Dog excessive panting is described as fast and shallow breaths with canines having an open mouth and an extended tongue. It is generally a normal behaviour in the canine world especially after having a good playtime or workout. As such, it can be easily observed in your daily activities together. Do dogs pant when they are in pain? Do dogs pant more when they get older? There is no single cause of excessive panting in dogs. In fact, it can be caused by several factors.
1. Inhalation and exhalation during exertion
Healthy canines usually have a resting respiration rate between 15 and 40 inhalations and exhalations per minute. When they pant, the respiration rate normally increases 10 times which may reach up to 400 inhalations and exhalations in a minute.
There is an increase in heart rate and body temperature during exertion. When dogs are at work, they use their muscles with respiration that may not involve oxygen. As a result, it processes glucose into lactic acid supporting the movement which can cause cramps and muscle exhaustion. Dogs need to deeply breathe to allow the oxygen to recirculate through the bloodstream and the muscles eliminating the lactic acid in the process. Once achieved, this helps puts the body on its resting norm.
Panting is necessary during or after exertion to provide oxygen to the blood. More movement and exertion require more air as well.
Another possible cause of panting is ‘thermoregulation’ which is the process by which dogs cool down. Unlike humans, canines barely sweat at all, and when they do, it is through their noses and the pads of their paws. Even so, it is not enough for the dogs to cool down fully.
Through panting, the dogs are able to inhale cooler air. The tongue hanging out plays a big role in canine temperature regulation. The tongue has many blood vessels that help circulate cooler air throughout the body. The nasal passages also have blood vessels that serve the same function.
Three patterns of panting
- Nose inhalation and exhalation
- Inhalation using the nose and exhalation using the mouth
- Both inhalation and exhalation are done through nose and mouth
3. Temperature changes in the environment
Adjustments in the temperature of the environment may take longer for some dogs. This varies accordingly to their body shape, size, weight, coat length and type and the general health of the dog. Breeds that are predisposed to extreme sensitivity to environmental temperature are:
If you look at the listed breeds, most are brachycephalic breeds due to their short-muzzled face structure. They have small nasal passages and short windpipes which make them prone to breathing complications.
Is your dog panting and shaking? Pay attention to the environment. Is it hot? Perhaps, your pooch is suffering from sunstroke or heatstroke. Sunstroke occurs when the body is no longer capable of dissipating heat on its own. It usually occurs when the body temperature reaches 109°F or higher. With high body temperatures, the cells may start to die and the brain begins to swell which causes seizures.
In an attempt to cool down, your dog will start to pant excessively. Other symptoms include:
- Bloody diarrhoea
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive drooling
- Heavy panting
- Increased heart and pulse rate
Heatstroke can be fatal so it is important to take extra precaution during summer months.
5. A symptom of other illnesses
Apart from the 4 other factors mentioned, excessive panting could also mean that the dog is in a painful condition. In this case, panting is your dog’s way of telling you he is in pain. It is up to you as the owner to notice apparent signs and symptoms.
Excessive panting could be a result of underlying medical conditions such as:
- Diseases of the heart and lungs (such as dilated cardiomyopathy)
- Cushing’s disease
- Laryngeal paralysis
6. Distress, fear, and phobia
A threatened dog with fear and anxiety is likely to heavily pant as a form of communication that something is indeed wrong. Dogs exhibit this behaviour when they hear fireworks. Good thing is that there are ways to help them calm down and you can read about it here.
Preventive ways of dog excessive panting
Fortunately, there are ways to relieve your dog’s panting.
- Access to fresh water at all times
Prepare cool water (not ice cold) for your dog. Water breaks should be initiated during playtime and exercise.
- Keep him in a cool environment
If you think your dog is overheating, be quick to place him in a cool area, preferably with air conditioning or a fan running. Once the dog has recovered from heavy panting, provide him with fresh water. You may also dip a towel with water to drape over his body.
- Comfort him
Most importantly, offer a sense of calm and comfort to your dog. You may think about certain distractions that will pull his attention away from what is causing the distress. A treat or his favourite toy can be given. Consider talking to him in a soothing voice and do not appear nervous especially during public walks. Remember that your dog can sense what you are feeling.