Excessive Panting in Dogs

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Key takeaways

Panting is rapid, open-mouthed breathing that is characteristic of dogs. Dogs pant to regulate their body temperature through evaporative cooling of the respiratory tract.

  • Dogs may pant due to excitement, stress, exertion, or pain
  • It is a natural behavior and something that every dog does habitually, so excessive panting may be difficult to differentiate from normal behavior
  • Excessive panting can be a sign of an underlying health issue or discomfort, such as heat stroke, respiratory disease or heart disease
  • If a dog pants constantly even when resting, or exhibits other signs of pain or illness, there is cause for concern
  • Excessive panting can be associated with a wide variety of conditions, some of which are serious, and which have varying treatments
  • Prognosis varies widely depending on the cause
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A closer look: Excessive Panting in Dogs


Panting is a typical canine behavior. If a dog seems to be panting even in calm and cool environments, veterinary attention is warranted to rule out serious underlying conditions. Panting is the primary mechanism for cooling the body in dogs, as they do not sweat and otherwise conserve heat more easily than they can dissipate it.

Overheating is a common concern for dogs. If a dog is panting excessively and there is reason to believe it is experiencing heatstroke (i.e. showing signs such as dry, pale, or dark red gums, muscle weakness, vomiting, fatigue, collapse, and seizures), this is a life-threatening emergency that is rapidly fatal without medical attention.

If a dog shows other signs of having difficulty breathing, such as rapid, shallow breathing, an outstretched neck, coughing, wheezing, swelling of the airway, or collapse, emergency veterinary attention is also required.

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Possible causes


A variety of conditions and circumstances may cause a dog to pant excessively. These causes may be behavioral, physical, and/or environmental.

Behavioral causes include:

  • Anxiety or stress (e.g. separation anxiety, noise, unfamiliar surroundings)
  • Excitement, overstimulation
  • Exercise or exertion

Risk factors


Normal panting should correlate with higher outdoor temperatures, activity, or excitement. Continuous panting should stop once the dog is no longer hot or exerting itself. If a dog has been exposed to very high temperatures (e.g. in a hot car) it may experience heatstroke, which is a severe condition requiring first aid and emergency care.

Panting due to anxiety is transient and should resolve when the stressful conditions pass or the dog becomes acclimated.

If a dog is panting continuously regardless of obvious stimuli, there may be an underlying health condition. The duration and severity of excessive panting varies depending on the cause. Other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, abnormal gum/tongue color, or evidence of pain or injury may indicate a more severe underlying health problem. Collapse or seizures require emergency care.

Testing and diagnosis


If panting warrants veterinary assessment, tests may include:

  • Physical examination
  • Diagnostic imaging (e.g. X-ray, ultrasound)
  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • Infectious disease testing
  • Sputum culture (for respiratory infection)

Treatment depends on the condition identified and can include:

  • Cooling measures (for dogs affected by heat)
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Analgesics for pain
  • Steroids (anti-inflammatory)
  • Antibiotics, anti-viral, anti-fungal medication
  • Bronchodilators
  • Cardiac medications
  • Surgery (e.g. for hernias, pneumothorax)
  • Medication adjustment
  • Behavioral treatment and training -Lifestyle changes (diet, exercise)

Similar symptoms


Associated symptoms


References


Sophia Catalano, DVM - Writing for PetMD
Dr. Bari Spielman - Writing for PetPlace
John A. Bukowski , DVM, MPH, PhD / Susan Aiello , DVM, ELS - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Dr. Bari Spielman - Writing for PetPlace
Sophia Catalano, DVM - Writing for PetMD
Ned F. Kuehn , DVM, MS, DACVIM - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
A.K. Claude,corresponding author 1 A. Dedeaux, 2 L. Chiavaccini, 1 and S. Hinz 1 - Writing for Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Krista Williams, BSc, DVM, CCRP; Ernest Ward, DVM - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals

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