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Panting in Dogs – Is it Normal ?

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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What Should You Do?

If you notice excessive panting in your dog, look for signs of immediate distress like coughing, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), or blue color to the mucus membranes (cyanosis). Be on the alert, too, for other problems, such as fatigue, weight loss, poor appetite, excessive drinking, vomiting, or diarrhea.

If it appears that your pet is panting in response to normal events such as exercise, excitement, heat or fear, remove the stimulation and continue to observe your pet. If panting continues, consult your veterinarian.

Some Initial Tests Your Vet May Do

Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the following diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your pet's panting.

  • Complete blood count and urinalysis. A complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis may suggest conditions such as anemia, infection, or diabetes. An arterial blood gas assesses the acid-base status.

  • X-rays. Your vet may want to x-ray your pet's chest and abdomen to be sure there are no foreign bodies or tumors present in the upper respiratory tract.

  • Ultrasound. An ultrasound of the heart, chest and abdomen evaluates the size of the organs and detects the presence of fluid or masses.

    More Specific Tests

    If your vet is unable to make a definitive diagnosis with the initial tests, further tests will be needed.

  • Endocrine testing. An ACTH stimulation test or thyroid panel may help to rule out hyperadrenocorticism (a disease of the adrenal gland) or an underactive thyroid gland.

  • An ARAT (acetylcholine receptor antibody titer) test. This test determines the presence of a disease called myasthenia gravis, an immune disorder that affects the muscles. This disease is usually accompanied by weakness, regurgitation, and possibly pneumonia.

  • A heartworm test. The presence of heartworms in dogs occludes the vessels of the lungs and affects breathing.

  • Thoracentesis. Occasionally your vet may want to perform a thoracentesis, a procedure to withdraw fluid, air, or tissue from the chest.


    Even before a diagnosis is made, your vet will probably treat your pet's symptoms. Initially, he will recommend strict rest and oxygen therapy. But he may also offer other treatments:
  • If your pet is dehydrated from vomiting or diarrhea, he may start IV fluid therapy.
  • Blood transfusion may be indicated in the presence of severe anemia.
  • Antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be administered for infection or inflammation.

    Once the cause of your pet's problem is determined, your vet will prescribe specific treatment. While caring for your pet at home, be sure to administer all prescribed medications. Keep your pet in a cool, stress-free environment, and avoid overexertion. And finally, return for follow-up evaluation as directed by your veterinarian.

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