Why Do Dogs Pant? (The Answer May Surprise You)

Picture of a dog panting - why do they do that?

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Anyone who has spent more than five minutes with a dog knows that they pant— a lot. Why is that? This article will explore the most common reasons why dogs pant, why it’s important, and when it can become a problem. 

Why Do Dogs Pant? 

Panting can be defined as quick, shallow breaths, and for dogs, this is usually accompanied by their tongue hanging out of their mouth. The main reason why dogs pant is because they are cooling themselves off. 

Unlike humans, dogs do not sweat (except through their paws) and must regulate their body temperature another way. By breathing out hot air and inhaling cool air, they speed up the process of evaporating water from their body and cool themselves down. 

Aside from this, there are a few other reasons why your dog may be panting, and we will explore these below. 

Why Do Dogs Pant When They Are Scared? 

Your dog may pant, pace, or whine if it is stressed or anxious. This is often called behavioral panting. Just like with humans, when a dog feels fear, it will increase its heart rate and cause them to breathe faster. 

Why Do Dogs Pant in the Car? 

Dogs are not used to traveling as often as humans are and can often experience carsickness. Many dogs will pant and drool and sometimes even throw up when they go for a car ride. 

As previously mentioned, dogs will pant if they are scared or anxious, which can be triggered by riding in a vehicle. They also could be hot in the car, which will trigger their cool-down response by panting. 

Why Do Dogs Pant When You Pet Them? 

 Dogs love affection, and sometimes you petting and loving on them can be exhilarating. Much like their fear response, an excited dog will experience an elevated heart rate which can trigger shallow breathing, whining, and restlessness.

Why Do Dogs Pant So Much? 

As we’ve seen, there are several reasons why dogs pant. There are many factors at play at any given point that could be causing your dog to pant. However, excessive panting could signify a health issue and should be monitored. 

Brachycephalic breeds (Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, etc.) are much more likely to pant quite a lot. However, If you notice your dog panting excessively or appears to be struggling to breathe, bring them to the vet immediately. 

Tips from Our Vets

Dogs make excellent companions and bring so much joy to our lives. Unfortunately, however, they cannot speak to us.

If your pet exhibits odd behavior, it can be worrisome and difficult to know if the behavior is normal or a reason for concern.

Not sure why your dog is exhibiting a specific behavior?

  • Some behaviors can seem very odd but may be completely normal.
  • Others could signal illness or injury.
  • Due to the lack of ability for a dog to communicate with us verbally, it is imperative to pay close attention to what the dog is telling us through their behavioral changes.

The most important takeaway is that if you are ever concerned about a behavior that your dog is displaying, your best resource for information is your veterinarian.

In general, a new behavior that is not typical for your dog should be investigated. Examples would be:

  • Not eating
  • Suddenly sleeping more than usual
  • Being reluctant to go on walks or to play
  • Becoming aggressive or grumpy when interacting with other people or pets

These behavior changes most commonly indicate that something is wrong, and your pet needs to see their veterinarian as soon as possible. It is much easier and more likely to be successful, to treat an illness early in its course as opposed to waiting until the dog is very sick.

Other odd behaviors include:

  • Eating feces
  • Chasing their tail
  • Sudden bursts of activity (known as the “zoomies”)

These may be completely normal. However, if you notice a drastic change in your dog, for example, they never exhibited one of these behaviors, and now they suddenly are, it is prudent to have them examined by their veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if the behavior is normal, it may lead to unintended issues.

For example, young dogs consuming their feces or the feces of other dogs can be a normal behavior but can lead to gastrointestinal upset as well as intestinal parasitism.

Parasites from your dog can cause serious health complications, not only for your dog, but also for you and your family, as many are transmissible to humans.

Licking of the feet or scratching may seem like normal dog behavior but typically indicates a health issue such as allergies, fleas, or skin infection.

Left untreated, these issues will worsen and cause additional discomfort for your dog.

Remember that your best source of reliable health information for your dog is your veterinarian. Because dogs cannot verbally communicate with us, it is essential to be proactive with any possible health concerns.

Working with a trusted veterinarian as your partner will ensure many happy and healthy years for both you and your dog.

Final Thoughts: Why Do Dogs Pant?

Dogs may pant because they:

  1. They are hot and trying to cool down
  2. They are scared or anxious
  3. They are excited 
  4. They are feeling sick. 

While panting in dogs is very common and considered normal, excessive panting may also signify a serious issue, such as Heat Stroke, Allergic Reaction, or an obstructed airway. If you have any concerns about the amount your dog is panting, seek veterinary advice right away. 

If you’re looking for answers to explain your dog’s behaviors, you can check out our series of guides on why dogs do what they do:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.