Dog Behavior - Panting

Dogs pant, and it can be normal behavior for a dog, but it can also signal something else.  This article is to help you determine if it is normal behavior or something you need to be concerned about.

Why does a Dog Panting?

There are many causes, but the fundamental reality is dogs plant because their body needs to cool down, but unlike their human friends, who have millions of sweat glands, dogs only have merocrine glands located in their paws.  

Now, that doesn't answer why both of us need to cool our bodies down.  Just like humans, there are many reasons:

Here are some common reasons why dogs pant.

Heat, Humidity, and Exercise

Panting helps cool down dogs, just like sweat helps humans.

Our dogs rapidly inhale, humidify the air coming into their body, and then exhale.  This increases the evaporation of water and cools the body from the inside.

This is normal behavior, and though it can get very heavy, it should be related to the temperature, humidity, and activity. One easy way to ensure there isn't a problem is to make sure your dog has access to plenty of water.  Our Family Pooch Portable Water Bottles can make sure you have a readily available source of water at hand. 

Water and taking breaks are important since excessive panting could be an indication of heatstroke which can lead to sickness and even death.  If you suspect heatstroke, you need to get to emergency vet care! 

Signs that your friend is overheated include very heavy panting, and being uncomfortable.  

Be aware: Dogs with short snouts are more susceptible prone to heatstroke, and, of course, NEVER leave your dog in a hot car. The interior of a car can get very hot, very quickly, and threaten your dog’s life in minutes.

Being under pressure - Stress

We sweat when pressed at work or home, and our furry friends pant and whine when stressed.

Determining stress takes a bit of reading the body language of your pup (just like your spouse or significant other).  Is your dog acting differently?  Is s/he eating?  PetMD has a good article on the impact on a dog that is stressed.

Once you understand the cause, you need to remove the stressors and make your furry friend more comfortable to prevent them from becoming more stressed.

One stressor may be separation anxiety and boredom.  Dogs are social creatures, and they instinctively feel anxious when left alone, which is an entirely natural behavior. Your pup may not like you to leave him at home by himself for too long, so before doing so, make sure that he gets plenty of exercise outside to reduce his stress level.  Consider a Dog toy basket to allow your pooch to have access to their toys, and/or a Snuffle Mat or Bowl, to engage their brain.  


Dogs pant when they are excited. Panting is normal when something new or different happens, like getting a new toy, getting a treat, or meeting new people. 

Being sick, in pain, and reactions to medicines

Panting can indicate pain and discomfort, and be from medicines recently prescribed.    If you don't see other obvious causes, contact your veterinarian!


How Can You Tell Normal From Excessive Panting?

Panting should be caused by something, be it heat, humidity, excitement, stress, etc. Panting without an obvious reason is something to be concerned about.

If there are no immediate obvious causes, look at other behaviors that may have changed.  For example:  Is your dog eating right? Whining more?  Not as active?  

If you can't find a cause, gather as much information as you can and discuss it with your vet.

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