Normal and Abnormal Panting
Your dog’s panting could be normal or abnormal. Normal panting basically happens when your dog is feeling a bit too hot. Panting, in such circumstances, is considered healthy and natural. Abnormal panting, however, could denote your dog is experiencing certain emotional or physical issues that require immediate attention.
There are certain signs that can help you differentiate normal panting from abnormal panting:
- Compared to normal panting, abnormal panting lasts longer.
- Abnormal panting happens when your dog is experiencing zero body heat problems and does not require cooling down.
- Abnormal panting sounds different from normal panting – it could be harsher and/or louder, for instance.
- When panting abnormally, your dog can be seen really pushing it.
If your dog starts panting all of a sudden or the panting looks and sounds heavier than usual and you wonder why is this happening, you must investigate the matter without panicking. Contact your veterinarian to discuss your dog’s behavior and get your pet thoroughly checked.
The following are some reasons your dog could be panting abnormally:
Heat strokes can be potentially fatal which happens when your dog’s body temperature soars to abnormal levels. Heavier, faster panting is a common sign your dog is having heat stroke issues. You need to spring into action quickly to address the situation, as dangerous levels of body heat could kill your dog within 15 minutes if not looked at immediately.
Overheating leads to heatstroke. With increasing body temperature, your dog would pant more and heavier. A few other overheating signs are excessive thirst, glazed eyes, increased body temperature, dark or bright red gums or tongue, and increased heartbeat and pulse.
If the body temperature of your dog breaches the 109 degrees Fahrenheit mark, a heatstroke is highly likely. Your dog’s body cells would die rapidly, and the brain would swell – invariably resulting in seizures. Zero blood supply to your dog’s gastrointestinal tract (GI) could lead to ulcers. Dehydration results in irreversible kidney impairment. And all of this devastation happens within minutes.
It’s imperative dog owners leave no stone unturned to ensure there is no overheating to start with. If the dog is showing heatstroke symptoms, it’s invariably a bit too late already.
Abnormal panting could mean your dog has had an allergic reaction or has been poisoned. Poisonings are extremely common medical emergencies veterinarians come across on the daily. Often, poisonings are caused by raisin or chocolate intake, swallowing hazardous plants, licking things such as rat poison, antifreeze, or snail and slug killer.
Like humans, a dog has a heart and it pumps oxygen-rich blood to different parts of the body. With the heart deteriorating and losing its ability to pump blood, dogs could show it happening through different ways, including coughing, weakness, and exercise intolerance. Panting is another common indication. This happens when the dog’s rate of respiration increases to make amends for the minimal oxygen circulation.
Other signs include decreased ability or reluctance to exercise, increased respiration, feeling fatigued quickly, and coughing. There could even be sudden bouts of fainting or weakness. Certain dogs with a heart condition have inflated abdomens and breathe heavily due to the accumulation of fluid.
A diseased heart cannot pump blood efficiently around the body, depriving tissues of their oxygen supply. Your dog’s body would push its respiration rate up to compensate for the oxygen issue, which leads to panting.
As the heart’s pumping ability goes down, blood pressure within the veins at the rear of the heart could increase. Fluid accumulation and lung congestion are common. And when the dog’s lungs are no more able to infuse blood with oxygen, the dog ends up breathing rapidly and with increased force. The outcome is severe panting.
A fairly common issue brachycephalic dogs are susceptible to is the inability to breathe like every other dog. This is particularly true when the dog is eating meals or after exercise. This condition is referred to as Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). It’s caused due to the upper respiratory tract becoming narrower.
It’s imperative to be cautious if your brachy pet must travel by road or plane. A brachycephalic pet would find a hot vehicle a lot more uncomfortable than regular pets.
If you own a brachy, get familiar with its regular breathing patterns so that you can spring into action whenever there are deviations. The breathing that’s considered “normal” for other dogs may not be so for a brachy.
If you see any amplification, increase, or any other change in the respiratory sounds your pet makes, note them down.
Any respiratory system disorder could lead to breathing issues, and one of those signs could be panting or heavy breathing. The disorders could include lung tumors, laryngeal paralysis, and pneumonia.
Anemia is a condition diagnosed when the red blood cell (RBC) count has nosedived. Since these cells carry oxygen around to different parts of the body, anemia could result in oxygen deprivation. This could result in your dog panting even more to compensate for the deficit.
When a dog’s red blood cells are low than normal and the hemoglobin for carrying oxygen to the different tissues is insufficient, oxygen starvation is the result. As it’s the case with lung and heart diseases, panting denotes oxygen deprivation.
Other anemia symptoms include weakness, exercise intolerance, lethargy, an increased heart rate, mental confusion, pale mucous membranes (the tongue and/or gums losing their pink hue), rapid breathing, and loss of appetite. If the dog passes a significant amount of blood from the gastrointestinal tract, black tarry stools would become the norm.
This is a condition wherein the cartilage and muscles that close and open the larynx fail to work. When a dog with this problem inhales, its laryngeal cartilages don’t open properly, causing breathing issues. Restricted airflow and raspy, loud panting are invariably the outcomes.
Obesity is an issue that has plagued not just humans but also dogs. It could lead to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, and also life-altering conditions such as arthritis. When an overweight dog pants excessively, it means it’s struggling to get oxygenated, fresh blood to their critical body parts.
This syndrome is diagnosed when the adrenal glands of the dog make excessive cortisol. Middle-age or older dogs are usually the most affected. They tend to eat more, drink more, pant more, and urinate excessively.
Dogs suffering from the problem, called hyperadrenocorticism, have adrenal glands that release too excessive cortisol. Cortisol is multifaceted. When normal, it benefits the body. However, when it’s in excessive amounts, it could lead to wide-ranging symptoms – increased panting being one of them.
Do Dogs Express Pain By Panting?
If your pet dog has been heavily panting but has not been exercising, it could mean it’s in pain. Dogs experiencing pain would usually pant before exhibiting other obvious signs, which include whining or hobbling. Dogs that have shallow breathing could be suffering from pain too.
If your dog has any discomfort or is enduring serious pain, frequent and/or heavy panting could be a tell-tale sign. If your dog has been panting for no apparent reason or during odd times of the day or during periods when it should be resting, book an appointment to discuss the matter with your veterinarian.
Kindly note your dog cannot communicate its pain to you directly. Therefore, it’s your responsibility to constantly keep an eye out for any change in behavior in your dog.
Dogs that are stressed, anxious, or have a phobia for noise usually pant. This is called “behavioral panting” that is accompanied by other visual discomfort cues, such as pacing, repetitive yawning, crying, whining, trembling, lip licking, hiding – and in certain rare cases, loss of bowel or bladder control.
Short-lived reactions to unfamiliar or stressful events enable your dog to take flight or fight. And these responses are quite normal. However, a chronic and prolonged fear response could result in both emotional and physical disorders that could potentially cut short your dog’s lifespan and hurt its quality of life too.
What Are Tachypnoea and Dyspnoea?
Your vet could throw the terms ‘dyspnoea’ and ‘tachypnoea’ out casually when discussing dog breathing problems. Dyspnoea is essentially labored breathing; tachypnoea, on the other hand, is the breathing rate becoming faster than normal. Not to mention, these two disorders could also lead to panting.
When to let the vet know about your dog’s panting?
Your vet should be the first person you call whenever your dog is not doing well. However, you must also know that panting is pretty normal in dogs that are active, are a bit too hot, or are excited. Panting is usually deemed not normal and a likely emergency if your dog pants suddenly and without any reason or trigger, doesn’t stop panting, is shaking or feeling restless simultaneously, or has a change in tongue color or the color of its gums.
Get your vet on the line even if your dog doesn’t look much in trouble while panting abnormally. The sooner you diagnose the issue and begin treatment, the better it would be for the dog.