Dogs pant, especially when they are hot, excited, or energetic. Panting is normal behaviour as they are unable to sweat like we do to control their body temperature. They do sweat a little through their paws but for them to cool down they pant, which causes air to circulate through their bodies and it is also very important for them to have access to water and shade. They do not have an effective system of sweat glands like we do and cool their bodies using the evaporation of moisture from the mouth and tongue and exchange the hot air of their lungs with cooler external air.
Your dog or pup might be panting for one of the following reasons:
To cool down because it is too hot - panting helps to regulate your dogs body temperature when they get too hot. It is natural to see dogs panting more often on warm days or after heavy physical exertion. Their panting will usually slow down as they recover from exercise and their body temperature returns to normal.
Excitement - you may notice your dog pants more while you are preparing for a walk or when they meet new people or dogs. Excited panting is usually shallower and more rapid than panting due to heat or exercise and you may notice your dog whining at the same time.
Stress or anxiety - can be another trigger for increased panting. Things like a trip to the vet, changes within household dynamics or an encounter with a strange dog can all make your dog feel stressed.
Illness or in pain – if you notice that your dog keeps panting for no apparent reason and this is accompanied by other signs of discomfort, such as excessive self-licking or whimpering, talk to your vet.
Medication - some medications can cause excessive panting in dogs. Your vet will be able to advise you if any medication your dog is taking may cause them to pant more than normal and will tell you how to manage this.
Obesity - is a growing problem in dogs, excessive panting in an overweight dog is often a sign that they are struggling to get fresh, oxygenated blood to their vital systems.
Although panting is a normal behaviour for a dog if you are worried that your dog is panting abnormally, call your vet immediately.
The following are signs to look out for to determine whether you should consult your vet:
- Your dog suddenly starts panting for no apparent reason or if the panting sounds unusually harsh or is accompanied by shaking or pain.
- The panting is constant and very intense and your dog shows signs of distress
- Look at their tongue and gums and if they are blue, purple or white it is a sign that they are not getting enough oxygen.
- Heavy panting is one sign your dog may have injured itself which may come with other signs of pain such as lack of appetite, not wanting to lie down, licking or biting a particular area on their body and are generally restless.
Rather be safe than sorry and leave it to your veterinarian to determine if your dog is experiencing abnormal panting.