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Panting in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Panting is rapid, shallow respirations characterized by open-mouthed breathing, often accompanied by a protrusion of the tongue. It is seen commonly in dogs, and less commonly in cats.

A dog's primary method of cooling is evaporative cooling from the respiratory tract through panting. When a dog pants it provides increased air flow over moist surfaces in the upper respiratory tract through rapid, shallow breathing. The increase in air flow causes an increase in evaporation from the upper respiratory tract. At the onset of panting, respiration rate increases rather suddenly from around 30-40 respirations per minute to around 300-400 respirations per minute. Under a moderate heat load a dog alternates between brief periods of panting at high frequencies and periods of normal slow respiration.

Panting may also be the result of other factors, such as fear, stress or disease. Some cause may include:

  • Respiratory disorders
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Hematologic disorders
  • Neurologic disorders
  • Miscellaneous disorders

    Panting may have little to no impact on the affected individual, especially in association with transient causes such as fear or stress. On the other hand, panting may represent a more severe, even life-threatening illness, therefore, should not be ignored and should be addressed if it persists or worsens.

    What to Watch For

  • Associated coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cyanosis (blue color to the mucus membranes)
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urinating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

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