Why Do Dogs Pant When At Rest?

When you see a dog panting, they’re probably doing this because they’re exercising or have just finished exercising, or because the weather is very hot and they need to cool down. However, there are all sorts of other reasons why a dog might pant that isn’t related to exertion or the weather, and if your dog seems to be panting for no reason, it is important to try to get to the bottom of it.

In this article we will outline some of the reasons that dogs pant other than exercise or exertion. Read on to learn more.

To cool down

If your dog is panting a lot, they may well be too hot! Dogs pant during and after exercise as panting helps to cool them down, exchanging warm air from the lungs for the cooler air in the environment. The hotter the weather is, the more your dog is likely to pant, and if they are exercising in hot weather, they are apt to pant more than normal.

Panting and minor exertion

We associate panting with exercise and exertion, and a dog that is running around, playing a vigorous game or otherwise being lively and active will probably pant. However, how much your dog pants when they’re active will depend in large part on how fit they are in the first place – a very fit, active dog might well run around for a few minutes before their breathing rate increases noticeably, but this will happen much faster for unfit dogs.

For a dog that is very overweight and/or unfit, just minor exertion such as a slow, sedate walk might lead to panting. If your dog starts panting or gets out of puff very quickly, you should think about their fitness and weight and take steps to get them fitter.

Brachycephalic dogs

Brachycephalic dogs are those with short muzzles and flat-looking faces – like the French bulldog and the pug.

Having a brachycephalic face means that the dog’s airways are abnormally shortened too, and some dogs of this type also have particularly narrow nostrils or nares. This can make it hard for a dog of this type to stay cool enough and regulate their body temperature by panting, and your dog may have to work harder to keep cool and get enough air.

Brachycephalic dogs as a whole tend to have a lower threshold for exercise tolerance and vigorous physical activity than other dogs, and many brachycephalic breeds are also rather on the round side or have a naturally stocky build, which can make things worse.

The greater the degree of flatness of your dog’s face and the narrowness of their nostrils, the more acute this is likely to be. Anyone who owns a brachycephalic dog of any type is well advised to ask their vet to examine the dog and perform an assessment on their facial conformation to ensure that they are able to breathe normally when undertaking normal canine activities. Your vet can also advise you on any special exercise and care considerations you should bear in mind for your own dog.

Stress or fear

Stress, fear or anxiety have a physical effect on the dog’s body, placing their senses into fight or flight mode. When this state is triggered, your dog’s body will undergo physical changes in order to prepare to face or flee from the perceived threat.

Their heart rate will increase as their bodies prepare for sudden movement, and they will breathe faster and more shallowly in anticipation of the need to act.

This can cause a dog that is at rest to pant, something that you might have witnessed before in certain situations – such as if fireworks are being set off nearby and your dog finds this unsettling.

Excitement

Excitement too has a physical effect on your dog’s body, for much the same reason that stress or fear does – your dog is anticipating something and their bodies are preparing to act on it. If you’ve just reached for your dog’s lead or picked up their favourite toy, your dog will probably show immediate signs of excitement and they may begin panting too.

Medication side-effects

Certain medications that are given to dogs for various reasons can have side effects of their own, and this is something that your vet should explain to you before they send your dog home. They should also let you know if panting is a normal side effect that isn’t a problem, or if it indicates that the medication isn’t the right fit for your dog.

If you have any concerns, contact your vet for advice.

Health conditions

A range of canine health conditions can increase panting or make your dog pant or breathe heavily, such as canine asthma, heart disease, and a range of other issues too. Again, if you’re not sure why your dog is panting, it is worth asking your vet to check them out.

Prior to vomiting

Even very robust and healthy dogs will throw up on occasion, and dogs will sometimes deliberately induce vomiting by eating grass if their stomach is upset or they have eaten something that didn’t agree with them.

While dogs will sometimes throw up with little or no warning after appearing fine, sometimes you’ll spot certain signs that can be a precursor to vomiting, and panting is one of them. If your dog is going to be sick imminently, they might start hypersalivating or slobbering, and they are likely to hang or hold their head in a downwards position and also, potentially start panting.

Due to poisoning or toxicity

Finally, one acute cause of panting in dogs that is very serious and should be viewed as an emergency is poisoning or toxicity. If your dog has eaten something dangerous or toxic, knowing that this is the case isn’t always obvious unless you saw it happen, because the symptoms can be diverse and varied.

If your dog is behaving oddly and panting and particularly if you know or suspect that they might have ingested something toxic, contact your vet immediately for advice on how to proceed, and be prepared to take them along to the clinic if your vet directs you to.


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