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Excessive Panting in Dogs

When dogs are running or playing, we can expect them to begin breathing heavily. But what about when they are relaxed? Here, our Crystal Lake vets talk about why your pup may begin to breathe rapidly and when excessive panting in dogs is an emergency.

Why is rapid panting in dogs so concerning?

Did you know that dogs don't sweat? This means that they can't cool down in the same way that you and I can. Instead, they cool themselves using the water within their body. But how does this work? Which property of water allows dogs to cool themselves?

The answer is simple. The evaporation of the water within their mouth and respiratory system. The vaporization of this water at high heat then creates a cooling effect from within.

Typically, overheating and excessive exercise are the main causes of panting. However, panting can sometimes be caused by something more serious.

If you notice that your dog is also struggling to breathe or that its lips and tongue are changing color, you should contact your nearest emergency animal hospital right away.

Signs of Abnormal Panting in Dogs

To determine if your dog is breathing too fast or panting excessively, you will need to determine how fast it breathes while resting. This can be done anytime your dog is lying down and has been relaxing for a while.

If your dog only occasionally pants and otherwise seems fine, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. Still, there will be other times when your dog needs immediate veterinary care. Some other things to consider include:

  • Does your dog seem restless while panting?
  • Are you noticing a difference in the harshness of the panting?
  • Is there no obvious reason for your dog's excessive panting?
  • Are you noting that your dog is also visibly shaking?
  • Do they look uncomfortable?
  • Did the panting occur after exercise and gradually or suddenly, out of nowhere?
  • Is your dog also showing signs of pain while panting?
  • Is your dog also chewing on their paws while they are panting?
  • Are the lips, tongue and gums blue, purple, or white?

If you say yes to any of these questions, you should contact an emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible to have your dog examined.

What is the cause of your dog's excessive panting?

Heat Stroke

When a dog becomes too hot and cannot cool down, it can lead to a serious and potentially life-threatening condition known as heat stroke. If your dog begins to experience this concern, the first sign you may see is excessive panting. You need to bring your dog in for emergency care as soon as you notice the signs of heat stroke.


If your dog is showing signs of excessive panting, there is a chance that it may have ingested something it shouldn't and is now experiencing the signs of poisoning. Poisoning in dogs is a common veterinary emergency, and if you are concerned that this may have occurred, you should contact your nearest emergency veterinary hospital as soon as possible. Some of the most common causes of poisoning in dogs include chocolate or raisin ingestion, swallowing dangerous plants, or licking things like antifreeze or rodent poison.

Heart Failure

The heart pumps fresh, oxygenated blood around your dog's body. Unfortunately, over time, the heart may begin to lose its ability to function well, and dogs might begin to show several signs, including weakness, coughing and exercise intolerance. One of the most common signs is panting, as this is the body's way of quickly elevating oxygen levels.

Brachycephalic Syndrome

This syndrome affects the breeds of dogs with short, smooshed faces and noses. This smooshed face can cause difficulties in breathing. You may notice the signs of this more often when they are eating or drinking or if they have been heavily exercising. Vets refer to this as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), which is the narrowing of the upper respiratory tract.

Respiratory Illness

If your dog is suffering from any condition or illness that affects its respiratory system, it can lead to heavy panting. Some of the conditions that cause this excessive panting include laryngeal paralysis, lung tumors and pneumonia.


If your dog experiences a sudden decrease in red blood cells, the resulting concern is anemia. The red blood cells in your dog's body help carry much-needed oxygen around the body to all tissues and organs. Unfortunately, with this condition, your dog's body may become deprived of oxygen, which will cause them to pant to help elevate their oxygen levels.


Obesity is a common, preventable condition that can lead to several serious health concerns. As your dog's body struggles to get fresh, oxygenated blood to their organs, they may excessively pant.

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing's Disease causes a dog's glands to produce higher-than-normal cortisol levels. If your dog is affected by this condition, they will likely urinate more often, drink more water and pant heavily.

Are there ways to prevent excessive panting in dogs?

There is no easy answer to preventing panting in dogs, as it depends on the reason behind it. You can monitor your dog closely and take action as needed, such as the steps listed below.

What to Do For Dogs Who Are Panting

  1. Provide your dog with water.
  2. Bring them to a cooler spot.
  3. Apply a cool compress to their face and body.
  4. Use white noise or similar sounds to help them relax.
  5. Comfort your pet and speak to them in a calm and soothing voice.
  6. Contact your vet right away to schedule an examination.

When to Seek Emergency Veterinary Care

Excessive or heavy panting in resting or older dogs may be a sign of respiratory distress. If you see your pooch exhibiting any of the following signs, you should first call your vet immediately. They will inform you of the steps you should take until you reach the animal hospital.

  • Heavy, fast breathing that’s louder or different sounding than normal panting
  • Their panting starts suddenly
  • Open-mouthed breathing while at rest
  • Reluctance to drink, eat or move
  • Pale, blue-tinged, or brick-red gums
  • Out-of-character drooling
  • Noticeably labored breathing (engaging stomach muscles to help breathe)

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is excessively panting or showing other signs of respiratory distress, please contact our Crystal Lake vets immediately.

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Companion Animal Specialty and Emergency Hospital is accepting new patients! Our specialists and experienced emergency veterinarians are passionate about restoring good health to animal companions in Crystal Lake.

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