The 9 Reasons Your Dog is Panting So Much
There are a number of different reasons why a dog pants. Some of them are normal. Some of them are signs of serious diseases.
If your dog has started panting all the time and you’re wondering why they are panting so much, then I've got the nine main reasons that you need to think about.
Why Dog’s Pant:
Normal panting for heat loss and oxygen delivery
Anxiety, fear, and nervousness
Breed related conformation
The first, and obvious reason is that dogs normally pant. Panting is clearly not always abnormal if your dog is exercising and they are short of breath if they've been working hard. The other normal reason is if your dog is getting hot.
Normal panting provides 2 important functions. It helps get more oxygen into the lungs so that it can then be delivered to different parts of the body. It is also the main way that dogs have of losing heat.
Dogs can't sweat and instead, they need to pant to lose heat and to stay cool.
Anxiety, Fear, or Nervousness
The next normal reason for panting is if a dog is anxious, fearful, or nervous. Panting is a normal reaction. As part of the fight or flight response, the body prepares itself for having to either fight or run away. By triggering panting, the body is increasing oxygen availability so that it's there when it’s needed.
If your dog is anxious, if they're nervous, or if they're scared, then panting can be a completely normal response.
Abnormal Panting Causes
If you are wondering why your dog is panting so much when these situations aren't the case, your dog is panting all the time, even when they are resting in a cool environment, then there are a number of possible causes.
Several different diseases can cause excessive panting in dogs and it is definitely worthwhile getting to the bottom of the issue so that you can help your dog live their best life possible.
The first “abnormal” cause of panting is breed-related problems.
I'm thinking here especially of our brachycephalic, or squashed-nose dog breeds. Dog breeds like Pugs and French Bulldogs.
A really high proportion of these dogs have really narrow airway. Their noses, rather than being nice and open, have turned into narrow slits. Their throats are also much smaller than their size suggests. They've got lots of extra tissue that effectively means they are breathing through a straw.
If you try and breathe through a straw while you are running around, you will find that you will quickly become short of breath. Not only is this a problem because it limits the amount of activity they can do and the enjoyment that they can get from their life, and it also means that they are more prone to developing heat stroke in hot weather.
Breed problems that cause panting are serious.
There are surgeries that can help correct some of these issues, opening up the nostrils and throat by removing excess tissue. The cost of these does add up and is also one reason to seriously consider if one of these dogs is the best breed for your family.
The next reason a dog could be panting even when they are resting is if they are developing heat stroke. You can learn more here about the signs of heatstroke in dogs.
While panting is a normal way to lose heat, when heat stroke is developing a dog’s mouth becomes fully open, if the tongue is as far out as it can go and will also often be swollen. As well as this, your dog could be drooling as well in an attempt to cool down faster.
If you notice this kind of panting then your dog is likely developing heat stroke and steps need to be taken to cool them down very quickly.
This is how to cool your dog down quickly.
Pain is also a super common cause of panting in dogs.
Diseases like arthritis are long-term, painful conditions. Arthritis is really, really common with so many of our older dogs suffer from this debilitating disease. To make matters worse, this pain often goes unnoticed or ignored, being passed off as simply “aging”.
If your dog is panting all the time, I would definitely consider the fact that they could be in pain.
What are their other activity levels like? Are they stiff when they getting up first thing in the morning? Are they lame? Are they withdrawing from attention? Do they seem a little bit grouchy and snappy? Are they becoming matted in certain areas or are they licking one joint all the time?
All of those things might be signs that your dog is in pain and that could give you a clue that that is the reason for them panting all the time.
You can download my pain symptom checklist for free here if you want to be certain that your dog is as comfortable as possible.
It probably comes as no surprise that the next possible cause of panting in dogs is lung disease.
If your dog has a lung condition like bronchitis, then the ability of the lungs to absorb the oxygen and transfer it into the bloodstream will become compromised.
It might be that the absorption doesn't take place. It might be that the capacity of the lungs becomes reduced. Either way, your dog has to pant to try and maximize the amount of air that they are drawing into their lungs to get the oxygen they need.
Chronic bronchitis could be one such condition. Your dog could have a mass in their chest, or fluid around their lungs causing a problem with lung expansion. The sooner diseases like this are diagnosed the better.
Next up is heart disease. If the lungs are working okay but the heart is not able to pump blood around the body effectively, then your dog is going to naturally start panting. Again, just to try and maximize the amount of oxygen that is transmitted into the blood.
Heart failure will also cause fluid to build up in the lungs, which then makes the lungs more ineffective at their job too. This is kind of a double whammy!
Certain breeds are more prone to certain types of heart failure. For example, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel frequently suffers from mitral valve disease, where as the Doberman suffers from a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (the type of heart disease caused by grain-free diets in some cases).
Hormone problems are my second last cause of panting in dogs. Cushing's Disease (or hyperadrenocorticism) is top of this list. This is an increase in the levels of stress hormones in the body.
While panting is one sign, others include drinking more water, urinating more, becoming pot-bellied, developing thin skin and suffering hair loss.
A dog showing several of these signs, not just panting, should trigger a suspicion that a hormone imbalance is present.
Anemia is my final main dog panting cause. If the blood is low in red blood cells, your dog is again going to have less oxygen transferred around their body.
Panting will be stimulated to try and counter this problem, much like in heart or lung disease.
Anemia in itself is not the actual diagnosis, with the list of conditions causing anemia being a long one in itself. It is though something that will show up on a screening blood test. If this is the case then further investigation may be needed to determine the underlying cause.
The Importance of Diagnosis
You can tell from all of these different diseases that can cause a dog to be panting all the time, that each one will need different treatments.
Taking your dog to the vet is therefore clearly very important.
It might be that a simple examination is all that’s needed to diagnose your dog’s problem. It could be that blood tests are needed. Instead, or in addition, x-rays or other diagnostic tests may need to be run to get to the bottom of your dog’s panting.
For many, if not all of these possible diseases, treatment can help cure or control your dog’s problem. Helping them be as comfortable and happy as possible.