It can be alarming to notice that your dog is panting fast or excessively. In this post, our Riverbank vets share causes of heavy panting in dogs, how to prevent it, immediate actions owners should take if this occurs and when veterinary care may be required. 

Heavy Panting in Dogs

To know if your dog is breathing abnormally, we need to understand what a healthy breathing or respiratory rate for a dog is. On average, a healthy pet should be taking between 10 to 35 breaths per minute when resting, depending on their size (of course, they'll naturally breathe faster while exercising). 

Anything above 40 breaths per minute while your dog is at rest is considered abnormal and worth having your vet investigate. That said, pet parents need to remember that not all panting is bad. By panting, your dog can help regulate their body temperature, cooling them down and allowing heat and water to evaporate from the mouth, tongue and upper respiratory tract. 

Unlike people, your pooch doesn't have the ability to sweat to cool down. Instead, they need to breathe fast to allow air to efficiently circulate through the body. A dog can get its body back to a normal temperature by breathing rapidly. While it's normal for dogs to pant - especially when they're excited, energetic or hot - we need to keep a close eye on our pets to make sure there are no major health issues or traumas occurring. 

Why Dogs Pant Heavily: Common Causes & Treatments

By watching your dog closely, you'll get to know their normal breathing patterns and what it looks like when they pant, so you'll be more likely to notice significant or suspicious shifts in these patterns. 

Rapid panting in dogs can be attributed to any number of causes, such as:

Poisoning or Heatstroke

Dogs are more likely to start panting after they've been exerting themselves. Some breeds, such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers, are susceptible to heavier breathing due to their short snouts. However, heavy breathing can also point to heatstroke or poisoning as a result of consuming a toxic substance. 

If you're unable to detect any obvious reason for a sudden change in your dog's breathing, take them to a veterinarian right away. The faster heatstroke or poisoning is diagnosed and detected, the better chance for positive outcomes as these can both be fatal for dogs. 


A growing problem among dogs, obesity can lead to heart disease, diabetes and cancer, along with debilitating life-limiting conditions such as arthritis. An overweight dog will likely pant excessively as they struggle to get fresh, oxygenated blood to their vital systems. 


Has your dog been panting heavily but not exercising? they may be in pain. Dogs in pain will often pant before more obvious symptoms start to appear, such as a limp or whining. Dogs with shallow breathing can may also be experiencing pain.

Chronic Illness

Respiratory disorders, Cushing's syndrome, heart failure or other illnesses can all cause heavy breathing or panting in dogs. 

Respiratory Disorders 

Pneumonia, lung tumors, laryngeal paralysis and other respiratory disorders can lead to heavy breathing or panting. Depending on the condition's severity and how far it's progressed, treatments will vary. 

Cushing's Syndrome 

When a dog's adrenal glands produce too much cortisol, Cushing's syndrome can occur. In addition to heavy panting, symptoms may include hair loss, a pot belly, and excessive thirst, urination and hunger.

Heart Failure 

Similar to people, dogs can suffer from heart failure. They may also show similar symptoms, including coughing, reduced exercised tolerance and difficulty breathing. the cause of your dog's heart failure will determine treatment, which may include diuretics and ACE inhibitors. 

Other Causes of Panting

Other issues that may cause panting in dogs include an adverse reaction to medication, fever, metabolic acidosis (when the body produces too much acid), high blood pressure and anxiety.

Excessive Panting in Older Dogs

As your dog ages, we recommend monitoring them closely for changes in health or behavior. If they seem to be panting excessively or heavily, they may be in pain due to joint disease or age-related factors or illnesses. Book a physical exam with your vet to have the cause diagnosed and treated. 

Which property of water allows dogs to cool themselves by panting?

If your dog is hot, we recommend offering them water. The heat energy absorbed during a change of phase from liquid to vapor is known as the latent heat of vaporization, and the phenomenon is known as evaporative cooling. Water has a peculiarly high latent heat of vaporization. Therefore, it's particularly effective at evaporative cooling. 

What to Do if Your Dog is Panting Excessively

If your dog has been panting heavily, you may suspect something is wrong. You can take these steps to help your dog immediately. 

If your dog is overheating:

While you should act quickly, don't panic:

  • Wet your dog with cool water using a hose, and move them to the shade or indoors.
  • Offer them water to drink. 
  • Call your vet or local emergency hospital for guidance. 
  • Run the air conditioner in your car if you have to bring your dog to the animal hospital. 

When to Seek Veterinary Care 

Always contact your vet any time you're concerned about your dog's health. However, if your dog has been exercising, became just a little too hot or has gotten excited, panting is a perfectly normal reaction. If the panting has started suddenly and for seemingly no reason won't stop, is accompanied by restlessness or shakiness, or your dog's tongue has changed color from pink to purple, white or bluish, this is considered abnormal and should be assessed right away. 

Your pet may require X-rays or blood work to rule out chronic diseases or illnesses. Treating various other causes of excessive or heavy panting may range from a prescription for medication to hospitalizing your dog for advanced treatment. 

You understand your dog's behavior best, so you may be able to save your pet's life by noticing even subtle changes and contacting your veterinarian. 

Has your dog been panting excessively? Contact us to book a physical exam for your canine companion.