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Excessive Panting in Dogs

Excessive panting in dogs can be a symptom of some underlying health issues. Acute conditions may include heat stroke or injuries causing pain. Chronic conditions include heart diseases. Read on to find out more about the possible causes of excessive dog panting.

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A healthy dog, when resting, takes about 10 to 30 breaths per minute.

Dogs pant when they need to lower their body temperature - dogs do not have sweat glands on their skin, and in order to cool themselves down, they stick out their tongues and pant. Water evaporates from the tongue, the mouth, and the lungs, and warm air in the body is exchanged for cooler air in the atmosphere. It is, therefore, normal for dogs to pant especially after exercise, or on a hot day.

However, excessive panting in dogs as well as rapid labored breathing is not normal. For example, if your dog pants heavily while at rest, or pants excessively for a prolonged period of time after exercising, you need to take a closer look at his health. A visit to the vet to find out the underlying cause is advisable.

The bottom line is, in the absence of any stimulation such as strenuous exercise or heat, a change in the frequency or intensity of panting in your dog indicates something is wrong.

Below are some possible causes of excessive panting in dogs.

Causes of Excessive Panting in Dogs

  • Acute Painful Abdomen

    When a dog has an acute pain in his stomach, he pants and drools. He will also show signs of distress and restlessness - he seems unable to find a comfortable position to lie down. He will cry out in pain if his stomach is pressed. Acute stomach pain can be caused by various problems, such as bloat, poisoning, trauma and internal injuries to the abdomen, peritonitis (inflammation of the cavity containing the abdominal organs), to name a few. All these conditions are serious and potentially life-threatening and should be treated by a vet right away.
  • Heat Stroke

    Heat stroke is a common cause of excessive panting in dogs. If your dog has been out in the sun for a long time, and he starts panting and drooling, he may be suffering from heat stroke which is potentially life-threatening. Other symptoms associated with heat stroke includes thick saliva, vomiting, and a bright red tongue. The rectal temperature can go up to 104°F to 110°F. Heat stroke is an emergency and requires immediate treatment.
  • Anxiety

    Some dogs may pant excessively when they have anxiety or are under stress. For example, you may notice that your dog pants more frequently and excessively the first few days after moving to a new environment, or when your new puppy first joins your family. If the panting stops after a couple of days, all is well and fine. However, if the excessive panting does not stop in a few days, get the dog to the vet for a check-up.
  • Heartworm

    Heartworm is caused by the parasite Dirofilaria immitis transmitted by mosquitoes. The typical signs of heartworm infestation are exercise intolerance, a soft, deep cough, weight loss, and panting. Dogs should be put on a heartworm prevention program. If you suspect that your dog's excessive panting is caused by heartworm infestation, get your dog to the vet immediately for treatment.
  • Severe Anemia

    Anemia is defined as a deficiency of red blood cells in the circulatory system. It can be caused by blood loss, hemolysis (an acceleration in the normal process of red blood cell breakdown), or inadequate red blood cell production. Signs of anemia include lethargy, weakness, and lack of appetite. The gums and tongue are pale pink or white. In severe cases of anemia, the dog pants, has a rapid weak pulse, and may collapse with exertion.
  • Heart Disease

    Dogs with heart disease, such as dilated cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the heart chambers), cardiac arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure, pant and have rapid labored breathing. Other signs of heart disease include lethargy and weakness, coughing, exercise intolerance, and sometimes fainting spells. Excessive panting in older dogs, especially if the panting occurs at nighttime, may indicate congestive heart failure (CHF).
  • Eclampsia

    Eclampsia (milk fever) is a condition that resembles seizure and is caused by low serum calcium. It occurs in dams two to four weeks postpartum. Usually, small toy breeds are more likely to have this condition. Besides heavy panting, other signs of eclampsia include restlessness, anxiety, uncoordinated movement, and pale mucus membranes. If your dog has recently given birth to puppies and is panting excessively, beware - eclampsia is an emergency and should be treated immediately.
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