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Panting in Dogs

Panting is very common in dogs. In most cases, panting is not a sign of a medical problem. Dogs pant in lieu of sweating. Anything that might cause a person to sweat can cause dogs to pant.

Dog owners frequently note and become concerned about episodes of increased panting in their pet that seem abnormal. In some cases, such episodes or trends are a sign of medical problems. However, this is rare. Most panting is not indicative of a serious underlying problem.

Common Causes

More common causes are listed first. Less common causes are listed later.

  • Heat: dogs in warm or hot conditions will pant to cool themselves.
  • Excitement, fear, anxiety (including separation anxiety), or agitation will cause dogs to pant.
  • Strenuous activity or exercise causes panting.
  • Pain from injuries, bladder infections, or any other source will cause some dogs to pant.
  • Aging: in general, older dogs pant more than younger dogs.
  • Certain endocrine (glandular) conditions, such as Cushing's disease, cause increased panting.
  • Diseases of the heart, lungs, or throat may cause respiratory distress that may appear similar panting. Respiratory distress, or difficulty breathing, should be differentiated from routine panting. Dogs in respiratory distress may gasp for air, have trouble walking or moving, or have gums that appear blue.
  • Exposure to certain toxins may cause panting.
  • In some instances panting can be a sign of a serious problem.  Dogs with gastric dilatation with volvulus (GDV, known colloquially as bloat) may pant; this is an urgently life threatening situation.  Some forms of internal bleeding (especially a condition called hemoabdomen) may cause panting or breathing patterns that resemble panting. Internal bleeding also is urgently life threatening.

Recommended Course of Action

If respiratory distress is noted or suspected, seek immediate veterinary attention. Syndromes causing respiratory distress can be rapidly fatal.

Panting may be indicative of a medical crisis.  If no obvious cause for excessive panting can be found at home, the safest course of action is to consult with a veterinarian immediately.

Even if veterinary attention is sought, the cause of excessive panting may not be found in some cases.


Copyright © Eric Barchas, DVM All rights reserved.
The contents of this page are provided for general informational purposes only. Under no circumstances should this page be substituted for professional consultation with a veterinarian.