My Dog is Panting Heavily

Dogs tend to pant a great deal. Because they don't sweat the way humans do, panting is their way of cooling down when they are overheated, in a particularly warm climate, after exerting themselves. This is not, however, the only reason why dogs pant.

Panting is also an important way for dogs to oxygenate their blood. Their bodies, like ours, have many complex feedback mechanisms, and a significant number of them result in an increase in respiratory rate (what we call panting). In other words, your dog's panting may be a normal response to an unusual and possibly abnormal condition. Assuming that the panting you're noticing is excessive, the first thing to do is try to explain it.

What to Look For

This is a simple one. Think for a moment about your dog's environment and what she's been doing lately.

What to Do

Next, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the ambient temperature high and/or has your dog been exerting herself more than usual? If so, the panting should subside in a few minutes provided the dog is kept cool and calm.
  • Has your dog eaten or drank an unusual food or liquid or an unusually large amount recently? If either is the case, your dog may be overfull to the point of discomfort, or on the verge of vomiting. Be ready to clean up a mess!
  • Has your dog been out of your sight for any period of time recently? If so, your dog may have sustained an injury. Check your dog's entire body for signs of pain or injury. Any kind of pain or significant discomfort is reason enough for a dog to pant excessively. Relieve the pain, and the panting should stop.
  • Is your dog being treated for any ongoing illness? Many chronic illnesses - such as Cushing's disease, chronic renal failure, and congestive heart failure - can cause panting either directly or by inducing electrolyte imbalances, which then, in turn, cause increased respiratory rate. This is an issue best addressed by your veterinarian.
  • Is your dog taking any medication? A variety of medications can cause panting (especially prednisone). Ask your vet whether the medication your dog is taking might be responsible.