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7 Causes of Excessive Dog Panting That Deserve Your Concern

by Amber LaRock March 09, 2021 5 min read

Dog Exhausted from Physiotherapy

If you have a canine friend in your life, you know they pant from time to time. While occasional panting can be completely normal, excessive panting is enough to warrant concern. So what would cause a dog to pant and pant to no end?

In this article we’ll discuss the details of excessive panting in our furry friends, and help you better understand this behavior going forward!

Heavy Exercise

The most common cause of excessive panting in dogs is heavy exercise. Our dogs use panting as a method to wind down from strenuous activity, leading to excessive panting if the exercise pushed their limits. This is similar to a human being winded after a long run, or experiencing shortness of breath if they are not used to the activity.

The more active a dog is, the less likely they are to experience excessive panting after activity. Active dogs tend to have better cardiovascular health, allowing them to exercise for longer periods without feeling tired. A regular exercise routine can certainly limit excessive panting in our furry friends, but it can’t rule it out completely.

If your dog is panting after a game of fetch, it may be their way of telling you it’s time to take a break. If they are still panting excessively even after the play session has ended, it’s best to reach out to your veterinarian for advice.

Anxiety

Our canine friends are not immune to anxiety or nerves. Changes in their routine or environment can cause a large amount of stress for our pups, causing them to become extremely restless. They are unable to voice their feelings, meaning their symptoms of anxiety may present in the form of panting, pacing, whining, shaking, and more. This is why you may notice a dog panting in the car on the way to the vet, or whining as they sit in the exam room waiting to be seen.

If you think your dog’s excessive panting is due to anxiety, the panting should subside once the stressful event ends. If you are unable to calm your dog down in the hours after the stressful event, it’s best to contact your vet for further care.

Heat Exhaustion

Panting is a dog’s main way to cool down when they begin to warm up. Panting helps our dogs regulate their body heat, leading to excessive panting when a dog becomes overheated. When a dog experiences heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you may begin to notice an array of concerning symptoms. These symptoms include excessive panting, drooling, weakness, pacing, and more.

If your dog is in a warm environment and begins to pant, it is usually time to put an end to the activity and cool off. If your dog is displaying any of the signs of heat exhaustion that we mentioned above, we suggest contacting your vet as soon as possible.

Pain

Excessive panting can be a common sign of pain in our canine friends. Experiencing pain can be stressful for a dog, leading to many similar signs of canine stress. Pain may manifest in different ways based on the source of a dog’s pain, but panting is often one of the common symptoms across the board. Some of the most common signs of pain in our canine friends include panting, shaking, limping, lethargy, anorexia, and more.

Dogs can experience pain due to a sudden injury, gastrointestinal upset, joint discomfort, back injuries, chronic illness, and more. If you think your dog’s excessive panting is due to pain, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for further advice.

Obesity

Extra weight can put quite a bit of stress on our furry friends. Canine obesity can lead to a major decline in a dog’s cardiovascular health, causing a dog to huff and puff after any type of physical activity. Not only can excess weight cause a dog to struggle with exercise, but it can make normal tasks challenging as well. An overweight pup may pant multiple times throughout the day, as each task they face is made more difficult.

If you think your dog is overweight, it’s best to speak with your vet about a safe weight loss plan. Your veterinarian can talk to you about proper meal portions for your dog’s specific weight range, and can help you determine which types of exercise are best for them going forward.

Respiratory Illness

Respiratory illness is another potential cause of panting in our furry friends. Respiratory issues will typically involve increased respirations and labored breathing as well, but a dog may pant and appear restless if they are struggling to catch their breath. Respiratory illness may also be accompanied by symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, eye discharge, lethargy, and more.

If you think your dog’s panting is due to any type of respiratory illness, it’s best to contact your vet as soon as possible. These symptoms can quickly lead to respiratory distress, which is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate care.

Cardiac Disease

Cardiac disease is another potential cause of panting in our canine friends. While this may not be at the top of the list of suspicions, it is always something to consider in our senior pups. Cardiac disease can develop in dog’s when they enter their senior years, or even in young dogs that are born with cardiac abnormalities. Though this diagnosis directly impacts the heart of a dog, it also impacts the lungs.

When a dog’s heart is not functioning as it should, pressure can build up within the heart. This pressure can lead to an accumulation of fluid in the lungs, making it extremely challenging for a dog to breathe. Because of this, some dog owners may see excessive panting and other signs of respiratory distress. Other signs of cardiac disease in dogs can include coughing, labored breathing, coughing up foam, weakness, collapse, and more.

If you think your dog is experiencing symptoms of heart disease, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for further advice. These symptoms should always be addressed as soon as possible, as this offers your dog the best chance at proper management.

How To Help Your Dog

If your dog is experiencing excessive panting, there are a few ways that you can help them in that moment. While we always suggest contacting your veterinarian if you are concerned, there are a few ways to react at home.

First, it’s important to end any activity that is causing them to become worked up. Panting can be a sign of overheating or exhaustion, meaning it may be time to call it quits for the day. If your dog’s panting begins to subside soon after putting an end to the activity, you have likely solved the problem. Just continue to monitor for any abnormal symptoms in the hours to come.

It’s also best to consider the temperature in the environment your dog is currently in. If they are outdoors on a hot day and they begin to pant, it’s important to bring them inside and allow them to calm down. You can offer them a cool bowl of water to drink, or even turn on a fan to help them cool off even faster. If your dog quickly calms down and is back to their usual self, they are likely okay. However, if your dog cannot stop panting, or they were in the hot environment for a long period of time, we suggest contacting your vet for further advice.

If your dog is unable to calm down after performing the above tasks, it’s best to contact your vet for further care. This is also true if your pup is panting without any external stimulus, as this is not a normal behavior for a resting dog.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a few potential factors behind your dog’s excessive panting. Be sure to review the information we discussed above, and you can better help your dog going forward!

Amber LaRock
Amber LaRock

Amber LaRock is a Licensed Vet Tech that took her career online to spread knowledge on animal health and welfare. She graduated from the Cedar Valley Veterinary Technology Program in 2015 with an A.A.S in Veterinary Technology, and became a Licensed Veterinary Technician in Texas in 2016. Amber began her career in emergency medicine and critical care, and has now been working at an emergency animal hospital for 6 years. With the experience she gained from her time working in emergency medicine, Amber has been able to spread accurate information online in all realms of pet health. If she is not at her laptop, or back home visiting family, you can find her somewhere in the world, cuddling every furry friend that she can find!