Dog Panting - All You Need To Know

Dog Panting - All You Need To Know

Author WDF Staff


If you are a dog owner, you probably noticed your dog panting. It is an entirely normal thing for dogs, and they do it almost every day. Dogs pant when they are excited, hot, or energetic. It is considered normal dog behavior, and it is not regarded as abnormal or worrying.

If your dog is panting heavily, that is a different story, and you might have reasons to be concerned about their health. Heavy dog panting can be a sign of an injury, serious health problem, and heatstroke. Heavy panting is usually a sign you should go to your vet immediately.

To understand abnormal behavior, you should first understand what normal looks like. The average dog has from ten to thirty breaths in one minute; the bigger the dog, the slower it can breathe. Understand your dog’s breathing so you can distinguish normal panting from abnormal.

Why do dogs pant?

For your dog, panting is the primary way of keeping cool. If they are “overheating” after an exercise or during a hot summer day, they will try and cool themselves by panting. It is logical and nothing to worry about; just give your dog some water and make sure they have a shaded place where they can lay down and rest.

shepherd dog panting

Abnormal (heavy) dog panting

Heavy panting is different, and you can spot it if your dog starts panting for no apparent reason. If this started happening when your dog wasn’t running or overheating, that could be a sign of a serious health problem. Heavy dog panting is usually quicker, harsher, and louder than regular panting.

Some of the reasons dogs can pant heavily are;

  • Stress or anxiety - This type of panting is called “behavioral panting,” and it is psychologically based. Panting is one way of coping with stress or anxiety, and it can sound like heavy breathing with their tongues out. It usually happens alongside other stress symptoms like whining, tucked tails, flattened ears, drooling, food refusal, loss of bladder control, crouched position, etc.
  • Heatstroke - Heavy panting can be the first sign of heatstroke. If that happens, you have to act quickly, or it can have fatal consequences. Dogs can start shaking and panting, and that is when you need to take swift action to save your dog’s life. This often happens when dogs are left in cars during summer or overworked on hot days.
  • Pain - Pain is one of the most common reasons dogs pant. In most cases, panting is the first symptom of pain, even before limping or whining.
  • Lung disease - All mammals have lungs for breathing, and it is the organ that transfers oxygen to the bloodstream. If a dog has lung problems, oxygen deprivation can happen, and that is when heavy panting will occur. It can even look like a dog hyperventilating because the dog is trying to replenish the missing oxygen to their lungs.
  • Heart failure - Humans and dogs can suffer from this problem. And we have some common symptoms. Coughing and panting, shaking, heavy breathing, and exercise intolerance can be signs of heart failure. The heart is not properly oxygenating all parts of the body, so the lungs try to pick up the pace and provide the body with enough oxygen.
  • Cushing’s disease - Cushing’s disease is a disease that causes the adrenal glands to go overdrive in producing cortisol. One of the earliest symptoms of this health problem is heavy panting. Other symptoms include excessive thirst, hunger, hair loss, and a “pot-bellied” appearance. These symptoms can manifest if a dog is receiving steroid therapy, but the heavy panting will most likely disappear as soon as the treatment is finished.
  • Anemia - When red blood cell numbers drop, that is called anemia. Red blood cells are in charge of transporting oxygen throughout a dog’s body. If the red blood cell numbers are declining, then oxygen deprivation starts happening, and the dog’s natural response is to increase breathing and oxygenate their body.
  • Fever - Fever can be an apparent reason your dog is panting. That is how they cool their body, and when the fever goes away, the panting will go away too.

These aren’t all reasons why your dog can pant heavily but are certainly the most serious.

boxer panting

What if a dog is panting at night?

There are many possible reasons a dog can pant at night, and most likely, it is because they are hot. This is just a way for them to cool off and continue with their favorite activity - sleeping.

Dogs can also pant at night because of stress or anxiety. If you are spending your whole day with your dog and then go to sleep in different rooms, your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety. The dog probably can’t handle the stress of being away from their owner, and dogs calm themselves by panting. This is not a common problem adult dogs have, and this is usually a problem for puppies.

Why are puppies breathing so fast?

Puppies have different breathing patterns than adult dogs, and sometimes, it can seem that the puppy is breathing quite fast. That is just something puppies do, and we have to learn not to get concerned about that. Puppies can even breathe fast and twitch in their sleep, and it is mostly because they are dreaming.

World Dog Finder team