Dogs pant, it’s a completely normal behavior of theirs that we have come to expect. But our dogs don’t pant just because they’re hot. They can actually pant for a variety of reasons.
So, what exactly is panting? The open-mouth respiration is completely normal, even when it’s moderate to rapid seeing as it helps to lower a dog’s body temperature and circulate oxygen into their bloodstream. You know a dog is panting when they’ve got their mouth wide open and their tongue is hanging out. Dogs use panting as a way of cooling themselves down since they don’t have the normal sweat gland system that humans do. Instead, a dog’s cooling system consists of evaporating moisture from their mouths and tongues, as well as swapping the hot air in their lungs for the cooler air outside their bodies. The act of panting isn’t the same as labored breathing, which is usually when a dog is straining to breathe, as well as making noises of distress, such as whining or crying.
Below are some of the five most common reasons as to why dogs pant:
1. Cooling Off
This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are overheating, a lot of the time dogs will pant from exercise. It’s their way of cooling off the same way we sweat after a workout. Dogs will sweat through the pads on their paws, but this isn’t enough to cool them off which is why they pant. And the warmer they are, the more intense their panting becomes. Of course, you do need to watch out for the signs of overheating as this is always a risk if a dog gets too warm – particularly the short-faced dogs like pugs or bulldogs. The warning signs of overheating are a bright red tongue and gums, wide eyes, weakness, and an elongated tongue. If you notice these signs in your dog then make sure you get them somewhere cool immediately and limit their exposure to heat. And of course, get them medical attention as soon as possible.
2. Emotions like Excitement or Stress
Sometimes it’s not even because dogs are hot. Sometimes they are panting because of an emotional response to fear, anxiety, or stress. Triggers such as car rides, fireworks, trips to the vet, separation anxiety, etc. can all cause a dog to pant. The best solution for this is to remove them from the stressful situation if possible.
Sometimes a dog can have a positive emotional reaction that will cause them to pant, such as playtime. When our dogs are happy, they might even pant. If they’re panting and it’s accompanied by tail wagging and bright eyes, then it’s pretty safe to say that your dog is contented and doing what many call a doggie smile.
4. Pain or Physical Discomfort
Dogs are usually pretty quiet when it comes to their pain or illness. They won’t necessarily outright show it, but there can still be some signs of their discomfort – particularly when things are growing increasingly painful for them. One of the signs of injury or discomfort could be panting, especially if they show other signs along with it such as vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, limping, pacing, diarrhea, or other behaviors that are out of character for them.
5. Underlying Medical Issues
While some medications can cause dogs to pant more, actual physical medical issues can too. Cushing’s disease, which is a condition caused by too much cortisol can lead to a dog excessively panting. Another problem that can also cause excessive panting is laryngeal paralysis, which is when the muscles that control the larynx become weak or paralyzed. Laryngeal paralysis is more common amongst the larger dog breeds, like Labrador retrievers. The condition is also often accompanied by what’s called stridor, or a high-pitched wheeze.