Why Is My Dog Panting Heavily?

August 8, 2017

By Laurie Darroch

Panting is a normal part of how the canine body works, but there are different reasons for the behavior as well as variable rates of panting. At times your dog may seem to be panting heavily, which can make you worry and wonder what’s causing it. Here are five reasons why your dog might be panting excessively.

To Keep Cool

When your dog has her mouth open and is panting and breathing heavily, she may simply be helping herself stay cool. She opens her mouth to release moisture and draw air in to provide some cooling relief to her insides. It’s one way she gets rid of some of that extra body heat.

Dogs do not sweat like humans do. Your dog may sweat through the pads of her feet, but not through her skin the way we do. Dogs use their breathing and panting as a method to lessen the heat, whether it is from extreme temperatures on the outside, or the result of heavy exercise.

Don’t forget to keep plenty of fresh water nearby for your dog to drink. Access to fresh water is important every day, but even more so in warm weather.


An excited dog may exhibit this in a variety of ways, including wagging tails and the inability to sit still while she bubbles over with excitement. Dogs also pant from excitement.


When a dog is afraid or nervous, she may pant excessively as well. Case in point, a dog that doesn’t like going to the veterinarian’s office and is familiar with the route to get there for visits, may pant heavily the whole way in the car.

Health Issues

Some excessive panting can be a warning that a more serious issue is present. A dog can suffer from heat stroke in extreme temperature conditions.

Heart issues or illness, such as lung infection or pneumonia may cause your dog to have labored breathing and pant excessively in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

Your dog could be having a sudden allergic reaction to something she came in contact with. She may have ingested some form of poison while exploring the house or yard.  Or she may have been bitten by a poisonous creature and is exhibiting unusual breathing.

Watch for other symptoms that will help indicate what the health issue is, including vomiting and lethargy, bleeding, pain, puncture wounds or incontinence. The heavy panting may only be one symptom of a bigger problem.


If your dog is taking any medications, it’s possible that she can have an allergic reaction to one. One symptom (of many possible reactions), can be altered breathing. Keep track of when and how you administer her medications, particularly new ones. You may be able to help pinpoint the cause that way.

Breathing heavily may be a simple normal reaction to heat, excitement or fear, and nothing to worry about as long as your dog is comfortable and given plenty of resources to find relief.

Keep an eye on your dog, particularly if the onset of the heavy panting is sudden and not associated with hot weather, exertion or other normal causes. Call your vet if you have any doubts as to the cause of the heavy breathing.

If your dog’s symptoms are extreme, such as a change in the color of her tongue or gums to blue, signs of extreme pain or discomfort or a severe struggle to breathe, get her to the vet as soon as possible. In an emergency situation, getting help quickly is essential.

Read more articles by Laurie Darroch

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