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Why do dogs pant

Like breathing or blinking, panting is all part of normal dog behaviour. Dogs pant for many reasons, including when it’s hot, when they’re excited, or even when they’re a little anxious. Sometimes heavy panting can be an indication of an underlying medical condition that needs your attention.

Here are some reasons why your dog may be panting:

  • To cool down: Like in-built air conditioning, dogs pant to cool themselves down as they are unable to sweat like humans because of their fur. Panting takes hot air from their lungs in exchange for cool external air, which in turn evaporates the water from their tongue and helps regulate their body temperature. After vigorous exercise or play, you will notice your dog panting harder to try and cool themselves down, this type of panting is completely normal.
  • They’re feeling anxious: Some dogs tend to pant more if something in their immediate surroundings is making them anxious. Loud noises such as alarms, sirens, storms or fireworks can trigger anxiety and cause them to also pace, lick or chew to quell the anxiousness.
  • Heatstroke:  It’s not uncommon for dogs to get heatstroke in the Aussie summer if they are not given sufficient shade and water. Heatstroke can be observed by excessive panting, glassy eyes, lethargy, vomiting and even seizures. If your dog’s temperature is above 40 degrees you need to quickly cool your dog down by submerging them in cool water (not cold) and apply ice packs or cold towels to their chest, neck and head and seek medical help immediately.
  • Heart disease: Heart disease restricts oxygen flow through the body, dogs with heart disease will pant in an attempt to get more oxygen. Dogs with heart disease will pant constantly even when they have not exerted themselves. The lack of oxygen may also cause them to cough and constantly become weak and tired.
  • Bloat/Gastric Torsion: Bloat can sometimes occur in large dogs with deep chests (such as greyhounds) which can cause twisting in the gut that obstructs their breathing. Symptoms include restlessness, swollen stomach, shortness of breath, and attempts to vomit. It is crucial that you seek medical care urgently if your dog is showing these signs as your dogs’ condition can deteriorate as quickly as 1-2 hours.
  • Cushing’s syndrome: Is a disease of the adrenal glands causing them to produce too much cortisol. The increased levels of cortisol causes weight gain, tiredness and increased levels of thirst as well as heavy panting. Cushing’s syndrome can be treated through medication.
  • Respiratory disorders: Various respiratory disorders such as pneumonia or lung tumours can cause your dog to pant more.

If you find your dog panting more than normal, particularly if they are in a cool area and have not had any physical exertion, a visit to the vet may be in order to ensure your dog does not have any underlying medical issues which can be life-threatening if left untreated.