If your dog is panting when they aren't hot - or haven't just been running or playing - it could be a sign of anxiety, parasites or an underlying medical condition. Our Smokey Point vets discuss causes of excessive panting in dogs and when to be concerned.
Dogs & Panting
To help you recognize abnormal breathing or excessive panting in your dog, you need to know your dog's healthy breathing pattern. On average a healthy dog will take between 15 to 35 breaths per minute when they are resting. (By nature your dog will breathe more heavily and pant when exercising). Therefore, anything more than 40 breaths a minute when your dog is at rest is considered to be abnormal and should be investigated.
Although, it's essential to know that panting doesn't always point to an issue and that it's your furry friend's way of cooling themselves down, regulating their body temperature, and letting heat and water evaporate from their mouth tongue, and upper respiratory tract.
Dogs aren't able to sweat to cool themselves off, instead, they have to breathe faster in order to let air circulate in their bodies. Panting helps your four-legged friend get their body temperature back to normal.
Which property of water allows dogs to cool themselves by panting?
If your dog is panting because they are hot, that is a perfectly normal way for your pet to cool themselves off.
Panting works by convection. Heat from your dog's body is absorbed by the water on your pet's tongue. As your pet pants the air leaving your pet's body evaporates the water which releases the heat as a gas. Then your pet breathes in cooler air. Both the out breath and the in breath, along with evaporation of the heated saliva, gradually work to lower your dog's internal temperature.
How much panting is abnormal?
To tell if your dog is panting heavily, count your dog’s breaths for a minute while they are resting or sleeping. (You might also want to do this when you aren't worried, to determine your dog's normal respiratory rate). Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, anything above 35 may be a cause for concern and is worth contacting your vet over. Your vet will have a good understanding of your dog's normal respiratory rate from previous examinations.
Why is my dog panting so heavily?
Brachycephalic dog breeds, (breeds with 'squished faces' or shortened snouts), such as Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs face a higher risk of developing breathing issues and should always be closely monitored by pet owners for signs of increased respiratory effort.
Short-nosed breeds aren't the only ones that can run into difficulties breathing normally. No matter which breed your dog is, heavy panting or fast breathing could be a sign that your pooch is suffering from an illness or injury that requires urgent veterinary care. A few potential causes of fast or heavy breathing in dogs include:
- Smoke Inhalation
- Kennel Cough
- Stiffening of Airways
- Windpipe Issues
- Pressure on Windpipe
- Fungal Respiratory Infection
- Bacterial Respiratory Infection
- Lung Diseases such as cancer
- Laryngeal Paralysis
- Breed Characteristics
- Heat Stroke
- Compressed Lungs
- Collapsing Windpipe
When should I be concerned about my dog's panting?
If you see your dog excessively panting when they are resting, or breathing heavily when they are sleeping, they may be experiencing respiratory distress. If you see your pooch exhibiting any of the following signs the first thing you should do is call your vet immediately, they will inform you of the steps you should take until you reach the animal hospital.
- Heavy, fast breathing that’s louder or different sounding than normal panting
- Their panting starts suddenly
- Open-mouthed breathing while at rest
- Reluctance to drink, eat or move
- Pale, blue-tinged, or brick red gums
- Out of character drooling
- Noticeably labored breathing (engaging stomach muscles to help breathe)
How can I tell why my dog is panting?
Your vet will conduct a complete physical examination of your dog in order to determine the cause of your dog's excessive panting such as a problem in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airway, neck, head, or another area. The condition of your pup's overall health could also be causing the problem.
Your vet will need to know about any previous medical issues that your pooch has experienced and may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check the heart, lungs and abdomen for issues such as lung tumors or broken ribs.
The veterinarian will also watch your dog for any signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that could be causing the fast breathing.
How can I help my dog if they are panting excessively?
The treatments used for your dog's excessive panting will be determined by the underlying cause of the issue. Your vet might prescribe pain relief, intravenous fluids, or other medications to help restore your dog to good health.
If your pup's heavy breathing is the result of anxiety or stress, your vet may recommend special training with a certified dog behaviorist.
Rest and oxygen therapy will likely be needed to start your dog along the road to healing. While most dogs will be well enough to be treated at home, in some severe cases hospitalization may be required to monitor the dog's breathing, and to treat the underlying health condition.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.