It’s scary when your dog suddenly pants (and shakes, drools, or is restless at the same time).
But don’t worry:
In this guide you’ll discover:
- Exactly why your dog is panting suddenly
- 19 dangers if your dog is panting
- 5 tips on what to do if your dog is panting abnormally
- The difference between normal and abnormal panting
- What to do to cool down your dog if they have a heatstroke
- And many more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog suddenly pant (heavily)?
- People also ask:
- Normal panting versus abnormal panting
- 19 dangers (or when should you worry about dog panting)
- #1: Heatstroke
- #2: High fever
- #3: Heart failure
- #4: Anxiety and fear
- #5: Poisoning
- #6: Cushing’s disease
- #7: Respiratory disorders
- #8: Injury and pain
- #9: Medications
- #10: Allergies
- #11: Eclampsia
- #12: Brachycephalic syndrome
- #13: Anemia
- #14: Obesity
- #15: Lung disease
- #16: Laryngeal paralysis
- #17: Bloat
- #18: Hypertension or high blood pressure
- #19: Stress
- 5 tips on what to do if your dog is panting
- 3 pet parents share their stories
Why does my dog suddenly pant (heavily)?
Your dog suddenly pants (heavily) due to heatstroke or high fever. Aside from panting heavily, your dog will show some discomfort. Heatstroke is more likely during the hot days. High fever will also make your dog pant. They will do it to cool themselves down.
People also ask:
Normal panting versus abnormal panting
Dogs pant all the time. Especially after physical exertion.
It’s so normal to see them panting that owners might take this behavior for granted.
But is panting always normal? If dogs pant, do you always assume it’s to cool themselves down?
The truth is, panting is done for a lot of other reasons.
Dogs pant to get rid of excess body heat. They normally do this after an exercise or when it’s hot.
Aside from panting, dogs sweat through their paws and ears. However, these areas do not have enough cooling capabilities.
Thus, dogs rely mostly on panting to cool themselves.
If your dog pants for other reasons aside from expelling heat, that’s abnormal.
Watch out for the following signs:
- Excessive vs. normal panting
- Panting at inappropriate times
- Panting that requires more exertion
- Your dog producing a raspier or louder sound than normal
19 dangers (or when should you worry about dog panting)
There are days when it’s just too hot. And there are places where temperatures are as hot as the Sahara desert.
On a hot day, it’s normal for dogs to pant heavily.
But it could also be a sign of heatstroke.
This study looked into 54 cases of heatstroke. The cases were presented to the Hebrew University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Forty-two cases (78%) were examined between June and August (summer).
The authors found out that 27 dogs had body temperature greater than or equal to 41℃ (105.8℉). Belgian Malinois, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, and brachycephalic breeds were overrepresented.
On the other hand, small breeds were underrepresented.
The authors also took note of the following risk factors for death:
- Delayed admission
- Acute renal failure
- Disseminated intravascular coagulation
Heatstroke is a fatal condition where panting heavily is the most common sign. But watch out for other symptoms such as:
- Glazed eyes
- Fast heartbeat
- Excessive thirst
- Dark tongue and gums
- High body temperature (over 40℃ or 104℉)
#2: High fever
When your dog is suddenly panting heavily, it could be due to a high fever. Panting heavily is their way to cool down.
A dog’s normal body temperature is higher than humans’. It should be between 38.3-39℃ (101-102.5℉).
They have a fever if it’s over 39.4℃ (103℉).
#3: Heart failure
As pet owners, you want nothing but for your baby to be healthy. If they’re healthy, they’re happy as a bee. And so are you.
But sometimes, dogs are afflicted by various medical conditions. One of which is heart failure. This could explain why your dog is suddenly panting and shaking.
One of the important roles of the heart is to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. But when the heart is unable to do so, your dog is in trouble.
You will see signs as:
- Exercise intolerance
Note: Your dog pants heavily to compensate for oxygen depletion.
#4: Anxiety and fear
You notice your dog suddenly panting at night. And it’s not even hot.
One reason could be anxiety or fear. For instance, your dog is anxious to sleep in their bed alone.
Although this can affect dogs of all ages, this is more likely to happen in puppies.
Panting is a dog’s normal response to anxiety or fear. It is usually accompanied by other signs such as:
- Lip licking
- A tucked tail
- Flattened ears
A lot of things can make dogs anxious or fearful. Even a visit to the vet can stress them out.
That’s proven by Enzo the German Shepherd when he realizes he’s at the vet:
Is your dog suddenly panting and drooling?
Poisoning could be the reason.
We all know that dogs sometimes eat anything. Even toxic substances.
This study looked into the pattern of poisoning among dogs and cats between 1998 and 2000 in Brazil. Out of 5,136 cases, 250 were of poisonings.
And out of 250, 203 (81.2%) were dogs.
The authors listed the causes of poisoning in dogs as:
- 28.9% therapeutic products
- 15.8% rodenticides
- 13.9% pesticides for farm use
- 11.8% unknown agents
- 8.4% plants
- 6.8% industrial products
- 5.0% pesticides for domestic use
Another study looked into the Allium species poisoning in dogs. Plants that belong in this family include:
However, onion, garlic, leek, and chives are the most commonly involved in poisoning.
According to the study, the first signs of poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
It takes a few days before a poisoned dog exhibits the following signs:
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty to breathe
- Pale mucous membranes
- Rapid respiratory rate (panting)
#6: Cushing’s disease
Cushing’s disease causes excessive panting in older dogs.
It occurs when the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. While cortisol does a lot of good things, too much can cause problems.
For one, it weakens the dog’s immune system. Thus, the dog becomes vulnerable to infections and diseases.
Heavy panting is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Weight gain
- Excessive urination
- Thinning skin and hair
- Pot-bellied appearance
- Excessive hunger and thirst
#7: Respiratory disorders
A dog with respiratory disorders will have difficulty breathing. That’s why you’ll see your dog suddenly panting.
Respiratory disorders include tumors and pneumonia. Pneumonia is caused by an infection and affects the lungs or lower respiratory tract.
Aside from panting, the dog suffers from fever, lethargy, and coughing.
#8: Injury and pain
If your dog is suddenly panting and whining, check for injuries. Because your dog might be in pain.
Dogs often pant heavily before displaying other signs of pain. Such as restlessness, anxiety, or licking at the injured site. They may also be limping or breathing shallowly.
In addition, dogs usually display such behavior a night, when they are resting.
Knowing if your dog is in pain isn’t a piece of cake. Because dogs are adept at hiding pain.
In fact, I know a dog that was still a ball of energy even with a swollen face (after eating a bee).
You may have seen injured dogs that still find the strength to wag their tails. In happiness. Or still smile when you scratch their ears.
Do you think your dog is suddenly panting for no reason?
A dog does not pant for no reason. Some medications lead to heavy panting in dogs.
Prednisone and prednisolone could cause excessive and inappropriate panting. This is a side effect of these medications.
Other medications include painkillers and sedatives, such as diazepam. Overdose of medications to treat hypothyroidism can also cause heavy panting.
Warning: Keep the medications out of reach of your dogs. If your dog displays excessive panting, consult with your vet.
Allergies can be the culprit of why your dog is suddenly breathing hard.
Perhaps you’ve given your dog a new medication. Sometimes this can lead to an allergic reaction.
And with allergies, airways are irritated. This could lead to noisy breathing in dogs.
Aside from panting, they might be lethargic and vomit.
Eclampsia is a fatal disease affecting nursing mothers. It’s called milk fever due to low blood calcium levels after giving birth.
According to this research, eclampsia happens due to:
- Poor nutrition
- Low level of albumin
- Excessive milk production
- A disease of the parathyroid gland
The authors say that the symptoms are easy to recognize. Aside from panting, the signs are:
- Stiff legs
- Eye twitching
- Muscle tremors
- Wobbling until unable to walk
- Restlessness and nervousness
- Fever that may run up to 41.7℃ (107℉)
Caution: When a dog’s fever is over 105℉, it leads to an increased respiration rate. If not given treatment, it might lead to seizures and even death.
#12: Brachycephalic syndrome
Does your dog belong to a breed with a flat face and shortened nose? They may be panting because of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome.
Brachycephalic dogs include Pugs, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, and Shih Tzus. These dogs have narrowed upper respiratory tracts. Thus, the simple act of breathing is a nightmare.
And it will be difficult for them to exercise or even to eat.
So if you see your dog suddenly panting and pacing, they might have difficulty cooling down.
They couldn’t pant as efficiently as other dogs do because of their flat face. This puts them at a greater risk of heatstroke and overheating.
Even dogs can become anemic. Anemia occurs when there’s a decrease in the red blood cell count.
It is essential that dogs have an adequate number of red blood cells. It’s because these cells transport oxygen around the body.
So if your dog is anemic, they suffer from oxygen deprivation. This, in turn, leads to heavy breathing and panting.
Did you know that obesity is a growing problem in dogs but is totally preventable?
Obesity affects 25-30% of the canine population in North America. And 40-45% aged 5-11 are overweight.
Obese dogs are at risk for certain diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. It can also lead to arthritis and shortens a dog’s lifespan.
Obesity could be the answer to why your dog is suddenly breathing heavily. Heavy breathing means they’re exerting to get fresh oxygenated blood to their vital systems.
#15: Lung disease
The lungs facilitate the transfer of oxygen to the bloodstream. Naturally, the dog suffers from oxygen deprivation when they have lung disease.
If this is the case, the dog breathes faster and harder to compensate. That leads to excessive panting.
#16: Laryngeal paralysis
The larynx is also known as the voice box. It has cartilage flaps that have very important roles to do.
Think of the saloon doors in Western movies. The cartilage flaps are like those. They open wide when a dog breathes and close when swallowing.
Many factors lead to laryngeal paralysis. One is trauma to the throat or neck.
Tumors are also a factor. Even diseases such as Cushing’s disease can lead to laryngeal paralysis.
Whatever the cause, the laryngeal muscles that stabilize the box become weak. As a result, the cartilages collapse inwards.
This further results to panting accompanied by a raspy sound that is louder than normal.
Some dog breeds are more prone to laryngeal paralysis. These include Irish Setters and Labrador Retrievers.
Other dog breeds are prone to congenital laryngeal paralysis. Including Siberian Huskies and Dalmatians.
“My dog can’t sit still and is panting!”
Your dog could be suffering from bloat. Sometimes they pant just before vomiting.
Aside from panting, here are other signs of bloat:
- Excessive drooling
- Distended stomach
Always keep an eye on your dog. If it is bloat, there’s nothing you can do at home. Particularly when your dog tries to vomit with no success.
In such a case, you must take your dog to the vet asap.
#18: Hypertension or high blood pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is common in humans. Did you know that dogs can be diagnosed with hypertension as well?
Hypertension occurs when blood pressure is higher than normal. Symptoms include excessive panting in older dogs.
Other symptoms include:
- Poor appetite
- Intraocular bleeding
- Retinal detachment
- Increased respiratory rate
- Increased drinking and urination
It’s a challenge to determine if it is hypertension because the early signs can be asymptomatic. Meaning, a dog may not appear ill.
In addition, early signs can be misinterpreted as changes brought about by aging.
Stress could leave your dog suddenly panting and shaking like a leaf.
The best indicator of stress is body language. Some cues that tell your dog is stressed include wide and weary eyes and yawning.
In determining what makes your dog stressed, assess your own situation. Did you know that dogs mirror your own stress?
That’s what this study says. If pet owners go through a stressful situation, dogs feel stressed as well.
The researchers observed 58 owners and their dogs. The dogs were mostly Shetland Sheepdogs and Border Collies.
They analyzed hair from both owners and dogs to check the hair cortisol concentrations (HCC).
Cortisol is a chemical that is absorbed by hair follicles. This hormone helps the body in responding to stress.
The study found out that the HCC found in human hair and in dogs matched. This means that the stress levels of humans and their dogs were synchronized.
5 tips on what to do if your dog is panting
#1: Get your dog to the vet
All of the dangers listed above warrant a visit to the vet.
I know you just want to ensure the health of your furbaby. But sometimes the best choice is leaving them in the hands of more capable people.
When do you take your dog to the vet?
First, if the panting starts suddenly. There may be an underlying medical condition that causes it.
Second, if dogs are in pain and the panting is intense.
Third, when in doubt, consult with the vet.
Warning: Do not give your dog medicines without your vet’s approval. It may do more harm than good.
#2: Emergency response for heatstroke
Heatstroke is totally avoidable. Here are essential reminders:
- Leave your dog in a hot car.
- Exercise your dog in hot temperatures.
- Keep your dog outdoors for a long time on hot days.
- Rest in the shade.
- Stay indoors when it’s hot.
- Give your dog frozen treats.
- Take frequent breaks when outside.
- Provide your dog with clean, cool water.
- Exercise your dog during the cooler times of the day.
If your dog has heatstroke, carry out an emergency response. The following ways are also helpful on how to calm a panting dog:
- Bring your dog indoors or anywhere out of the sun.
- Cool your dog gradually. Avoid hosing them with water.
- You can submerge your dog in cool water, not cold water.
- Place an ice pack or cold towel on your dog’s chest, head, and neck.
- Give your dog lots of cool water, not cold. You may also give them ice cubes.
When they’ve cooled down, bring your dog to the vet asap.
#3: Be aware of your dog’s panting sounds
Some owners may ignore their dog’s panting sounds. But it is important so as to know the cause of their panting.
Did you know that brachycephalic dogs produce snorting sounds while panting? That’s due to obstruction of the airway.
They are also more prone to heatstroke because they can’t cool themselves down. Thus, it pays to be aware of the sound of their panting.
If you’ve got the budget, you may consider surgery for your brachycephalic dog. Here’s a short video of a Bulldog undergoing surgery to trim the soft palate:
Similarly, dogs with laryngeal paralysis pant with an abrasive sound. The sound is produced since the airways do not open wide.
#4: Be aware of your dog’s activities
Sometimes it’s difficult to say whether your dog’s panting is normal.
That’s why it helps to be aware of your dog’s activities. What are they doing? Or what were they doing before they began panting?
If they’ve been exercising or playing, then it’s normal for them to pant. Or if it’s a hot day, expect to see them panting. They’re simply cooling themselves down.
But it’s worrying if their panting doesn’t correlate with their activity.
For instance, your dog is suddenly panting and shaking. Or they’re panting heavily while resting or sleeping.
#5: Look for other symptoms
Too bad dogs can’t tell what’s ailing them. It would have been easier for pet owners to know what’s going on and take the necessary action.
But pet owners can only rely on cues from their dog’s body language. In addition, you must know already what’s normal and not normal in their behavior.
To help determine the cause of your dog’s panting, look for other symptoms. For instance, their lack of appetite may be caused by poisoning or hypertension.
Knowing the symptoms and relaying them to the vet also helps the vet determine the cause.
Dog parent #1
A dog parent shared that her dog pants only when standing up and walking. The dog was a 5-year-old Rottweiler that she adopted.
The dog was needy and followed her everywhere. According to the shelter where the dog was adopted, the dog had a history of anxiety.
The pet owner was advised to have the dog checked. The panting might be due to stress.
Or it could be a serious cardiorespiratory disease.
Dog parent #2
Another dog parent shared that her dog’s problem was anxiety. She related that her dog suddenly began panting and drooling excessively.
In addition, the dog would climb on her or hide in the closet or under the bed. All these were new behavior as the dog had never been afraid of strange sounds before.
The pet parent was advised to have the dog checked. It appeared to be a serious case of anxiety. A checkup was needed to rule out underlying problems.
This dog parent was also advised to see a canine behaviorist to help deal with the dog’s anxiety.
Dog parent #3
A pet parent shared that her 16-year-old jack Russel started panting in the summer.
At first, she thought it was normal because of the heat. But come December, and still, her dog was panting like before.
She shared that she had brought her dog to the vet. The vet prescribed some medication for pain relief.
The medication worked for a while, as the dog no longer panted like before. The Jack Russel’s parent also noticed that the dog settled down for the night without abnormal panting.
However, the dog would wake up about 4 times during the night and showed the same symptoms.
According to the vet, it could be due to pain. Or heart disease, considering that the dog was already a senior.