about your dog excessively panting, you should contact your vet.

We spoke to five experts, ranging from veterinarians to dog behaviorists, to get an answer to the question: why do dogs pant?

Pitbull Terrier Mix (Photo: Adobe)

Pitbull Terrier Mix (Photo: Adobe)

The Most Common Reason Is To Cool Themselves

Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM and Vet Expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance

• I’m hot – The most common reason dogs pant is to cool themselves down. Dogs only have sweat glands on their paws, which is not enough to cool their body temperature if it rises. Therefore, they utilize panting to lower their body temperature. Dogs will pant not only when they feel hot because of the environment, but also if they have a fever.

• I’m stressed – When dogs feel anxious or stressed, they will pant to relieve stress and show you that they are stressed. If your dog is panting when they are at the veterinary hospital or when you take them to the groomer, or if they are scared of fireworks or thunderstorms, then they may be panting to show you that they are scared.

• I’m having trouble breathing – If a dog can’t inhale or exhale properly, then they may pant because they can’t breathe. There are many conditions that can affect a dog’s ability to breathe, some of which include collapsing airway syndrome, brachycephalic syndrome in short nosed dogs, asthma, bronchitis, chest trauma, or heart disease.

• I have Cushing’s! – Cushing’s is a common disease where the adrenal glands make too much cortisol. One of the signs of Cushing’s is increased panting and other signs include drinking a lot, peeing a lot, and a pot bellied appearance.

• I’m in pain or I don’t feel well – When a dog is in pain or a dog feels nauseous, then a dog may pant. Belly pain is a common reason why dogs will pant. If your dog pants when riding in a car, then it could be motion sickness that is causing your dog to pant because he feels nauseous. Talk to your vet about anti-motion sickness medication if this is a common trend.

Dogs Pant To Release Heat

Dr Sara Ochoa, Exotic Veterinarian and Veterinary Consultant for Doglab.com

Why do dogs pant?

Dogs pant to release heat. They cannot sweat and panting is their way of cooling off.

What causes panting?

When your dog gets too hot, they will start to pant. This may be from them playing too hard or because they are sick.

If your dog is panting and does not stop after cooling them off and stoping playing after about 20 minutes, they should see a vet as this can be a severe issue.

How serious is panting?

Panting can be very serious if your dog is overheated. They also may be panting because they have heart or lung issues causing them to have problems breathing.

Alaskan Klee Kai at the park (Photo: lifewithkleekai / Instagram)

Alaskan Klee Kai at the park (Photo: lifewithkleekai / Instagram)

Health Problems Can Be Responsible For A Dog’s Panting

Dr Jennifer Coates, DVM and Advisory Board Member for Pet Life Today

Dogs use panting to cool themselves off. Dogs are almost entirely incapable of sweating (except from their noses and foot pads), so they make use of evaporative cooling in the form of panting. Even if the temperature feels pleasant to us, dogs may become overheated due to their coats. Activity also generates a lot of heat which is dissipated by panting.

Anxiety or excitement can also lead to panting.

Watch your dog’s body language for insight into their state of mind. Anxious dogs often their hold their tails low, pace, cower, yawn, whine, or try to leave or hide. Excited dogs typically hold their tails high and wag exuberantly. They also move towards the focus of their excitement or engage in a game of “catch me if you can.”

Health problems can be responsible for a dog’s panting. Cushing’s disease, cardiovascular or respiratory problems, or anything that results in pain may lead to panting. Overweight dogs also overheat easily and may pant excessively. Talk to your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog’s panting.

They Need To Feel More Comfortable

Jamie Thomas, Executive Director at Motley Zoo Animal Rescue

Most panting is relatively innocent however, a dog that pants excessively in certain situations- ie when you take them places, ride in the car or when you leave them- are definitely experiencing some levels of anxiety that may benefit from management support.

In my opinion, if your dog is stressed enough to pant often, then they probably need you to help them find a way to feel more comfortable in their own skin. They deserve to enjoy life and not feel on edge all the time, so looking at it from that perspective can help- since many people understandably, don’t want to drug their dogs.

However, if your dog can’t relax even when there’s nothing wrong, you owe it to them to think bigger than your ideals and think more along the lines of what your dog might need.

Giving your dog their best life may indeed involve some kind of support for their anxiety- but this is also nothing to feel bad about either! Support could be something used actually, before a stressful event, like an herbal supplement, or perhaps CBD- which we have found in our many rescue animals, can be very beneficial for generalized animal anxiety.

Some dogs may require a more long-term, continuous strategy however too- even pharmaceuticals- if they are panting a lot during their average day and it cannot be attributed to a medical condition.

Alaskan Klee Kai Copper and Skye at Golden Gate Bridge (Photo: lifewithkleekai / Instagram)

Alaskan Klee Kai Copper and Skye at Golden Gate Bridge (Photo: lifewithkleekai / Instagram)

Regulates Body Temperature

Jeff Carbridge, Dog Trainer and Expert at Dogowner.co.uk

Hot and bothered

Dogs sweat through their paws and through panting. It helps them to cool down and regulate their temperature, especially in the summer.

If your dog is panting on a hot day, it’s because they are cooling down. Just make sure they have plenty of water.

Tired out from exercise

After a long walk or run, your dog will pant because they are sweating but also because they are tired and ready for a rest. It’s also a sign that they need a drink after exerting themselves – just as you need to hydrate after vigorous exercise.

Illness, pain, and dehydration

When dogs feel sick or are in pain, you may notice excessive panting. This can be used as a coping method when they feel unwell but also a sign that they are dehydrated and desperately need their water bowl refilled.

Fear and anxiety

When dogs are afraid or suffering from anxiety (such as during fireworks) they will pant excessively because they are frightened and trying to cope with what’s happening. In cases like this, it is important to try and keep them calm so that they don’t make themselves unwell from the stress they are experiencing.

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