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Excessive Panting in Dogs

While you likely expect your dog to eventually breathe a little harder when playing or running, it may happen at other times as well. Here, our Deer Park veterinarians talk about the causes behind rapid or excessive panting in dogs and when you should seek veterinary care for your pup.

Excessive Panting in Dogs

To recognize abnormal breathing and panting in your dog, you will need to know what the healthy breathing rate is for your pup. On average, healthy dogs will take between 15 and 35 breaths each minute while resting. Your dog will naturally breathe heavier and pant when they are exercising. Based on this, anything more frequent than 40 breaths each minute while your dog is resting will be considered abnormal and should be looked into.

It's also very important that you understand that panting doesn't always indicate an issue and that panting is your pup's way of cooling themselves down and regulating their body temperature - allowing heat and water to emanate from their mouth, tongue, and respiratory tract.

Dogs aren't able to sweat to cool themselves off, instead, they have to breathe faster to let air circulate in their bodies. Panting helps your pooch get their body temperature back to normal. So if you are wondering 'Which property of water allows dogs to cool themselves by panting?', the answer is vapor!

Are there common signs for dogs experiencing heavy panting?

To tell if your dog is panting heavily, count their breaths for a minute while they are resting or sleeping. It can be a good idea to do this even if your dog isn't showing worrying behaviors to determine what their normal respiratory rate is.

Anything that is less than 30 breaths per minute is normal and anything over 35 breaths each minute is generally considered to be a cause for concern. Your vet will have a good understanding of your dog's normal respiratory rate from previous examinations.

What are the causes of heavy panting in dogs?

Brachycephalic dog breeds, (breeds with 'squished faces' or shortened snouts), such as Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs face a higher risk of developing breathing issues and should always be closely monitored by pet owners for signs of increased respiratory effort.

Short-nosed breeds aren't the only dogs that run into difficulties breathing normally, however. You may also notice excessive or rapid panting in older dogs. No matter what breed your dog is, heavy panting and fast breathing may be a sign that your dog is suffering from an injury or illness that demands urgent veterinary care. A couple of possible causes of fast or abnormally heavy breathing in dogs include:

  • Exercise
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Asthma
  • Windpipe Issues
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Kennel Cough
  • Pressure on Wind Pipe
  • Stiffening of Airways
  • Fungal Respiratory Infection
  • Lung Diseases such as cancer
  • Bacterial Respiratory Infection
  • Heat Stroke
  • Pain
  • Medication
  • Nausea
  • Parasites
  • Hernia
  • Anemia
  • Pneumonia
  • Collapsing Windpipe
  • Compressed Lungs
  • Breed Characteristics

When is panting in dogs an emergency?

If you see your dog excessively panting while resting or sleeping, they may be experiencing some kind of respiratory distress. If you see your dog showing any of the following symptoms, the first thing you should do is call your vet as soon as possible. They will be able to inform you about the steps you should take until you reach an animal hospital.

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

How will the cause of my dog's excessive panting be diagnosed?

Your vet will be able to conduct a comprehensive physical examination of your dog to determine the specific cause of your pooch's excessive panting such as their airways, neck, head, or another area. Your pup's overall condition or health may also be causing the issue. 

Your vet will need to know about any previous medical issues that your pooch has experienced and may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check the heart, lungs, and abdomen for issues such as lung tumors or broken ribs.

The veterinarian will also watch your dog for any signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that could be causing the fast breathing.

How does a vet treat excessive or rapid panting in dogs?

The treatments that are used for your dog's excessive panting will be determined by the underlying cause of their symptoms. You may prescribe several treatments or medications including painkillers, intravenous fluids, or other medications to help restore your dog to their normal shelves and full health.

If your pup's heavy breathing is the result of anxiety or stress, your vet may recommend special training with a certified dog behaviorist.

Depending on the severity of your dog's condition, rest and oxygen therapy may be needed to begin your pooch's road to healing. While most dogs will be healthy enough to be treated at home, hospitalization may be required to treat serious injuries or illness, monitor your dog's breathing, and resolve the underlying health conditions contributing to your dog's excessive panting. 

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.

Are you concerned that your dog may be breathing heavier than usual or showing obvious signs of respiratory distress? Contact our vets at Deer Park Animal Hospital immediately.

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