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Home > Dogs > Why Do Dogs Pant? 6 Common Vet-Approved Reasons

Why Do Dogs Pant? 6 Common Vet-Approved Reasons

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Dr. Maja Platisa

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs are enjoyable companions for humans because they are curious, active, and adventurous — all things that most people strive to be themselves. Our dogs encourage us to get out of the house and to explore our surroundings, where fresh air and vitamin D from the sun are abundant. They challenge us to be better leaders and to enhance our empathy. They also happen to do things that are sometimes puzzling to humans, such as panting. Why do dogs pant when excited or when you pet them? Here are six common reasons and what you can do about it if anything.

Please be aware that excess panting, particularly at rest, often does indicate underlying health issues. Dogs that are exposed to heat, either in an enclosed space or outside without proper shade and ventilation, may develop heat stroke, which starts off with panting and can be fatal if not attended to in time. Some breeds, such as brachycephalics, will be panting more frequently, due to the obstruction of their airways, which can be quite prominent depending on breed and individual animal. Consult with your veterinarian if your dog is panting more than usual, as this may become an emergency.

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The 6 Common Reasons Why Dogs Pant

1. Excitement

Dogs tend to pant when they get excited. Whether their excitement is a result of their human companions coming home, a new adventure outdoors, or a group of kids playing around, dogs may start panting due to that excitement. The only thing that can be done to quell the panting is to take the dog away from the source of the excitement.

That said, if your dog is panting due to excitement and the excitement is not bothering anyone, there is no reason to stop the panting. The exception is if your pooch seems to be in distress or seems to be having problems breathing due to their panting, which is common in brachycephalic breeds. In these cases, a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible.

Excited dog outdoors
Image By: zoegammon, Pixabay

2. Stress

Another common reason that dogs pant is stress. When dogs feel cornered, threatened, or like they are in an unbearable situation that they cannot get out of, they may start to pant as a way of releasing the pent-up energy that the stress is producing. Panting can be a sign of fear and anxiety too. Some common reasons that a dog might pant due to stress or anxiety include fireworks, visits to the veterinarian, being introduced to new and strange places, and separation from human family members.

Determining the source of the stress or anxiety and avoiding that source is important if you want to relieve your dog of their panting problem. If you are gone all day at work, consider hiring a dog walker to keep your pooch company during those away hours. If your dog does not like loud, unexpected noises, avoid activities that create those noises at home. You can also work with a trainer to get your dog used to new situations and teach them how to handle stressful circumstances.

3. Energy Exertion

Dogs will start to pant after exerting energy and warming up, whether while playing outside under the sun or when roughhousing with the kids indoors. The panting is done to cool off and reduce temperature levels so overheating does not occur. This enables them to play longer without getting too tired or hot and having to rest. Both younger and older dogs can pant due to energy exertion, and the only reason to worry is if signs of discomfort or stress accompany the panting. 

Always avoid walking and exercising your dog in the warmer part of the day during summer months, as they may overheat, particularly if you have a brachycephalic breed or a dog with underlying heart or respiratory condition, in which case exercise should be limited.

If your dog tends to pant too much while playing, slow things down and encourage less strenuous activities. Choose cool places to play with your pooch, where they will be less likely to heat up during activity. You can also teach the kids how to interact with your dog with slow-paced games and activities.

German shorthaired dog on the lawn
Image By: MVolodymyr, Shutterstock

4. Heat

The most common reason that dogs pant is due to heat. Since they cannot sweat as humans do, the only way they can cool themselves down is through panting. So, it makes sense that dogs pant while spending time in the sun, but they should never be without shade and water, or outside during days when the weather is uncomfortably hot. Panting does not always work, though, and dogs that are exposed to extreme temperatures or too much sun are at risk of getting heatstroke.

The signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, dry and sticky gums with an abnormal color, seizures, and unsteady movements. It may cause collapse and death. To minimize the risk of heatstroke, dogs should have unlimited access to water anytime that they are outside or when the weather is hot. Shade should also be available when spending time under the sun. A kiddie pool full of water will help cool any pooch down and increase the fun factor when outdoors. They should never be left in an enclosed space, such as a car

5. Pain

You may have already been wondering, do dogs pant when in pain? Dogs that are in pain tend to excessively pant. The pain could be due to an injury, infection, underlying systemic illness, discomfort, or a tooth problem. Dogs that pant due to pain also usually show other signs of the pain, such as restlessness, heavy breathing, licking the injury site, a lack of appetite, and whimpering. Visual signs of injury may or may not be apparent.

If you think that your dog is panting due to pain or you cannot determine what the pain is being caused by or if you find an injury, it is important to schedule a veterinarian visit right away.

shepherd dog being checked by a vet
Image Bty: VeronArt16, Shutterstock

6. Ailments

Ailments are another common reason that dogs might pant. Tumors can make dogs uncomfortable and result in stressed breathing and panting as a result. Heart failure and respiratory infections can also cause panting. Bloating, fevers, and Cushing’s disease are other ailments that may have panting as one of the signs. Some medications can lead to panting as well.

Panting due to ailments is more typical in older dogs than in younger ones. But dogs of all ages may develop ailments and require the attention of a veterinarian. If you cannot determine any reason for your dog’s panting, it is safe to assume that the panting is due to an ailment and to act accordingly.


Final Thoughts

Do dogs pant when excited? Absolutely! Panting is a normal action for dogs. Most do it every day. There are many dog panting reasons, including excitement, heat, and after exercise.

It is important to know why your dog is panting and to recognize when the panting is excessive, abnormal, or shouldn’t be present at all, like at rest or if combined with other signs of illness. Regular veterinarian visits and protection from heat and the sun will minimize the risk of panting due to heatstroke and enable early detection of any health problems. What are the biggest reasons that you think your dog pants?

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Featured Image Credit: Julian Popov, Shutterstock

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