Dog Panting – Is it normal?
Unlike humans, dogs have fewer sweat glands on their body. Most of the sweat glands lie under the foot pads and on the tongue of the dog, therefore to control internal temperature of body, a dog pants and breaths rapidly. In this context, it is absolutely normal that a dog pants or breaths heavily after exercise, running or in hot weather.
Similarly, several breeds of dogs, which are specifically called brachycephalic breeds; which have a pushed in face and possess relatively narrower nostrils and short windpipes to breathe, e.g. Boston terriers, pugs and bull dogs etc, breathes and pants heavily. They need more energy and pant heavily to intake an adequate volume of air to fulfill oxygen needs and to control the body’s internal temperature. In such breeds, excessive panting and shallow breathing is considered normal.
But, dog panting is surely a sign of some underlying health problem if it occurs consistently and in the absence of its indicators, i.e. after exercise, running, hot weather or in brachyocephallic breeds. Several other signs accompany excessive panting in dogs, such as cough, discomfort, heart problems, anemia, heat strokes, fainting etc.
A panting puppy might be of concern, when it is a perfectly normal response to heat or exercise. A puppy is considered to be panting when the breathing rate is 10x the normal rate.
Causes of Dog Panting:
Panting in dogs is mostly caused by common environmental and physiological factors, such as:
- excessive exercise
In most cases, the common reasons for dog panting are considered normal or a mere response to the environmental and behavioral factors. But, in cases where there is discomfort, stress and other signs are also accompanied with consistent canine panting, an underlying cause or possible health problem should be diagnosed and treated specifically.
The following are some of the possible causes of abnormal and excessive panting in dogs, which may be a real threat to dog health, not to mention that some of them if not attended to immediately can turn fatal.
- Respiratory Problems: In Brachyocephallic breeds of dogs, panting is a normal phenomenon, but consistent panting in these breeds and other dogs due to respiratory distress represents a serious underlying cause, such as upper and lower respiratory tract infection, nasal congestion, nasal and throat growths (tumors, tonsils), collapsed trachea, inadequate exchange of gases in lungs, pulmonary edema or accumulation of fluids in the lungs and pressure on respiratory features from tumors and/or hernias in the chest cavity.
- Heart/Cardiovascular Problems: Since the respiratory and cardiovascular mechanisms are tied to each other in the normal physiology of body, i.e. exchange of gases in the lungs and transportation of oxygen and nutrients with help of the cardiovascular mechanism, therefore abnormal dog panting is directly related to cardiovascular and heart problems. In cases where there is canine cardiovascular diseases, heart congestion, hematological problems (related with blood), heart worm infestation, pulmonary blockage may cause pressure on the oxygen and nutrient supply to every cell of the body. In such cases, a neurological response in the brain initiates a pressurized respiratory response, i.e. excessive intake of air through the nostrils through panting and heavy breathing.
- Neurological Problems: Since, the breathing and respiratory mechanism is controlled by a “Respiratory Center” in the hind brain; any neurological disorder such as head trauma, brain tumors, in coordination of respiratory muscles and pressure over the center may initiate uncontrolled intake of air, which eventually leads to persistent dog panting and heavy breathing.
- Miscellaneous Problems: Along with the aforementioned core causes of abnormal dog panting, several other reasons such as heat illness, poisoning, high altitudes, ascites or accumulation of fluids in the abdomen, abdominal pressure due to pregnancy and/or cancerous growths and certain chest/abdominal diseases also cause pressure on the chest cavity and respiratory system. These causes eventually leave a dog with heavy breathing and consistent panting.Symptoms of Abnormal Dog Panting:
Canine panting after exercise, running, in hot weather and in certain breeds is considered normal. However,in dogs which pant consistently and show signs of stress, discomfort, cough, difficult breathing and visible distress should be referred to a veterinarian for detailed examination. Clinically, dog panting can never be a confirmatory sign for any possible health problem, but other signs such as anemia, darkened skin and mucus, weight loss, lethargy, intolerance, cough, fatigue, thirst and dehydration can suggest the possible degree of severity of the condition.
Clinical examination initiated due to signs of excessive panting in dogs may lead to reveal an underlying respiratory, cardiovascular and other systemic diseases, therefore dog owners are always directed to monitor the breathing pattern, panting behavior and stress level of their pets, which if appear abnormal could be an indicator of a serious underlying systemic disease.
Diagnosis of Abnormal Dog Panting:
A dog referred to a veterinarian with abnormal panting problem is examined in detail; it is always first determined if the panting is part of the normal dog physiological response to exercise, weather or an internal temperature controlling mechanism. Once the dog panting is confirmed as abnormal as part of a clinical examination or any other symptoms or underlying causes are suspected, a veterinarian may use additional examination tools and laboratory diagnosis.
Along with the dogs history and physical examination, detailed laboratory tests including blood examination, dog blood count, hematology, chest X-Rays, urinalysis, and biochemical profiling is done initially. This can be followed by more specific tests as Endocrine examination, heartworm tests, cardiovascular examinations and Thoracentesis (also known as pleural fluid analysis, thoracentesis is a procedure that removes fluid or air from the chest through a needle or tube) to confirm the possible underlying cause of abnormal canine panting.
Treatment of Abnormal or Excessive Panting in Dogs:
Since dog panting is related to the functioning of vital body systems, i.e. respiratory system, cardiovascular system and other systems which depend on the normal functioning of these features, initial symptomatic treatment is initiated even before the basic diagnosis is determined.
Symptoms such as abnormal canine breathing and panting are treated with the help of providing extra oxygen and room to breath. Anemia (if present) is treated with a blood transfusion. Dehydrated dogs due to excessive exercise, work, hot weather are administered fluids, in which high energy content such as lactose is added.
Natural remedies, which can enhance the dogs energy level are highly recommended along with the specific treatment initiated by a veterinarian. A natural solution for restoring energy levels would be the homeopathic remedy Energy Tonic.
Excessive panting in dogs has many reasons, for example anxiety due to any discomfort and environmental factors is one of primary causes. The natural remedy Grief and Pining Formula is primarily recommended for those pets which are experiencing some kind of loss or separation. It contains Hypericum, which is a herb with properties that help to stabilize mood and the nervous centers in brain. Pet Calm is another remedy which can be used an alternative to this product, although it does not contain Hypericum in favor of other ingredients which promote nervous system health.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, specific treatment should be initiated immediately. Specific treatment can be done with the help of therapeutics or may require surgical procedures, depending upon the confirmation made with help of advanced diagnostic techniques.
This article is reprinted through the courtesy of the Dog Health Handbook