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Why Does My Dog Pant All the Time? 11 Reasons for This Behavior - PawSafe
Dog Healthcare

Why Does My Dog Pant All the Time? 11 Reasons for This Behavior

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why does my dog pant all the time

Dogs pant for the same reasons humans sweat. But if you are wondering, “why is my dog pant all the time?” it could mean a more serious issue.  Take a moment to thing about when humans sweat. The obvious answer is when exercising or when hot. But have you ever felt sweaty when you were nervous? What about when you had a fever or were feeling nauseous? 

When you think about it this way, you may begin to see that rapid breathing in dogs is a lot more complicated than just cooling down.

From regulating body temperature to expressing emotions, a dog’s fast breathing can tell us more than we think about their well-being. So, we’ve drawn from experts like Dr. M.A. Baker  from the University of California for a better, more accurate look into rapid canine breathing. 

Most times, you’ll see this kind of breathing when your dog cools down from intensive exercise or after being out on a hot day. However, it becomes a red flag when your dog starts to show signs of a heat stroke, such as heat rash, red gums, and agitation, which we’ll discuss shortly. But that’s just one cause of distressed respiration in dogs.

Considering factors like age, environment, breed, and health will help us understand why our canines constantly stick their tongues out when panting. However, if we’re concerned or unable to identify the cause, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian to ensure the overall well-being of our dog.

This Malinois is just winding down after an intense workout:

Key Points: Common reasons for panting in dogs include:

  • Heat;
  • Intense exercise;
  • Stress and anxiety; 
  • Pain and discomfort; 
  • Nausea and tummy troubles;
  • The shape of their face (shorter noses and heavy jowls make it harder to cool down naturally); and
  • Health issues like breathing disorders.

Helpful Tips for excessive panting:

  • Keep your dog cool by providing shade, a cool surface to lay on, or a small pool to play in during hot months.
  • Frequent breaks during playtime help your dog catch their breath and prevent overly excited panting.
  • Identify and address stressors to help your dog feel more at ease.
  • Regular vet check-ups can help identify health issues early and improve your dog’s quality of life.

Understanding Dog Panting

In this section, we’ll explore the reasons behind your dog’s heavy breathing and how to recognize when it might be a cause for concern.

Normal Panting

First, let’s understand that this action is a natural way for dogs to cool down when they are warm or after physical activities. They release heat from their bodies by breathing with their tongue out. This let’s warm moisture evaporate from their lungs, tongue, and mouth. At the same time, they breathe in cool air which cools the blood vessels in their nose and mouth. This sends cooler blood to the rest of the body, while getting rid of heat.

Unlike humans, dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their bodies, so they rely on panting to regulate their body temperature (thermoregulate). So, dogs evaporate moisture from their lungs and airways, which helps dissipate heat.

PubMed observes that dogs actually  three panting patterns:

  • Inhaling and exhaling through the mouth (at rest at room temperature or when running slowly in the cold, e.g. at 10 degrees C).
  • Inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the nose and mouth (at rest above 30 degrees C or during exercise).
  • Inhaling through nose and mouth exhaling through nose and mouth (frequency increases as temperature and exercise intensity increase).

A good rule of thumb for determining if your puppy’s rapid breathing is normal is asking yourself if it’s hot or if they’ve been active. If the answer to both questions is no, then panting typically means stress or anxiety or a medical condition like respiratory problems or physical discomfort. 

How long should dogs pant normally?

While panting after exercise or in hot temperatures is normal, ensure your dog’s respiratory rate returns to normal withing 10-30 minutes after exercise or being a warm area. If a dogs breathing does not slow down after 10 minutes, look for signs of dehydration or overexertion. Make sure to move your dog to a cooler area. If your dog keeps panting after 30 minutes, it is definitely not normal and could be an emergency.

Common Reasons For Excessive Panting In Dogs

1. Overheating and Dehydration

We should notice our dogs panting more when they’re exercising, on a hot day, or if they don’t drink enough water. This is completely normal and usually nothing to worry about. However, if we witness heavy breathing excessively even in a cool environment and without exercise, it could indicate a more serious issue.

We need to monitor our dogs, especially on hot days, to make sure that when they are active, they don’t overdo it and get heat stroke. It’s vital to keep an eye on high-energy breeds like a Border Collie, as they often just don’t know when to quit.

When our canines get too hot, they need to regulate their body temperature, and tongue-out breathing is how they do it. In a ScienceDirect report on the efficiency of sniffer dogs after exertion, they found that heavy breathing increases so much after overheating that it temporarily affects olfactory (smelling) capability. 

2. Stress or Fear

Panting for no reason can also be a sign of stress or fear in dogs. Just like us, dogs may feel stressed in certain situations, like noisy environments or new places, or when faced with unfamiliar people or new situations. Keeping a close eye on your dog’s behavior can help you identify their stressors and provide comfort to help reduce these symptoms.

To identify stress panting, it’s important to pay attention to their body language. Stressed and dogs often:

  • Lick their lips; 
  • Yawn; 
  • Show the whites of their eyes (whale eye); and
  • Have pinned ears and tucked tails, and have stiff postures. 

In our article on dog pacing we talk about how pacing, panting, and lip licking typically occur together when a dog is feeling stressed, anxious, uncertain, or nervous. A common example is during a thunderstorm or fireworks display, when a noise phobic dog will like start breathing faster when they sense the noise coming.

Think of this the same way you start breath will speed up when you are afraid. It happens because the sympathetic nervous system senses danger and sends a signal to the adrenal gland. This then speeds up the heart and respiratory rate to get more oxygen in case you need to run. This is exactly why scared and nervous a dog might pant heavily.

3. Dog Facial Anatomy & Coat

Some dog breeds are more prone to panting than others due to their facial structure. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus, have shortened snouts and flat-faced anatomy. This means that when they breath in, they can’t cool down as well as dogs with a longer muzzle. So, they are far more vulnerable to overheating and excessive panting.

Short-snouted breeds are also susceptible to breathing problems like BOAS (Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome) and narrow nostrils. This causes louder and more laborious breathing, making them sound congested, even under normal circumstances. But moreover, it just makes it difficult for them to get enough air in to breathe normally without panting.

Other dogs that often have a similar issues are dogs with heavy upper flews. This means they have big jowls or upper lips. Think of great big mastiffs or a Basset. Those big upper lips block cool air from naturally entering the mouth, making it harder for them to cool down naturally too. So they are naturally far more prone to panting to try to cool down.

Of course, the final and most obvious case are just dogs with thick coats like a Husky, living in a warm climate. The coats can be like wearing a thick winter jacket all through the summer.  Of course, with proper grooming, the coat should still help the dog cool down naturally, and it is matted fur that really seals in the heat. When a dog’s fur is matted, there is no natural airflow in the skin. This means they can’t cool down properly. 

4. GI Tract Issues

Digestive issues can cause excessive heavy breathing in canines. One telltale sign if your dog is feeling nauseous is that they start drooling and panting. You will most likely see in this during a car ride when a dog gets motion sickness. Other signs of tummy troubles includes excessive licking and eating plant matter like grass or even leaves.

5. Obesity 

Overweight dogs may pant for for no apparent reason due to the increased effort required to move around. A study of 6 overweight Beagles showed that obesity causes reduced airway function and increased respiratory rate, which means they breathe faster. So, it’s crucial to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise routine for your dog’s optimal health.

6. Pain And Discomfort

Constant heavy breathing can be a sign that your dog is experiencing pain or discomfort. Dogs might not always show visible signs of pain, but how they breathe can be one of the subtle symptoms. Look for other signs, like limping, swelling, whining, shaking, and reluctance to play.

7. Respiratory Issues

Dogs with respiratory conditions might pant more frequently due to difficulty breathing. These health issues include:

  • Asthma;
  • BOAS for short-muzzled breeds;
  • Bronchitis;
  • Heart problems; 
  • Pneumonia;
  • Tracheal disorders;
  • Tumors; and
  • Upper or lower respiratory infections.

These conditions can cause dogs to take shallow, rapid breaths, leading to excessive panting. If your dog is also coughing or wheezing, a veterinarian should evaluate their condition.

8. Age-Related Factors

Age-related factors may contribute to this phenomenon. As they get older, dogs often develop many problems like cognitive dysfunction, pain-related issues like arthritis, and heart conditions, which could potentially increase difficulty breathing. Puppies also have a faster respiratory rate and more excitable, leading to more panting.

9. Dental Problems

Dental issues, such as tooth decay or gum disease, can cause pain and discomfort, leading to increased panting simply because closing the mouth is painful. Regular dental care, including professional cleanings, can help address and prevent these problems.

10. Environmental Allergies

Allergies to pollen, dust, or other environmental factors can trigger excessive panting, especially if a runny nose makes it difficult to breathe through the mouth. Identifying and minimizing exposure to allergens, along with potential allergy management strategies, may help alleviate symptoms.

11. Medical Issues

Lastly, heavy panting could be indicative of an underlying health issue. A few examples of health problems potentially causing heavy breathing are metabolic issues like diabetes, heart failure hormonal problems, medication side effects (such from a steroid medication, and infections. If you see signs of excessive panting, it’s best to call your vet and make an appointment to catch any medical conditions early.

How Long Is Too Long For A Dog To Pant?

Generally, a dog should stop panting within a few minutes after exercise or cooling down from a hot environment. If your dog continues to breathe heavily for more than 10-30 minutes after these activities, it may be time to check for any underlying issues.

If the breaths are coupled with other worrisome signs such as lethargy, disorientation, or changes in behavior, it’s essential to seek veterinary attention promptly.

Identifying Abnormal Panting

It’s essential to understand when taking heavy breaths is normal and when it could indicate a more severe health issue. In this section, we’ll discuss abnormal signs, including excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, and changes in respiratory sounds.

Excessive Drooling

While some drooling is normal for many dogs, especially during hot weather or exercise, excessive drooling could be a sign of abnormal respiration. If you notice that your dog is drooling significantly more than usual, it could indicate an underlying health issue, such as:

  • Heatstroke: Dogs may drool excessively when they are overheated. Make sure they have access to shade and plenty of water to stay cool.
  • Dental problems: Inflammation or pain in the mouth could cause increased drooling. Check your dog’s mouth for any signs of injury or infection.

Difficulty Breathing (dyspnea)

If your dog seems to be having trouble catching their breath, it could indicate a more significant problem. Some potential causes for this difficulty breathing include:

  1. Allergies: Pollen, mold, or other allergens can cause respiratory issues for dogs.
  2. Asthma: Although less common in dogs than humans, asthma can cause difficulty breathing.
  3. Obesity: Excess weight can put added stress on a dog’s respiratory system.

Changed Sound

Sometimes, a change in the sound of your dog’s breaths can signal a problem. For example, if your dog’s panting becomes more high-pitched or raspy, it could indicate an issue such as:

  • Respiratory infections: A cough or sneeze may accompany a change in sound if your dog is dealing with a respiratory infection like kennel cough.
  • Laryngeal issues: A damaged or paralyzed larynx could cause abnormal sounds and require veterinary attention.

By keeping an eye on these symptoms, we can ensure that our dogs remain happy, healthy, and comfortable.

Possible Risks of Unchecked Panting

Here are some red flags to look out for.

Dehydration

One of the main concerns with unchecked breathing heavily is dehydration. When a dog inhales and exhales excessively, they lose moisture from their body through their mouth and nose. If this moisture isn’t replenished, the dog can become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration in dogs include:

  • Sunken eyes;
  • Lethargy;
  • Dry mouth; and
  • Pale gums.

Overheating

Dogs primarily cool themselves down through panting, but if this process is disrupted or isn’t providing enough relief, the dog’s body temperature might still continue to rise. Overheating can lead to heatstroke, which is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Rapid heart rate;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Weakness or collapse; and
  • Seizures.

Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions

Unchecked respiratory distress can worsen pre-existing conditions such as respiratory disorders, heart disease, or metabolic issues, leading to a decline in your dog’s overall health and well-being.

Compromised Quality of Life

If the cause of prolonged symptom is not identified and addressed, the dog’s quality of life may be significantly compromised. This is especially true if the underlying issue is chronic or progressive.

When to Consult a Veterinarian

While tongue-out breathing can be normal for dogs, there are instances when you should consult a veterinarian. We’ll guide you through a few of those scenarios and provide some helpful tips on what to watch out for.

Signs to look for:

  • Rapid or labored breathing: If your dog is breathing unusually fast or seems to be struggling to breathe, consult your vet immediately.
  • Discolored gums: If you notice blue, white, or bright red gums, it could indicate a lack of oxygen and require urgent attention.
  • Panting during rest: If your dog is breathing heavily while resting or sleeping, it could signal an underlying issue.

In addition to these signs, there are a few circumstances when reaching out to a vet is advisable. These include:

  1. Dogs that are new to panting excessively or those whose panting has suddenly become more intense or frequent. This could be a symptom of unforeseen health issues.
  2. Dogs with pre-existing conditions like heart or respiratory issues, as prolonged panting may signal a worsening of their condition.
  3. Older dogs or breeds predisposed to medical issues like heatstroke or obesity. In these cases, the sign could be a red flag for complications.

Lastly, trust your instincts. If something feels off with your dog’s breathing patterns, don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian. As dog owners, we know our pets best, and it’s better to err on the side of caution. A proactive approach to our dogs’ health will ensure the strongest and happiest bond between us and our beloved companions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is my older dog panting excessively?

As dogs age, their bodies may undergo various changes that could cause them to take rapid breaths. Some possible causes include obesity, chronic pain, respiratory issues, or heart problems. It’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to determine the specific cause and address any underlying issues.

What causes a dog to pant while resting?

Even when resting, dogs may breathe fast for various reasons such as cooling down, anxiety, or even an underlying health issue. If you notice your dog taking fast breaths constantly while at rest and it’s not a hot day, it may be worth discussing the situation with your veterinarian to rule out any health concerns.

Is it normal for a dog to pant after a walk?

Yes, it’s normal for dogs to breathe fast after a walk or any form of exercise. Panting is a natural way for dogs to cool down and regulate their body temperature. However, if the symptom seems excessive or doesn’t subside after a reasonable amount of time, it could indicate an underlying health issue.

Why does my dog pant and shake?

Panting and shaking can be signs of multiple things, such as stress, anxiety, pain, or even certain medical conditions. If your dog frequently breathes fast and shakes for no apparent reason, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian to determine the specific cause and address any potential health problems.

When should I be concerned about my dog’s panting?

You should be concerned about your dog’s heavy breathes if they become excessive, constant, or are accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing, lethargy, or vomiting. In these situations, it’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible, as it may be a sign of a more severe health issue.

How can I calm my panting dog at night?

If your dog is panting at night due to anxiety or stress, we recommend creating a calm and soothing environment for them. This may include providing a comfortable bed, a favorite toy, or calming scents like lavender. If their nighttime symptoms persist or worsen, it may be necessary to consult with a veterinarian to discuss potential medical issues or anxiety treatments.

Final Thoughts

It’s essential to be aware of normal panting patterns in your dog so you can spot any changes or abnormalities. By keeping a watchful eye on your dog’s breathing patterns and addressing any potential issues, we can work together to ensure our furry friends remain happy and healthy.

References:

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.