My dog is panting excessively – What could be wrong?


For dogs, panting can be a natural reaction to exertion, heat, excitement, and fear. If the panting is excessive it may be a sign or symptom that something is wrong.

When can panting be normal?

If your dog is hot

Dogs don’t sweat effectively like humans so panting is the only real way they can lose heat. A thick coat, and a tendency to continue running around despite feeling too hot, doesn’t help. Your dog will pant to lose heat until their normal body temperature is restored.

In a hot environment, if panting becomes excessive, this may be a sign of heatstroke. Drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, and restlessness may be other signs. Cease any activity, find a cool spot in shade, and give your dog water. If possible, shower them with cool (not cold) water. Always call your vet for advice if you think your dog may have heatstroke. It can be rapidly fatal without action.

If your dog is anxious

Panting can be a natural response to fear and anxiety. Your pet may pant in response to a visit to the vets, a thunderstorm or some other stressful event.

Although this a perfectly normal response, its a sign that they aren’t coping with their situation. A visit to the vets is a rare event (hopefully) and your pet’s panting should stop after the visit. Using  treats and fusses to build positive memories around the building and people may help to ease your pet’s fears in the long run. Sustained periods of anxiety in everyday situations, such as in the home or on walks, may require some treatment and/or behaviour modification. Anxiolytic (anti-stress) medications or natural products, such as pheromone collars and plugins or thunder shirts, may promote calm. Please speak to your vets for advice if you think your pet may be suffering with stress or anxiety.

If your dog is exercising

Panting is often a normal response to exercise or excitement.

If your pet is panting with minimal exercise, when they previously they wouldn’t have done, this may be a symptom. We call this exercise intolerance. Although there may be a simple explanation for this, it could also be a sign of a deeper issue so it’s always worth getting your pet checked by one of your vets if you notice this.

Different breeds of dogs and individuals within breeds may pant more or less often than others. It’s important for you to be aware of your dog’s ‘normal’ so you pick up subtle changes. Elderly and obese animals are more likely to pant due to heat, exercise, fear and excitement. Your vet team can discuss your pet’s weight, and help with a weight loss program if needed. Short-nosed breeds (brachycephalics) such as boston terriers, pugs and bulldogs are more susceptible to heatstroke. They can pant and struggle more if anxious or exerted. If you’re worried about your dog’s breathing it is always best to get it checked.

Are there any illnesses that can cause my dog to pant?

It is very important to try to differentiate between panting and respiratory distress, which is extremely serious. With respiratory distress your dog may prefer to stand, with their elbows turned out, and their neck stretched out, as they may find it easier to breathe in this posture. Their breathing may be faster and with more effort. Their gums may take on a dark or even purple appearance, with their lips drawn back and nostrils flaring. With this pattern of breathing it is extremely important that you take your pet in immediately. It may be a sign of serious heart or lung disease.

Pain can also cause excessive panting. There are a huge number of possible causes for pain, some more obvious than others. An elderly pet may pant excessively due to pain from joint disease, for example. There are usually other symptoms depending on the cause of the pain. Your vet can examine your dog to look for any evidence of pain causing panting, perform follow-up investigations, or suggest a trial of pain relief if appropriate.

If your pet has a fever they may pant excessively to cool themselves down. Your vet will check your pet’s temperature and may want to perform further tests to find out the cause, or take a history to see if there are other symptoms to help determine the cause of the fever. Treatment will depend on the cause, or if the cause is uncertain, the symptoms are treated.

Certain hormone conditions can cause increased panting. One of the most common is Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism). Panting is usually not the only sign of this disease. Dogs commonly drink and urinate more, want to eat more, have a thinning coat with thin skin, and a pot-bellied appearance. This disease is usually caused by a benign tumour in an area of the brain called the pituitary, or rarely a tumour in the adrenal gland near the kidney. It is normally diagnosed with blood and urine tests. Panting can also be a sign of other, rarer, hormone diseases.

Panting can be a symptom of high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension is usually due to other conditions such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease and renal disease. Your dog would usually have other symptoms of these diseases. Hypertension can be medically treated but underlying causes would need to be investigated, diagnosed, managed and treated.

Certain medicines can cause excessive panting. Prednisolone, and other corticosteroids are commonly used and can cause side effects, including panting. Overdose of medications to treat thyroid disease (hypothyroidism) can cause increased panting, as can certain painkillers and sedative drugs such as diazepam and opioids.

If you are unsure whether your pet’s breathing is normal or not, it is always best to get them checked. Please call your vet immediately if:

  • you think your dog may be in pain.
  • the panting is constant and heavy.
  • your dog’s tongue or gums appear blue, purple, or white. This may mean your pet isn’t getting enough oxygen.
  • your dog’s panting starts suddenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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30 thoughts on “My dog is panting excessively – What could be wrong?

  1. My lab is diabetic and needs insulin injections twice a day. Tonight he has been panting quite heavy for the past 2 hours.

    1. Without knowing more it’s impossible to say what the problem is; however, I would strongly advise you to call your vet for advice.

    2. I’ve had two dogs that experience heavy panting. One died of cardiac issues. The second died of organ failure. The heavy panting is a precursor to dire health. It’s like a 911 call for critters.

    3. Take your dog to the Vet. That is your dogs way in telling you that something is not right with him or her. My dog doing exactly that. I took her to the Vet, and she was suffering from under active Thyroid. That is serious matter. Your Dog could collapse like my dog did. But you must take your dog to the Vet. Sooner the better. Good luck to you and your pooch. Please do not forget to take your dog to Vet.

  2. I just started noticing the same in my male, beagle mix. Since getting fixed in 2013 when he was a puppy, (he’s a rescue and getting fixed is a requirement), he has gained weight. A few times he has overheated after being out walking in the summer heat. But tonight, after being inside and sleeping for 2 hours after running and playing, I just noticed he is panting while laying down. I noticed right then I too was a little stuffy, wearing a short sleeved tshirt and windbreaker jacket. Thermostat said 73. Outside is somewhere in the 50s. About 3 weeks ago he was diagnosed with diabetes. Has been drinking excessively and urinating excessively.

    1. Panting is commonly seen in overweight dogs, and is pretty common in diabetics for various reasons. However, if its a new symptom, I’d strongly advise you get him checked out again by your vet.

  3. My dog is on cardisure, prednisone and fursomide for her heart ,she is panting heavily could this be due to the weather being so hot ,she is a mastiff

    1. The heat definitely won’t be helping, but increased panting can also be due to heart problems, especially if they’re starting to deteriorate. Try and keep her as cool as possible, but if it doesn’t improve, I’d suggest you get a checkup from your vet.

    1. Hi Joyce. There aren’t any pills, but there are different forms of insulin, some of which don’t require twelve-hourly injections. It’s likely your vet has got your dog on the most appropriate treatment for them, however, so I’d recommend giving your vet a call to discuss treatment options if you have any queries at all. They will be more than happy to help and advise!

  4. My 12 year old lab x started panting heavily last night and all day today. She is drinking but has gone off her food now. Normally she is in perfect health and on no medication. She did see the vet last week due to having a stiff leg but was told to test. Abviously if she’s like this tomorrow I will call my vet.

    1. Heavy panting and going off food can be a sign of a stomach upset, or a more severe gastrointestinal issue such as an early bloat. Hope she’s doing OK!

  5. My 4 year old husky has suddenly (within the last 5 days) started panting heavily. He’s been able to go on normal walks (2.5-3 miles) without any sign of distress. He still wants to play and eat. He did throw up tonight but afterwards I gave him some rice and he ate it without any problems and has kept it down – about 5 hours now. I’ve noticed a small increase in the amount of water he’s drinking. It’s not that he’s drinking more frequently but he’s drinking way more than normal each time instead. He’s going potty normally. Including letting me know when he needs to go and running around marking things as always. He’s not trying to eat grass or anything. He seems balanced and stable when standing/moving around. I’m trying to see other symptoms but truly other than throwing up once and this excessive/heavy panting, there’s been nothing out of the ordinary. When he falls asleep, his breathing eventually slows down and it’s normal and the panting ceases. I counted around 28-35 breathes per minute. When he’s awake it’s around 100-110. I did recently change his food from blue buffalo wilderness to blue buffalo Carnivora. Could that be causing an issue? He always had a sensitive tummy as a puppy but once we got him on the wilderness food, all issues went away. And he’s been a foodie ever since.
    I suppose I should mention that he’s not overnight, he’s at a good 62lbs. And he’s never had any health issues other than when he got his paws on some raisins and had to be at the vets for a few days on medication to reverse the beginning damage being done to his kidneys. He had a clean bill of health after that. After that experience where he had eaten raisins – seeing him shake, drink excessively, vomit profusely, unable to walk well to the eventual collapsing – I’m completely terrified of something similar going on again. I’m just confused on what to think since the panting is really the only sign of something unusual going on. It seems to be more prevalent at night time which is also an odd thing to me. I think a visit to the vets is basically a must do at this point. I’m just scared and can’t form a good opinion.

    1. There are a wide range of possibilities, and I’d strongly advise getting a vet to check him over, and perhaps run some blood tests. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to determine for certain what the cause is over the internet, or even whether it’s an emergency or something that will wait!

  6. The article does not mention that excessive. panting may also be caused by LARYNGEAL PARALYSIS. This is fairly common in older dogs but also happens to puppies.
    Our 6 month old Briard was finally diagnosed with this very serious health problem.

    1. Panting from laryngeal paralysis isn’t really a sign in and of itself; it’s more an issue of partial obstruction as the cartilages become inflamed an oedematous following normal panting. However, that usually comes under the “respiratory distress” category, as you’ve said; I hope your Briard is doing better now!

    1. That’s unusual – diet wouldn’t normally cause a respiratory problem unless it was contaminated; or unless the pet became severely obese. Do you know what the cause was?

  7. I have a diabetic dog with congestive heart failure. So he has twice daily insulin and cardisure and 3x 40 mg frusomide and moduretic.. tge panting happens when there is a fluid build up and he is struggling to breath.. he then needs more diuresis sometimes even a jab from tge vet and a spell in an oxygen tent

  8. My Chloe – shep lab x – was acting, eating, weight etc absolutey fine but i noticed she was panting without a real reason or need except that since she wears a fur coat I thought it could be the warmer temperatures with the season change. Since all the other body processes were working properly, she was happy and had no distress i decided to observe her a day or two and see what info i could gather. While i was specifically “examining” her for injury and making observation i noticed her neck (under the ears and down toward the throat) felt different … i took her to the vet for evaluation. What I was noticing … the panting and lumps on each side of neck were lymphoma. The lymph nodes in her neck were growing and beginning to hamper her breathing. She also had many other enlarged nodes. I did not want to put either of us into a crisis situation such as her suffocating- which the vet felt COULD / WOULD happen in a matter of days and without warning as the nodes grew – and it is my responsibility to keep her safe and comfortable. Treating cancer was not an option and even If I could have afforded it the prognosis was not worth it … so I made the best decision i could FOR HER not for me … she fell asleep, and i was NOT IN THE NEXT ROOM … I WAS BESIDE HER.

    Her panting was my only clue something was different. Yes, her passing is terribly sad but it was ONLY sad – it could have been a major / terrifying/ stressful crisis.

  9. My 16 year old jack Russel started panting in the summer so I obviously thought it was the heat, now in December nothing has changed. The vet has put her on meds for pain relief which is a nightmare to get her to take but she does not pant all the time usually when i put her on the bed at night. After a while she settles but wakes3 or 4 times in the night with same symptoms

    1. There are a lot of possibilities, some of them quite serious, in a post-op dog, so I would strongly advise you to contact your vet as soon as possible.

  10. My bitch has just come of season, my male dog was reacting the way any boy would, houling, crying, jumping at her trying to mount her, off his food, and panting, (they never mated)…but since she has finished being on heat, he has become quite low and slow movements, also dioreaha no firm poos for five days, eating small amounts, still drinking water as usual…is this the after affects of him being so horny and not being allowed to perform!…thank you x

    1. I don’t think sexual frustration is likely to cause diarrhoea – although severe chronic stress might – so I think I’d suggest a vet checkup.

  11. My dog has been calm up until five days ago. He started to pant and salivate very heavy. Then he began to climb on me and my mom if he isn’t on us he is trying to hide in the closet or under a bed to the point he is getting stuck. The backyard helps just a little bit but doesn’t fix his behavior. When in a dark room he calms down until he is let out. He has never been scared of thunder or any weather changes or strange sounds in the past. This is all new behavior. What is the best thing to try to calm him down so he is mangeable? We can’t go about doing anything when he acts like this.

    1. This sounds like a serious anxiety problem – however, the first place to start is to get your vet to check him over to rule out underlying medical problems that could cause this sudden change in behaviour. Assuming he’s medically healthy, we would advise trying Adaptil pheromone diffusers. However, these problems often need a referral to a good qualified canine behaviourist – your vet will be able to recommend one.

  12. I have a 5 year old Rottweiler that I adopted from the shelter 2 weeks ago. He only pants when he stands up and walks. He’s fine when laying down. The shelter intake paperwork did say he’s very anxious. He’s definitely needy and wants to be close to me. He is getting more adjusted to the new environment, but typically follows me everywhere. Appetite is good.

    1. If he pants at even mild exercise, while that might be a stress thing, it could also indicate serious cardiorespiratory disease. I’d strongly advise a full veterinary examination to check out his heart and lungs.

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