Why Is My Dog Panting?

Causes of panting in dogs

Cough, difficult breathing and constant panting are symptoms that indicate breathing problems. What are the most common causes and when you should start to worry when your dog is panting? 

Why is your dog panting?

Several things can tell you that your pet has difficulty breathing:

  • Tachypnea: This breathing is rapid with a closed mouth.
  • Dyspnea: This type of breathing results in movements of the nostrils with noisy or wheezing breathing and movements of the belly and the thorax
  • Orthopnea: The dog stretches his neck and opens his mouth to find air.

Symptoms indicating a lack of oxygen can also include a blue tongue and gums, and a cough.

Respiratory rate of dogs

The normal respiratory rate of humans in adulthood is 12 to 20 movements per minute. Since dogs’ normal respiratory rate is close to that of humans, breathing at the same time as your pet can help determine if they are breathing fast.

The normal respiratory rate of dogs is between 14 and 22 movements per minute. A dog breathes quickly when its respiratory rate is higher than 22 movements per minute.

Rapid breathing is normal during fever, when the weather is hot, during intense physical activity, after playing or periods of excitement. 

Since dogs do not sweat, and they have very few sweat glands, they regulate their body temperature by panting, which makes them breathe faster. The respiratory rate gets back to normal as soon as the dog calms down in a cool room. 

Dogs can also experience fast breathing while dreaming, sounds and paw movements can accompany it.

What are the possible causes of panting in dogs?

Abnormal breathing can have several causes:

  • A lung problem (pneumonia, pulmonary edema, lung tumor, etc.);
  • Obstruction of the respiratory tract (asthma, allergy, tumor in the nostrils, etc.);
  • An intrathoracic problem (rib fracture, pneumothorax, hemothorax…);
  • An abdominal problem (effusion, rupture of the diaphragm…).
  • Non-respiratory diseases or conditions such as obesity, heart failure, nervous diseases, anemia, poisoning with anticoagulant rat poison, stress and pain. 

When should you start to worry?

At the first signs of breathing difficulties, it is urgent to consult a veterinarian. Here are some symptoms that should alert you:

  • Other associated symptoms: vomiting, cough, respiratory rattles
  • Shortness of breath
  • Starts panting as soon as he walks or does an activity
  • Loud and / or rapid breathing for a long time for no apparent reason (dog at rest)
  • Whistling
  • Blue mucous membranes in the mouth, a sign of a lack of oxygen.

The vet might consider endoscopy, radiography, blood tests, or even surgery, depending on the case.

The first steps before your veterinarian’s appointment

  • Place your dog in a ventilated and cool room (especially in summer)
  • If a foreign object is stuck in his throat, try to remove it very carefully.
  • Place your dog on a blanket while lifting him very carefully to avoid pressing on his chest.
  • If his breathing difficulty is heat-related, cool him with water.

If you notice any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, consult a specialist immediately, he will be able to make a diagnosis and use the appropriate treatments.


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