Every breed of dog pants sometimes, either when they are exhausted after vigorous exercise, being stressed or in pain. When we care for dogs we have to be aware that a dog does not sweat over his entire body like we do. Because of his body being covered with either a thick or thin furry coat; instead he sweats mainly through the pads of his feet. There is an additional way an overheated dog cools his body down and that is by panting and breathing rapidly with his mouth wide open and his tongue pushed forward.
As a dog heats up he exposes more of his tongue and opens his mouth wider to increase the moist surface area for quicker cooling by using the process of evaporation. A Dog will also pant when he or she is nervous, much the same as we might sweat when we are worried or anxious.
Any dog who pants excessively, may be either overheated or very anxious. Excessive panting is a symptom of possibly something more sinister. If your dog is exerting himself either in warm weather, or other places where water is not available, get him to into the shade, where he can begin to cool down and also give him access to drinking water.
Fear of thunderstorms and fireworks can cause almost psychotic panting where the dog is not aware of his surroundings and will just try and get to a safe place, often knocking into things. If he pants excessively in the car or during a thunderstorm, respond as you would if he exhibited other signs of fear or nervousness, by acting to calm him down, and not further adding to his stress.
The use of drugs, as a calmer, is often advised by veterinary surgeons, but these have to be given before the event to have maximum effect.
The mere fact that your dog is panting is a sign that he is getting rid of excess heat and is usually exhibiting a perfectly normal activity. It only becomes a major worry when your dog is panting without any apparent reason.
Panting can be a sign of distress especially if your dog is fastened in a car on a hot day without any ventilation. A dog can suffer from heat stroke within minutes and can literally die within minutes. Although it is stating the obvious, never leave your dog unattended in a car.
You have to be aware of how inefficient dogs are of getting rid of excess heat because most of the work is done through the pads of their feet. This means the dogs basic body temperature often rises rapidly and if not immediately reduced, death quickly follows.
Symptoms of Heat stroke, besides excessive panting, are a glazed look on the face of the dog and it may also be disorientated or even collapse. There may also be excessive salivation and the gums may either be bright red or pale. There is also a marked increase in the dogs heart rate, along with vomiting and diarrhea.
Any dogs are showing these symptoms take immediate action by:
- Removing it from a hot environment to a cooler place (If this is the primary cause).
- Immerse the dog in a cooling bath or shower over the body of the dog (To get the dogs body temperature down).
- Place a package of frozen vegetables on the head to reduce heat to the brain, as this can help prevent swelling, which could cause further serious problems.
- Be sure to keep your dogs head above water level and keep water away from it nose and mouth if it is dozing or unconscious.
Remember a dog takes between 10 and 30 breaths a minute and up to 200 breaths / minute depending on their size, which is a good way to judge if you are not sure whether your dog is in trouble.
Some other common reasons for dogs panting:
- He is suffering from poisoning.
- Heart failure may show some of the same symptoms including breathing difficulty, reduced exercise tolerance and coughing.
- Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to panting or breathing harder than others. Dogs with short snouts especially Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Pugs and Pekinese are prone to this.
- Heatstroke is a common cause of excessive panting and should be treated as extremely serious.
- Milk fever in bitches can also be a cause, as can infections within the airways.
- Respiratory infections including lung tumors can also cause heavy breathing or panting.
- Cushing’s syndrome along with other symptoms, which may include hunger, excessive thirst, hair loss and a potbellied appearance.
- Certain prescribed veterinary medications may also lead to heavy panting in dogs.
Panting is usually normal for your dog after a walk, when the weather is abnormal or after exercise. At other times, if you suspect your dog may be in pain or suffering from some other cause of him panting, have him checked at your veterinary surgeon.
It could save the life of your dog.
About the Author
Alex Dean has kept, bred and been involved with all things dogs for over fifty years. His knowledge and experience comes from working in animal husbandry/veterinary medicines. To gain access to his valuable insight and knowledge by visiting his Best Dog Breed website and downloading ‘ 7 Steps To Better Older Dog Health’ for free.