How to Determine When Dog Panting is a Bad Sign

By Lisa McQuerrey

Panting helps dogs cool off. It’s a natural response when a dog is thirsty, excited, happy or scared. While panting isn’t normally a reason for concern, have your dog checked by a vet when excessive, heavy panting is paired with other physical symptoms.

Heart Problems

Watch for heavy panting paired with coughing, lethargy and an inability to get comfortable. These symptoms may be a sign of a progressive heart value malfunction called mitral insufficiency. You may notice your dog pants excessively when he exercises, even if the activity is not particularly strenuous.

Cushing’s Disease

Take your dog to the vet if excessive panting is combined with increased hunger and thirst, weight gain, a swollen abdomen and issues with reproductive organs, which may indicate Cushing’s disease. Males can experience shrinking testicles while females will not go into heat. Dogs inflicted with Cushing’s may develop hair loss and thin, easily bruised skin. Sleeping problems and lethargy are also common symptoms.

Panting in Heat

In extremely hot weather, watch for signs of heat stroke, including heavy panting, rapid pulse and drooling. Your dog’s extremities may be hot to the touch. Avoid the potential for heat stroke by providing outside dogs with plenty of shade and fresh water and avoiding strenuous activity on hot days.

Anxiety and Stress

During stressful situations, like traveling to new places or meeting other animals or people, heavy panting and rapid breathing may be signs of anxiety. Your pup may cry, whine and even become agitated when you leave him alone if he has separation anxiety. Extreme conditions that can’t be calmed through training may require medical attention.

Other Disorders

If your dog seems to pant for no clear reason or if his behavior is out of the norm, a checkup can help you rule out other potential problems, such as weight-related issues or lung disorders. Your vet likely will perform a physical exam and may take X-rays, perform blood tests and study urine and stool samples. Help your vet make a proper diagnosis by making notes about when your dog experiences unusual panting and describing any other physical symptoms he’s experiencing.