Why your dog might be panting

Possible reasons behind your dog’s panting.

Parley the Staffie cross rests on an inclusive pride flag at Dogs Trust Leeds

Panting is a normal behaviour for our furry friends. But when your dog is panting a lot, or differently, it can be really worrying.  

Our dog experts have pulled together all the advice you need to know about your panting pooch. Read on to find out why dogs pant, and why your dog might pant more in different situations. 

Why dogs pant

To cool down

Dogs pant to cool themselves down when they’re too hot. It allows them to replace the hot air in their body with cool, lowering their body temperature. Our four-legged friends can’t sweat through their skin, so panting is the most effective way of cooling themselves down.  

If your pup is panting more than usual, speak to your vet immediately. While panting can be a normal reaction to heat, you should always monitor your dog for signs of heatstroke. These include:

  • heavy or continuous panting
  • difficulty or a change in breathing  
  • bright pink or red gums/lips
  • wobbly on their feet  
  • excessive drooling
  • vomiting or diarrhoea  
  • collapse or seizures.

Heatstroke can seriously harm your dog’s health. So, it’s important to stay alert and contact your vet urgently if they’re showing symptoms.  

Distress

While panting can signal excitement, dogs also pant as a response to anxiety or distress. If your dog’s panting is a sign of distress, it will likely be accompanied by other body language signals. This could include:

  • yawning
  • whale eye (whites of eyes visible)  
  • a tucked-in tail
  • ears pinned back.

If you think your dog is experiencing stress, try to figure out what’s triggering it and remove them from the situation, where possible.  

If you’re still worried about your pooch’s anxiety levels, contact our Behaviour Support Line for some free, expert advice. Your vet will also be able to offer guidance for managing your dog’s stress.  

Pain, illness, or BOAS

Panting can be a response to pain for some dogs, or it could indicate an underlying condition. Some breeds like pugs, French bulldogs, and English bulldogs, are more prone to breathing problems because of their shorter noses and flat faces.  

These features can cause health issues, and a condition known as BOAS – Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. If this applies to your dog and you’re concerned about their panting or breathing, speak to your vet urgently.  

Heavy or noisy panting can also be an indication of other health issues, such as heart or respiratory disease. So, it’s important to get your dog checked by your vet if you’re worried.   

Why your dog might be panting so much

If your dog is panting more than usual, stay calm and try to identify what could be causing it.  

If you can’t figure out why they’re panting more than usual, speak to your vet as soon as possible. They’ll be able to offer more guidance or advise whether your pooch needs a medical examination.  

You should also contact your vet urgently if you think pain or heatstroke could be involved.  

Why your dog could be panting while resting  

If your dog pants while resting, the possible causes we’ve identified above could apply. So, it’s important to assess each situation to find the cause. 

If your dog is panting to cool themselves down, this should stop once they’re resting. If your dog’s panting doesn’t stop at this point, it could be an indicator of heatstroke.  

Overheating can be serious for our four-legged friends. Contact your vet urgently if you think your dog could be panting because of heatstroke.  

Why your dog could be panting at night  

If your dog pants at night, try to work out what could be behind it. Are they too hot? Do they seem distressed, or in pain?  

Speak to your vet if your dog’s panting is heavier than usual, or for longer periods of time. You should also seek veterinary advice if they seem to be struggling to breathe, or if their panting is accompanied by any of the following symptoms: 

  • not eating or drinking  
  • increased drinking  
  • increased urination  
  • vomiting or diarrhoea  
  • unsettled behaviour  
  • abdominal bloating 
  • limping. 

Your vet will be able to assess whether your dog needs medical attention. Or offer more guidance on their panting habits.  

Why your dog could be panting when in the car  

Car journeys can conjure up various emotions for our furry friends. If your dog pants more than usual when in the car, it could mean they’re excited.  

However, it could also indicate anxiety or distress. If so, the first step is to reassure them, and then speak to your vet for more guidance. They may refer you to an accredited behaviourist if they deem it necessary.  

It’s also vital, if your dog is panting in the car, that you make sure they’re not overheating. Cars can be dangerous environments for dogs if temperatures are too high, and can easily bring on heatstroke. Seek urgent veterinary care if you think your dog is overheating in the car.  

And remember, a dog should never be left in a car alone.  

When to worry about panting

A panting pooch isn’t usually something to worry about. Panting is a normal part of doggy behaviour. But it’s important to assess each situation alone to determine the cause.  

In general, you should always seek veterinary advice if your dog’s panting is:

  • heavier than usual  
  • occurring for longer periods of time than usual  
  • accompanied by difficulty breathing  
  • accompanied by signs of heatstroke or other unusual behaviours
  • a sign of distress or anxiety.  

It may be nothing, but it could be something more serious that needs looking at. Your vet will be able to offer more guidance and examine your pup if they feel it’s necessary.  

The bottom line

Panting is usually nothing to worry about. But if you’re worried about your dog’s panting, pick up the phone and speak to your vet. It’ll put your mind at ease, and might just save your best pal. 

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