When Should You Be Concerned About Your Dog's Panting?
Panting is a very normal and necessary function of canines. In fact, it serves to regulate your dog's internal temperature. But perhaps you may wonder, what is the purpose of panting? And, when if ever should I be concerned about my dog's panting?
What is the Purpose of Panting?
As panting is important in the temperature regulation of your pet, you may have heard that dog's do not sweat. This is not the case, as dog's do indeed have the capacity to sweat albeit a limited capacity at that. Since they are unable to sweat from areas on their body covered by fur, the limited areas where sweating does occur are their paw pads, nose or inside their ears. In order for their bodies to maintain a normal body temperature and not become overheated, panting assists in accomplishing this due to their limited sweating abilities.
The American Kennel Club explains that panting aids in cooling dogs through moisture evaporation from their nasal, oral and respiratory passages. As hot air passes over these moist tissues from the tongue, nose and lungs, condensation occurs which in turn cools down your pet.
One really great idea for keeping your pup cool this summer, in addition to always having water available, is to consider making some fun frozen treats. You can either freeze a bone or toy into water or some low-sodium fat-free broth to not only entertain your pup but to also keep him hydrated and cool.
When is Panting a Cause for Concern?
Anything out of the ordinary could be a cause for concern. For example, since your dog pants to cool his temperature, it is expected that on a hot summer day running around in the yard, that panting would be a normal occurrence. But, if your dog is resting inside an air-conditioned home and he seems to be panting more than usual, this could be a sign that something is amiss.
What Is Excessive Panting a Sign of?
The most obvious reason is that your dog is overheated. This is certainly a risk in the spring and summer months but should be considered at all times. If panting is accompanied by lethargy, nausea and vomiting, this could be the early signs of heat stroke and should be treated promptly. Getting your dog out of the hot environment and into cooler air is imperative. You can encourage him to drink water and even wipe him down with wet clothes.
Additionally, according to Pet Health Network, the following reasons could result in excessive panting and may require follow up with your veterinarian:
- Pain - Producing an increased respiratory rate, panting could indicate your dog is experiencing pain, especially if it is accompanied with trembling.
- Behavior - You will be able to identify whether or not this is a behavioral response by other indicators of stress. You no doubt already know how to discern when your dog is experiencing stress or fear and this may include things such as; whining, a tucked tail, hiding or loss of bladder control. If these behaviors are witnessed along with the excessive panting, this is a sign that your pet is under some sort of stress.
- Laryngeal paralysis - More commonly seen in older dogs, it can also be congenital, that is present from birth. Possibly caused by a nervous or muscular dysfunction, it makes it harder for your pet to breath, thereby causing an increased respiratory rate and panting.
- Heart and Lung Disorders - If the heart is working overtime to circulate blood and the lungs are struggling to oxygenate the blood, increased panting can occur. Dogs are susceptible to some of the same diseases of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems that humans are such as heart failure, heart valve and muscle disease, pneumonia and bronchitis. Just as we may show signs of breathing distress, the same goes for our furry friends.
- Cushing's Disease - Also seen in humans, this is the overproduction of the hormone cortisol. If diagnosed, your pet can be treated with an oral medication that will suppress the excess production of cortisol.
READ MORE: How to Know if Your Cat of Dog Is in Pain
Hopefully you will never experience any of the the things that cause concern and your puppy will be able to romp and play and pant to his heart's content. But if you do notice any changes, feel at ease knowing we are here for you and your furry friend, 7 days a week. Contact us for your dog's comprehensive check-up and for any questions you may have.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.