Why Do Dogs Pant?

It is a part of a dog’s nature to pant. 

You may find your dog panting in all kinds of situations. This could be after your morning walk, when you get home from work and greet them or when you bring them into work with you. 

So why are they panting?

Are they stressed, hot, thirsty, nervous?

Although panting is a normal behaviour in dogs, there can be a few different reasons as to why they are panting.

As a dog owner, it is important that you understand the difference between your dog’s panting behaviours. 

Here are some of the reasons why dogs pant and when you should do something to address your dog’s panting.

dog sitting on grass with mouth open

To Cool Down

Dogs will always pant during/after exercise just like the way human’s breath heavily during or after aerobic exercise. Panting is the primary way for a dog to cool themselves down as they do not sweat the same way as a human.

Although dogs do sweat through their paw pads, they are unable to sufficiently cool down this way and therefore use their mouth to help cool themselves. Panting allows dogs to release heat from their body in the exchange for cooler air. As you can imagine, this process is not very efficient, especially in short-faced dogs like pugs and bulldogs.

This is why you may find your dog panting even when they get only a little bit hot. A dog’s pant will also become more intense the hotter they get. 

Extreme panting may also be a sign of heat stroke. If you notice signs of heat stroke (Extreme panting, dehydration, excessive drooling, increased body temperature - above 103° F (39° C), reddened gums and moist tissues of the body, production of only small amounts of urine or no urine, sudden kidney failure and/or rapid heart rate) ensure you contact your vet immediately.

Make sure you follow the right steps to help prevent your dog from overheating, especially during the warmer months.

dog outside with ball panting

When they are Anxious or Stressed

Many dogs will pant in situations where they feel anxious, stressed or in fear. These situations could include foreign environments, car rides, vet visits or separation anxiety. Watch your dog’s body language to see if they are showing any signs of distress. 

Understanding when your dogs is panting out of fear or distress will help you to know when to remove them from or support them through specific situations.

dog lying on floor

When They are Excited or Happy

Your dog may be panting, simply because they are happy. If this is the case, your dog’s body language will reflect their happy mood. They will generally be wagging their tail and have relaxed facial features. Panting with an open happy mouth and bright eyes can also be known as the doggy smile.

happy dog with tongue out

When They are Sick or in Pain

Panting can also be a sign of discomfort or pain. It is very difficult to know when your dog may be unwell or in pain, so watch out for panting that is accompanied by other signs of illness including loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, limping, lethargy and behaviour changes. If panting is accompanied by these other illness signs you should contact your vet. You should also contact your vet if you see your dog intensely panting without an explanation. 

dog in bed with ice pack on head

If you’d like more vet approved pet health advice, sign up to our monthly newsletter here, or visit www.vetshopaustralia.com.au/Pet-Health.

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