Imagine that you have just come back from the shelter with the best of all dogs in your passenger’s seat.
You take them inside, let them grow accustomed to the smells of your home, and you notice that they have their mouth open and seem to be breathing heavily with their tongue dangling out of their mouth.
Television and movies will have made you accustomed to a dog’s panting, but when is it indicative of something else? Should you be concerned about your new friend’s well-being?
If you are getting a dog for the first time, you will want to know all of your new friend’s quirks. So, why do dogs pant? How much panting is too much panting?
We will explore the ins and outs of a dog’s panting here, so you can tell whether your dog’s behavior should be eliciting some concern.
What is Dog Panting?
Your dog’s panting is part of the way they try to stay healthy, and so long as you monitor their health properly, it will not be indicative of any worrying health defect.
So, should you find yourself asking, “Why is my dog panting?” you will want to consider just what panting does for them.
Your dog pants as part of their normal breathing patterns; they, as part of panting, should have their mouth open and their tongue lolling out.
This panting usually occurs after significant play or when they are presented with the opportunity to eat.
Why Do Dogs Pant?
Panting helps your dog cool down when they are overly warm. Unlike humans, dogs do not sweat – at least, not traditionally.
Dogs sweat only through the pads on the bottom of their feet; this is the only way they are able to expel extra heat, save for panting.
When the weather warms up in the summer, your dog will likely pant more than they do in the winter. Likewise, if you live in a warmer area, your dog may be more prone to the habit.
Different breeds respond to heat in different manners, too – if you have a husky, for example, and live in Southern California, not only do you need to take your dog to the groomer frequently, but you need to keep a close eye on your friend so that they do not overheat.
A husky in Southern California is more likely to spend their summers in this way than, say, a Chihuahua in the same area.
Why is My Dog Panting Right Now?
If you have just introduced your new dog to your home, and you are wondering why they are panting, then consider the different ways your dog may be trying to communicate with you.
A dog can pant not just when they are overly warm; in fact, they may be:
If your dog is bouncing around at your feet, gently barking, or exhibiting relaxed body language, their panting may be a sign of happiness or contentment.
Your dog may be excited about something they see in your yard or in the corners of your home; once they have spotted something, they may be panting in anticipation of chasing it.
Likewise, the more energized your dog becomes, the more heat they produce, and the more likely it will be that they have to pant in order to keep themselves cool while they play.
If your dog looks tense, however, and has their tail between their legs, their ears pulled back, or if they are cowering, they may be panting as a sign of stress.
Give your dog space as they discover their new home or under circumstances that introduce them to a significant amount of new stimuli.
Your dog may seek you out for comfort, or they may take the time you give them to become more accustom to their new surroundings.
When Panting is a Warning: Signs of Heat Stroke
Occasionally, excessive panting can be a sign of your dog’s dehydration, or – even more worrying – heat stroke.
If, on a hot day, you find yourself asking, “Why is my dog panting so much?” then you may want to look for these other symptoms:
- Signs of Discomfort – Is your dog whimpering or dancing on hot pavement?
- Unusual Stillness – Is your dog lying down and still showing signs of movement, but not expressing any willingness to move out of the shade?
- Heavy Breathing – Besides panting, is your dog displaying any difficulty breathing?
If your dog has any combination of these symptoms, move them to a well-ventilated environment as soon as possible.
Provide your dog with water and, if you believe the heat stroke to be significant, run a cool (not cold!) bath for them to lie in.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with a vet if you believe that your dog has suffered from heat stroke.
Here’s a video explaining a little more on dog pants.
A dog’s panting is perfectly normal behavior; most of the time, it’s a way for your dog to monitor and manage their own health as well as express themselves to you.
Excessive panting may be a point of concern, but so long as you take care of your dog, it should not be any cause for worry.
Do you have any tips for excessive panting in dogs?