Many people think that panting is a singular behavior with a single cause, but there is much more to it than that.
Panting can be caused by the following:
1. Cooling Down
Because dogs don’t sweat as humans do (except some sweating through their paws) they cool themselves by panting. When a dog is hot, panting circulates the necessary oxygen so that your dog can cool down. If you see your dog panting, it is important to check the ambient temperature in the room. If it’s hot in your home, offer your dog a way to cool down. Either bring out a fan, turn on the AC, provide cool water to drink, or draw the shades in the house.
If the ambient temperature in your home is normal, and you don’t believe that your dog is trying to cool off, your dog may be panting as a sign of pain. That pain could fall into a number of categories. Sometimes dogs are panting due to chronic pain like arthritis for example. However, it is possible that your dog has sustained an injury recently, and they are panting due to the pain caused by that injury. If you feel that this is a possibility give your dog a once over to see if they have any visible injuries. If the panting continues and there are no known injuries, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
3. Ongoing Illness
If your dog has been diagnosed with an ongoing, long-term illness like heart failure, for example, an increased respiratory rate may be a side effect of the illness. To be more specific, some illnesses can cause electrolyte imbalances or other issues within the body that can cause panting. However, if you feel that the panting is excessive, please make an appointment with your veterinarian.
4. Side Effect of Medications
Occasionally, the side effects of certain medications include panting. If your dog is on chronic medications be sure to know whether or not panting is considered a side effect.
Your dog can express anxiety due to either excitement or fear. Occasionally, dogs who have anxiety have a tendency to pant when excited or fearful. For example, if your dog is panting during a thunderstorm, they are probably displaying signs of anxiety.
As a pet parent, the best thing you can do for your pet is know what their normal respiratory rate so that you can assess what qualifies as panting. If you believe the panting is becoming consistent and isn’t due to temperature or temporary anxiety, please contact your veterinarian.