Panting in Dogs


Overview of Panting in Dogs

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
  • Diagnosis of Panting in Dogs

    Before any testing is performed, consider any factors that may be causative such as heat, stress or over exertion and eliminate them from your pet’s environment. If your pet is still panting despite removing the possible cause, and/or signs are long standing or progressive, it is important to seek veterinary care.

  • A complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile and urinalysis are an important part of any baseline work up. Changes may suggest conditions that cause panting such as anemia, infection and diabetes mellitus.
  • Chest and abdominal X-rays should be performed on these patients. It is important to include the area of the neck in some cases so as not to miss a foreign body or tumor in the upper respiratory tract.
  • An arterial blood gas may be performed to assess the patient’s acid-base status.
  • Echocardiography (an ultrasound of the heart) and chest cavity ultrasound may be of benefit in appropriate cases.
  • Abdominal ultrasound may be of benefit, as it evaluates the size of organs, and will detect the presence of fluid or masses.
  • Endocrine testing (ACTH stimulation test, thyroid panel) may be of benefit in ruling out hyperadrenocorticism and hypothyroidism, respectively.
  • An ARAT (acetylcholine receptor antibody titer) should be considered to evaluate for myasthenia gravis, especially if there is concurrent weakness.
  • Heartworm test
  • Thoracocentesis (withdrawal of fluid, air, or tissue from the chest) and fluid analysis or cytology may be diagnostic in some cases.
  • More advanced diagnostics to include a transtracheal wash, bronchoalveolar lavage, bronchoscopy, computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), bronchoscopy and pulmonary scintigraphy, may be indicated in some patients.
  • Treatment of Panting in Dogs

  • Ideally, an underlying cause should be identified and corrected if possible.
  • If there is an obvious environmental cause, eliminate it if possible.
  • Symptomatic therapy should be instituted while attempting to identify an underlying cause.
  • Oxygen therapy and strict rest are of benefit to many of these individuals, especially if they are becoming distressed.
  • Antibiotic or anti-inflammatory therapy may be of benefit in animals with infectious or inflammatory disorders.
  • Fluid therapy is indicated in animals that are dehydrated or have concurrent systemic diseases.
  • Home Care

    Administer all prescribed medications and return for follow up evaluation as directed by your veterinarian. Keep your pet in a cool, stress free environment, and do not overexert your pet.

    In-depth Information on Panting in Dogs

    Panting is seen in both dogs and cats, but is more common in dogs. Panting is often seen associated with environmental changes such as anxiety, fear, excitement, exercise and heat. However, panting may reflect disease, and should not be ignored or assumed “normal” unless there are circumstances around the panting that suggest it is acceptable for the situation at hand. If your pet is panting excessively, or more often than normal, it is important to be evaluated by a veterinarian.

    There are many causes of panting. Because panting may be a normal response to environmental and psychological events, it is quite feasible that no underlying illness exists and a full diagnostic workup is not in order. If, however, panting is excessive or your pet is in distress, it is important to identify an underlying cause.


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