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Why do dogs pant? And when is it cause for concern?

Temperatures are on the rise, which only means one thing for our furry friends – more panting. Panting is perfectly normal dog behaviour, but why do dogs pant and when is it abnormal?

Why do dogs pant?

Dogs pant to release excess body heat while bringing oxygen into their bloodstream. Unlike us humans with sweat glands all over our bodies, dogs only have sweat glands on their paw pads. So, to bring their temperature down more efficiently, dogs use panting as their primary cooling mechanism.

When is panting abnormal?

A dog’s panting is considered abnormal in the following circumstances when:

  • the panting seems excessive for your dog
  • your dog exerts more effort than normal while panting
  • the panting is harsher or louder than normal
  • your dog pants heavily but it isn’t overly warm

What could cause abnormal or excessive panting?

There are many potential causes for abnormal or excessive panting, from the reasonably harmless to the more serious. In these cases it’s important not to panic, but ensure you see your vet for advice as soon as possible.


Heatstroke is a potentially fatal condition that can kill a dog in as little as 15 minutes. If your dog is too hot they may pant heavily to try and cool themselves down. Their body temperature can quickly rise to dangerous levels in hot weather, so it’s important dog owners take extra precautions during the summer months.


Panting is often one of the first signals of a dog in pain. If your dog seems to be panting for no reason at all, there may be an underlying physical problem at play. It’s up to you to notice the changes in your dog’s behaviour and seek professional advice if anything seems unusual.

Stress or fear

Dogs who are stressed or fearful often pant as a coping mechanism. In this case, stress related panting is often accompanied by other signs like yawning, lip licking, trembling or whining. You may notice any of these behaviours in dogs with noise phobias or social anxieties.

Poisoning or allergic reaction

Dogs may pant abnormally after they’ve ingested something toxic. This could be through poisonous foods like raisins, onions or chocolate, poisonous plants or household chemicals.

Heart disease

A dog with heart disease can’t pump blood around the body efficiently, which means tissues become deprived of oxygen. Due to the lack of oxygen in the dog’s body, their breathing rate will increase and panting will follow.


Anaemic dogs have fewer red blood cells in their bodies. But because these red blood cells transport oxygen around the body, they can experience oxygen starvation. As a result, the dog will pant to try and compensate.

Cushing’s disease

Cushing’s disease is a condition that affects the adrenal glands. This means the dog produces too much cortisol and will experience a range of symptoms. Including excessive panting, weight gain, increased thirst and urination.

if your dog’s panting seems abnormal or excessive, always make an appointment with your vet. The quicker you can diagnose the potential problem the faster your dog will recover.


If you’re heading out for walks with your dog this summer, why not check out our list of the best dog walking routes in the UK.

But always remember to stay safe and keep your dogs cool in hot weather. Read our top tips to keep dogs cool here.


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