As spring turns to summer and the temperature rises outside, you’re more likely to notice your dog panting. This common behavior is easy to take for granted, but sometimes, excessive panting is a warning sign of an underlying problem. Here’s an explanation of why dogs pant and when you should start to worry if your dog is panting excessively.
Unlike humans, dogs can’t sweat through their skin when they get overheated. They’re covered with fur, so sweating isn’t an effective way to cool down. It’s true that dogs sweat through their paw pads, but panting is what circulates air through the body to help dogs cool off on hot days or during vigorous exercise. Laying in the shade, drinking cold water, and jumping into a pool are other methods dogs use to escape the heat.
It’s also common for dogs to start panting when they’re anxious or excited. For example, a looming thunderstorm may cause a relaxing dog’s heart rate and breathing to speed up, resulting in panting. This is a normal fear response and can be eased by petting your dog, talking to her in a slow calming voice, or allowing her to hide under the bed until the worst is over.
When to Worry About Excessive Dog Panting
Hot weather, physical exertion, and getting spooked are all normal reasons for dogs to pant. However, if your pup starts panting excessively for no apparent reason, this could indicate a health problem. Here are some of the top reasons behind excessive dog panting:
- Heatstroke: If your dog lies down for several minutes after strenuous play on a hot day, but she continues to pant relentlessly, this could be a sign of heatstroke, a serious medical emergency. Move your dog to a shady spot or an air-conditioned interior immediately and offer water. If you see other signs of heatstroke in dogs—such as sticky or dry tongue, thick saliva, frothing at the mouth, or staggering—visit the vet without delay.
- Chronic pain: Dogs sometimes start panting excessively when they get hurt. Other signs of chronic pain include limping, trembling, vocalizing, breathing fast, and acting restless.
- Poisoning or allergic reaction: When accompanied by lethargy and vomiting, excessive panting may indicate your dog has ingested something poisonous or is having difficulty breathing due to an allergic reaction or asthma attack.
- Heart or respiratory problems: Sudden, unexplained panting may be due to heart disease or a respiratory condition, such as pneumonia, lung cancer, or Cushing’s syndrome. These conditions are especially worth watching for in older dogs.
Bring Your Dog to Germantown Vet Clinic for Medical Help
If you don’t think your dog’s panting is normal, the best thing you can do is call Germantown Vet at 240-252-7467 for advice. Describe the symptoms you observe and why you’re concerned.
If we agree that your dog could have a medical problem, we’ll advise you to bring your pet to our clinic without delay. Our vet hospital is run by knowledgeable staff and outfitted with the latest equipment to ensure the best possible care for your pet. We also offer emergency vet care during hours of operation.
For emergency vet care after hours contact Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in Rockville at 301-637-3228!