Why Do Dogs Pant?

Dogs tend to pant in hot environments or when exercising vigorously. Why? To cool down. It’s as simple as that! While people are able to sweat when they’re hot, canine physiology doesn’t allow skin to sweat under fur.

Panting and sweating both use evaporation as a cooling mechanism. Rapid, shallow breathing through an open mouth allows for increased evaporation from oral surfaces. The blood vessels that run close to those surfaces bring cooled blood into the cardiovascular system, which helps maintain a healthy body temperature.

Be aware that panting may result in dehydration—and, perpetuating a dangerous cycle, a dehydrated dog is more likely to overheat. So be sure to provide your dog plenty of cool, fresh water to drink when it’s hot. That way, panting should safely keep her cool as a cucumber.

Why is my dog panting for no reason?

It’s normal for dogs to pant when they’re hot, excited, or exercising. But if your dog is panting heavily for no apparent reason, she may be distressed or experiencing a health problem.

Do your palms ever get sweaty when you’re scared or anxious? Your heart beats faster, and you breathe faster and more shallowly. That’s your sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response kicking in. Dogs are the same way: panting can happen because your dog is afraid or stressed out. Is a thunderstorm coming? Is she anxious about being in an unfamiliar place, or around unfamiliar people?

Another, more dangerous reason for excessive panting: [heat stroke]. Other symptoms include discomfort, lack of willingness to move, uncoordinated movement, and vomiting. If you suspect that your dog has heat stroke, [cool her down safely] by hosing or spraying her down with tepid (not cold) water, bringing her inside to an air-conditioned room or car, and applying rubbing alcohol to her foot pads. Bring her to a vet as soon as possible.

In the absence of heat stroke, excessive panting paired with vomiting or lethargy could indicate that your dog has been exposed to a toxic substance, or is having an allergic reaction. Take your dog to the vet immediately. (Bring any medication your dog is taking with you, just in case the allergy is related.)

Finally, frequent episodes of heavy panting can be a symptom of several chronic illnesses, including [heart failure], [Cushing’s disease], and a variety of respiratory disorders. See your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment options.

How do you stop a dog from panting?

Panting is a normal physiological function in dogs, so in most cases, you can just let your dog pant. If the panting is heat-related, giving her drinking water or access to a cooler environment will help. Allow your dog to rest if she is overly exercised.

If your dog is panting because she is nervous or anxious, there are several strategies to help calm her:

  • Cuddle your dog. Touch and physical closeness help relieve anxiety, fear, and stress.

  • Relax and stay calm. Dogs can sense and react to the emotions of their humans.

  • Remove your dog from an environment with too much stimuli. A comfortable, quiet resting spot or a time-out in her crate might be just what your anxious dog needs. (Make sure your dog knows it isn’t a punishment, though. A treat may be a good idea as you get your dog settled in.)

If you are concerned that your dog’s panting is a symptom of a health problem, see your vet.

Panting is a normal physiological function in dogs, so in most cases, you can just let your dog pant.

Do dogs pant more when they get older?

Older dogs often pant more than younger dogs, for a number of reasons.

A dog’s diaphragm and intercostal muscles, which are used to breathe, become weaker with age. Older dogs may find it easier to breathe shallowly, or pant, because it requires less energy of these weakened muscles. This is a natural part of aging.

Older dogs are more likely to be obese. Excess weight strains a dog’s cardiovascular system, which can cause panting. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight with the right diet and proper exercise will help.

Finally, older dogs react more strongly to adrenaline. Stress, fear, pain, or even excitement can cause older dogs to pant more than a younger dog would, so try to keep your old-timer calm and happy.

Our medical experts

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