When the dog days of summer are beating down on you, the endless sweating makes you feel like you are melting. While you can cool off by sweating, our canine companions use a different method to cool down. While dogs can technically sweat, this bodily mechanism is not as effective at cooling a dog’s body as it is for a human.
Why Is My Dog Panting? An Explanation for This Common Dog Behavior
Despite popular belief that dogs only sweat through the paw pads on their feet, dogs do have sweat glands on their body. Their fur traps moisture, which prevents it from evaporating, which helps the dog feel cooler. Panting is how dogs most effectively cool off. Some breeds are known for panting more than others, such as labrador retrievers and pugs.
When dogs pant, water evaporation occurs in the dog’s mouth and tongue. This evaporation helps cool the blood in the vessels near the skin, and this cooled blood then travels throughout the dog’s body. Pretty great cooling system!
Other common reasons for your dog’s heavy breathing can be if your dog is feeling excited or anxious. Anytime your dog’s heart and breathing rate increase, they pant in response. You can expect to see your dog pant on hot days, after playtime and exercise, or in response to a new toy or treat.
Abnormal panting can also indicate underlying issues, so it’s important to note if the panting is present with other symptoms. Of course, if your dog has worrisome panting, consult with a veterinarian.
Some dogs may pant a great deal, and this may be due to their breed. Breeds like pugs, bulldogs, and Boston terriers have short snouts and soft palates that are longer than other breeds. This longer and softer palate can block the trachea, which is the windpipe needed for breathing.
This condition is referred to as being brachycephalic, which essentially means that their face is flat and their airflow is compromised. This combination is not the best for breathing: Air has a difficult time moving around the airway, resulting in decreased airflow.
Dogs with brachycephalic issues commonly experience excessive panting, even if they aren’t exercising. For this reason, it is critical to monitor breathing in these breeds for wheezing, coughing, and reverse sneezing.
Avoid taking them outside when the weather is hot and humid, and give them plenty of breaks whenever they are on a walk. Keep cold water available during the walk and throughout the house and yard.
When Is Your Pet Panting Too Much?
It’s normal behavior for dogs to pant, as this behavior helps a dog cool down on warm days and after a long session of play. If your dog is excessively panting, this could be a sign that your dog is experiencing discomfort or breathing difficulties. Some reasons for excessive panting may include being in pain, anxiety, or heart failure.
However, one of the biggest culprits for extreme panting is heatstroke.
Signs of Heatstroke
Heatstroke is when your dog’s body temperature is at a dangerously high level, which causes overheating. This can be due to spending too much time outside during a hot day without access to adequate shade and water. It may also occur with too much exercise in the heat.
Another common cause of heatstroke is leaving a dog in a car on a warm day with no ventilation. Cars can get very hot very quickly. Never leave your dog in a vehicle on a warm or hot day without supervision.
Review the symptoms of heatstroke ahead of time so you can act quickly:
- Heavy panting
- Lethargic body language, like dizziness, stumbling around, or limping
- Reddened gums
What To Do In Cases of Canine Heatstroke
If you suspect your pooch is experiencing heat stroke, get them taken care of as soon as possible. Heatstroke and its side effects are dangerous for your dog and can cause heart and organ failure if action is not taken.
Move your dog to a cooler, shaded spot, and offer them fresh water to drink. While it may make sense to offer them ice or very cold water, doing so can induce shock. The aim is to gradually reduce your dog’s body temperature. You can also cool your dog off by placing a towel soaked in cool water on their back.
If you suspect that your dog is experiencing a heat stroke, take your pet to their DVM for treatment immediately. This condition can move fast, and it’s important to take it seriously. Your dog’s veterinarian will be able to diagnose and determine the best treatment so your dog is back on their paws.
Don’t Stress: Keep Cool With AskVet
While being a pet parent is one of the most rewarding roles you can have in life, it can sometimes induce stress if you have a question you are worried about. AskVet is your go-to spot whenever you have a question about your pet’s health and wellness.
While we can’t stress enough that visiting your veterinarian is the best choice when there is an emergency, a little proactive planning is great for your peace of mind. Anytime you have a question about your dog’s health, AskVet is here to give you the information you need to make well-informed decisions regarding your best furry buddy.
If you believe that your dog’s panting could be caused by another issue, like stress or anxiety, chat with one of our Certified Pet Lifestyle Coaches™ (CPLC™). They can help create a personalized 360-degree plan with alternative options and solutions to improve your pet’s everyday life.
We can help support your pet with customized plans for pet health and wellness. Join today for $9.99 a month and schedule a virtual chat with a CLPC™ today to get started!
Panting in dogs: Paths of air flow in response to heat and exercise | ScienceDirect
Brachycephalic breathing problems | Kennel Club
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Heat Stroke: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention | Memphis Emergency Vet