Ever wondered why your dog pants, or worried that it’s sounding a little … odd? Mel Hearse finds out all the things there are to know about dogs and their pants (not of the tracksuit variety!).
All dogs pant. Some do it often; some do it a little. They may be loud or quiet “panters” and some of them do it with a lot of slobber involved. Sometimes they pant quickly; sometimes they pant slowly.
Panting is generally normal doggy behaviour and is generally no cause for concern, but it can also be a warning sign of something more sinister. Here are the various reasons your dog pants and the situations where you’ll want to get them to your vet for a check-up.
#1: To cool themselves down
While humans cool themselves by sweating, dogs only sweat a little between their toes — not enough to cool them down. Instead, panting helps them stay cool by circulating air through their bodies.
This type of panting is normal and necessary; however, if your dog has been exposed to high temperatures and you notice their panting become faster, louder or more laboured, it may be a sign of heatstroke, which can be fatal and requires immediate veterinary attention.
To avoid heatstroke, all dogs should be left with access to plenty of shade and drinking water (or even a paddling pool with fresh cool water if you have a pooch that enjoys bathing) and ideally kept inside when it’s especially hot. Also, be aware that heatstroke can hit faster in older dogs, so take extra care to monitor their time in the heat and any changes in their breathing.
Brachycephalic breeds — those breeds with short, “pushed-in” faces, tend to pant more because their physiology makes it harder for them to breathe.
Dogs such as Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs have upper-airway challenges and can have problems panting efficiently, meaning they’re at an increased risk of heatstroke. Keep an eye out for any changes in their breathing and panting and, if you notice any louder or more frequent panting, see your vet as soon as possible.
#3: Fear — or excitement
Some dogs will pant excessively when excited, or when anxious or fearful — for example, during a storm or a car ride. Some may become excited by day-to-day occurrences such as cyclists or other dogs.
While the excessive panting will not harm them and is not uncommon, if they’re exhibiting frantic panting and other signs of fear or distress whenever they’re exposed to the cause, this may indicate they’ve developed a phobia.
There is plenty you can do to minimise fear; for example, using a soothing voice and ensuring their exposure to loud noises is minimised in the case of storms, or ensuring they are properly harnessed in a car to stop them moving about and feeling unsafe.
However, ongoing phobias can spoil their quality of life and may be successfully treated by working with an animal behaviourist.
#4: They may be unwell
Excessive panting may also be a sign of sickness, so if there are no other obvious causes of the panting, or you notice a lot of slobbering, whimpering, vomiting, changes in appetite or disinterest in exercising, there’s a possibility it’s a sign of illness.
This one will require a vet’s attention, as the cause can be anything from ingesting something that doesn’t agree with them to heart or respiration issues. Your vet will examine your dog, ask questions about their recent activities and may recommend blood or other diagnostic tests.
Panting may be a sign of anaemia, which in turn leads to oxygen starvation. While you’ll need to see your vet for a definitive diagnosis and treatment, other signs of anaemia include elevated heart rate, pale tongue or gums and lethargy or disinterest in exercise.
Frequent panting may also be a sign of Cushing’s disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, where the adrenal glands release too much cortisol. Dogs with Cushing’s may also experience increased thirst and urination, weight gain inconsistent with their diet and exercise habits, hair loss, bruising and restlessness.
When is a pant a cause for concern?
If you’re not sure if your dog’s panting is cause for concern, look out for:
- Panting more excessive than your dog’s normal panting behaviour.
- Times when there is no obvious cause for excitement or fear, they’re not overly warm and there’s no logical reason they’d need to cool their body down.
- When it sounds different from their usual panting: louder, faster or lasting longer.
- When the panting seems to be taking a lot of effort.
- When it is accompanied by other signs of illness — for example, lethargy, vomiting, or lack of normal appetite.
Stinky pants? Might want to check that out
Has Fido panted in your general direction and almost knocked you over with the smell? Canine bad breath may indicate dental disease (the sooner you get onto it, the better; dental problems will escalate if left untreated). Or it may also be a sign of illness in the gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidneys. Either way, a visit to the vet is advised to diagnose and treat the cause.Make sure your furry friend is always looked after at our DOGSLife Directory