Panting is one of the most noticeable doggy behaviors.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve recently adopted a dog or have owned one your entire life. You must have caught your canine housemate breathing loudly with his mouth open, and tongue stuck out from time to time. And, like most dog owners, you must have dismissed this behavior as perfectly normal.
The reality is that panting is usually not a cause for alarm. However, there may be times when your adorable pooch pants a little more frequently or heavily than normal. Therefore, it’s essential to understand when the behavior comes naturally and when it warrants a trip to the vet.
Read below to uncover all the possible reasons dogs pant.
What Is Panting?
Panting refers to open-mouth respiration characterized by quick, short breaths. The behavior is common in many animal species. The affected animal may stick their tongues out so much that saliva drools from their mouths.
Panting can be moderate or rapid. It all depends on the underlying cause or trigger. A panting dog may sometimes appear out of breath. However, it’s essential to differentiate between a dog panting and one that’s out of breath.
Labored breathing may present the same signs as panting, including open-mouth breathing, quick, short breaths, and a protruding tongue. But if your pooch is out of breath, you may also notice strained respiration accompanied by sounds of distress, such as whining, crying, and whistling. These distressing sounds typically emanate from the nostrils, indicating a blockage in the windpipe.
Are Dogs The Only Animals That Pant?
A dog is unarguably the most famous species that pants. But it’s not the only one.
There are hundreds of other mammals – both domestic and wild – which pant. Examples include cats, pigs, deer, and badgers.
Panting is also observable in most bird species (such as ravens) and some reptiles (such as lizards).
Normal Reasons Dogs Pant
- Cooling Down Mechanism
This is the biggest reason your dog breathes in short bursts with his mouth widely open and tongue protruding.
Unlike humans, dogs do not sweat through their skin to cool down. That’s due to their thick fur.
Most of a dog’s sweat glands are located on their noses and paw pads. Still, these glands do not produce much sweat.
Panting helps a dog to cool down by quickly exchanging hot air from their lungs with cool air from the external environment. This speeds up the evaporation of moisture from their tongues, inside their mouths, and upper respiratory tracts. The loss of warmer moisture from the dog’s body to the immediate environment is effective at cooling them down.
Since panting is mainly a cooling mechanism, it makes perfect sense why the behavior is more common during warmer days. Any physically stimulating activity, such as playing fetch, working out, and mating, could also get your dog panting heavily.
- Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) is a phenomenon where certain dog breeds have shortened snouts that make their faces appear flat.
Brachycephalic dog breeds typically have narrow nostrils and smaller airways. Due to these anatomical features, the affected dogs often suffer from ongoing breathing difficulties that predispose them to heavy panting.
However, brachycephalic breeds still don’t pant as effectively as normal dogs due to their squashed faces. Such breeds are less efficient at cooling themselves down, hence are at a higher risk of heatstroke and overheating.
BOAS may be treated by surgical correction of the upper airway. However, these procedures are high-risk due to their invasiveness. Besides, there are significant cost implications to bear.
If you’re a proud owner of a brachycephalic breed, the best way to improve the dog’s quality of life is to provide him with lifelong medical management. These canines would need to have their respiratory system checked more regularly, especially during flu outbreaks.
Common brachycephalic breeds include;
- French Bulldogs
- English Bulldogs
- Chow Chows
- Japanese Chins
- Boston Terriers
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
- Lhasa Apsos
- Shi Tzus
- Dogue de Bordeaux
- Excitement or Anxiety
There’s an indirect relationship between excitement and panting.
Excitement causes elevations in heart rate. And a higher heartbeat means there’s more oxygenated blood and nutrients flowing throughout a dog’s body. This consequently ramps up energy production.
Much of the produced energy converts to heat, where it triggers sweating. Since dogs cannot effectively secrete sweat through their skin, panting would come naturally.
A happy dog is also more predisposed to engaging in physically stimulating activities. Again, this might cause his body temperature to rise, leading to panting.
The above effects are generally observable in anxious dogs too.
Common causes of anxiety in dogs include fireworks, long trips, or vet visits. When stress is involved, you may notice accompanying symptoms like repetitive yawning, whining, pacing, hiding, licking of lips, or trembling.
Any action you take should de-escalate the situation. Otherwise, you could easily become the victim of undue aggression.
- Abnormal Reasons Dogs Pant
While panting is usually not a cause for alarm, the behavior may also signal an underlying medical issue. That’s especially if it happens abnormally frequently or heavily. Below are abnormal causes of panting in dogs;
- Abdominal discomfort
- Allergic reactions
- Respiratory infections
- Cardiac problems
- Cushing’s disease
There’s our comprehensive guide to the top reasons dogs pant. We hope you’re now informed enough to know when panting is normal and when it warrants a trip to the vet.