You’re the one person who’s there to look after your dog and make sure he’s happy, healthy and content. And although dog panting is completely normal behaviour, it can sometimes indicate that something else is going on inside your dog’s body. Therefore, it’s important to understand how to differentiate between normal and abnormal panting in your beloved canine pal.
What is dog panting?
Dog panting is when your dog takes lots of short breaths very quickly. This type of breathing helps water evaporate from your dog’s tongue, mouth and upper respiratory tract. As more and more water evaporates, your dog’s body temperature is able to regulate. Air movement also helps with exchange of heat.
Yup, basically, it’s just how dogs cool themselves down! Dogs don’t sweat in the same way that we do, so panting enables your pooch to circulate air through his body.
Healthy Pets explain that “The normal (non-panting) breathing rate for dogs is 30 to 40 inhalations and exhalations per minute, but a panting dog can take 10 times that many breaths per minute (300 to 400). You would think panting uses up a lot of energy, but it actually doesn't require much effort thanks to the natural elasticity of the lungs and airways.”
Normal vs abnormal dog panting
It’s normal for your dog to pant when it’s hot outside or when he's done some exercise. They pant at these times in order to lose the excess heat from their body and moisten the surfaces of their tongue or gums, mouth and lungs.
However, panting could be a cause for concern when it’s considered abnormal. If your dog’s panting matches any of these attributes, it’s worth investigating:
- He’s panting at a much faster rate than he normally does
- The panting happens at inappropriate times, such as when it’s not particularly hot or your dog isn’t physically tired from exercise
- His panting sounds different - for example, it’s loud, heavy or raspy
Why is your dog panting? (And how to help)
Panting to cool off
As we mentioned earlier, the most common reason for dog panting is simply to cool off. If it’s a particularly hot day and your dog is hanging out in the sun, if he’s had a run around the garden or gone for a long walk, your dog will probably end up panting. Don’t worry, this is completely normal!
However, if your dog is experiencing excessive panting, it could be a symptom of heatstroke. The RSPCA advises that you should ask yourself the following questions if you think your pup could have heatstroke:
"Is the dog panting heavily? Is the dog drooling excessively? Does the dog appear lethargic, drowsy or uncoordinated? Is the dog collapsed or vomiting?"
It’s best to bring water with you when you go out for a long walk, and leave a bowl out in your garden - especially during the summer months. You should also move them to a cool room as soon as you can and allow time for rest.
If you think your dog could be suffering from heatstroke, it’s imperative to get them to the vet immediately as it can be fatal. If you spot a dog in a car who appears to be suffering from heatstroke, call the police.
Panting due to stress or anxiety
Have you ever noticed dog panting following an unexpected burst of fireworks, during or after a vet visit, during a storm or on a long journey? Dogs often pant when they’re stressed, fearful or anxious.
Does this happen every time you go in the car or every 5th of November? Try and work around these situations as best you can. For example, take an overnight stop-off and regular breaks if you have to drive for a prolonged period of time.
On bonfire night, tire your dog out with a long walk during the day and keep him indoors with the curtains shut in the evening.
Panting due to pain or illness
Unfortunately for us, dogs instinctively try and hide pain and illness for as long as possible. However, if they’re in serious pain, they might start to pant. Panting is normally accompanied by symptoms such as vomiting, loss of appetite, runny stools, enlarged pupils, fatigue, limping, and depression if it’s due to pain or illness.
Be aware, that sometimes, dogs will try and mask their pain by wagging their tail.
Panting due to heart failure
A common symptom of heart failure is panting, so it’s essential for any dog owner to be wary of this if their dog is panting excessively. This is because the dog's respiratory rate increases to make up for the oxygen deprivation inside their body. Panting may be accompanied by coughing, weakness, fainting and weight loss.
Panting because he’s happy
Your pooch might just be panting because he feels happy! It will be obvious through his body language and expression that this is the case. In a relaxed, satisfied dog, continued mild panting is absolutely nothing to be worried about.