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Excessive Panting in Dogs

You expect your dog to come running up to you breathing heavily after running, but what about when they've been relaxing? Today, our Clinton Township vets discuss the common causes of excessive panting in dogs, why it happens and when to seek emergency veterinary care.

What is excessive panting in dogs?

One surprising fact that you may not know is that dogs don't sweat! This means that they need other ways to cool down. Instead, they cool themselves using the water within their body. But how does this work? Which property of water allows dogs to cool themselves by panting?

The answer is simple. The evaporation of the water within their mouth and respiratory system. The vaporization of this water at high heat then creates a cooling effect from within.

Typically, overheating is the main cause of panting along with excessive exercise. Other times, their heavy panting can indicate a serious issue.

If you happen to notice that your dog is also struggling to breathe or their lips and tongue are changing color you should contact your nearest emergency animal hospital right away.

Signs of Excessive Panting in Dogs

One of the easiest ways to know if your dog is panting excessively is to know their regular rate of breathing. This can be done anytime that your dog is lying down and has been relaxing for a while.

Occasional panting, especially during activity is likely normal, heavy panting while your dog rests, however, indicates a possible issue. Some other things to consider include:

  • Does your dog seem restless while panting?
  • Are you noticing a difference in the harshness of the panting?
  • Is there no obvious reason for your dog's excessive panting?
  • Are you noting that your dog is also visibly shaking?
  • Do they look uncomfortable?
  • Did the panting occur after exercise and gradually or suddenly, out of nowhere?
  • Is your dog also showing signs of pain while panting?
  • Is your dog also chewing on their paws while they are panting?
  • Are the lips and tongue and gums blue, purple, or white?

If you say yes to any of these questions you should contact an emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible to have your dog examined.

What causes heavy or rapid panting in dogs?

There are several possible causes of panting in dogs including:

Heat stroke

When a dog becomes too hot and is unable to cool down it can lead to a serious and potentially life-threatening condition known as heat stroke. If your dog begins to experience this concern the first sign you may see is excessive panting. You need to bring your dog in for emergency care as soon as you notice the signs of heat stroke.


If your dog is showing signs of excessive panting there is a chance that they may have ingested something they shouldn't and are now experiencing the signs of poisoning. Poisoning in dogs is a common veterinary emergency and if you are concerned that this may have occurred you should contact your nearest emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Some of the most common causes of poisoning in dogs include chocolate or raisin ingestion, swallowing dangerous plants, or licking things like antifreeze or rodent poison.

Heart failure

The heart is responsible for pumping fresh oxygenated blood around your dog's body. Unfortunately, over time the heart may begin to lose its ability to function well and dogs might begin to show several signs, including weakness, coughing and exercise intolerance. One of the most common signs is also panting as this is the body's way of trying to elevate oxygen levels very quickly.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

This syndrome affects the breeds of dogs that have short smooshed faces and noses. This smooshed face can cause difficulties in breathing. You may notice the signs of this more often when they are eating or drinking or if they have been heavily exercising. Vets refer to this as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) which is the narrowing of the upper respiratory tract.

Respiratory Illness

If your dog is suffering from any condition or illness which affects their respiratory system it can lead to heavy panting. Some of the conditions that cause this excessive panting include laryngeal paralysis, lung tumors and pneumonia.


If your dog experiences a sudden decrease in red blood cells the resulting concern is known as anemia. The red blood cells in your dog's body help to carry much-needed oxygen around the body to all of the tissues and organs. Unfortunately with this condition, your dog's body may become deprived of oxygen which will cause them to pant to help elevate their oxygen levels.


Obesity is a common, preventable condition that can lead to several serious health concerns. As your dog's body struggles to get fresh, oxygenated blood to their organs, they may excessively pant.

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing's Disease causes a dog's glands to produce higher-than-normal levels of cortisol. If your dog is affected by this condition they will likely urinate more often, drink more water and pant heavily.

How to Stop Your Dog From Panting

When it comes to preventing panting in dogs there is no easy answer as it depends on the reason behind the panting. What you can do is make sure that you monitor your dog closely and take action as needed such as the steps listed below.

Steps to Take if Your Dog Begins Panting

  1. Provide your dog with water.
  2. Bring them to a cooler spot.
  3. Apply a cool compress to their face and body.
  4. Use white noise or similar sounds to help them relax.
  5. Comfort your pet and speak to them in a calm and soothing voice.
  6. Contact your vet right away to schedule an examination.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

If your dog is panting while relaxed, you should contact your vet. Heavy breathing when resting can indicate that there is a 

This can be especially true for excessive panting in older dogs or ones with preexisting conditions.

If you see your pooch exhibiting any of the following signs the first thing you should do is call your vet immediately, they will inform you of the steps you should take until you reach the animal hospital.

  • Heavy, fast breathing that’s louder or different sounding than normal panting.
  • Their panting starts suddenly.
  • Open-mouthed breathing while at rest.
  • Reluctance to drink, eat or move.
  • Pale, blue-tinged, or brick-red gums.
  • Out-of-character drooling.
  • Noticeably labored breathing (engaging stomach muscles to help breathe).

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you are concerned that your dog is in respiratory distress or panting heavily when they should be relaxed, please contact our Clinton Township vets right away.

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Snider Veterinary Service is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Clinton Township companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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