Why is My Dog Panting in Alameda, CA?

Most of the time, dog panting is nothing to be concerned about. However, there is normal panting and abnormal panting, and you should pay attention to your pup to figure out which type of panting they are exhibiting.

It is normal for dogs to pant when they are cooling off their bodies, if they are excited, or if they have just finished exercising. Abnormal panting is when your dog demonstrates signs of illness during panting. An example is if they cannot catch their breath long after stopping physical activity.

Pups also pant to express what they are feeling. If you want to know why your dog is panting, check out this article. 

What Exactly is Panting in Dogs?

Open mouth breathing in dogs is natural, as it decreases body temperature and supplies the bloodstream with oxygen. When dogs pant, they often appear to be smiling, as their mouths are wide, and tongues are protruding. Dogs pant because they have no other way to cool down like the way that humans do.

Panting is the most common way that dogs cool off their bodies. The process of panting involves inhaling, humidifying, and exhaling. The inhaled air hastens the evaporation of moisture in their lungs. Evaporation causes the water molecules to retreat from the surface and become vapors.

Panting and difficulty breathing are two different things. If breathing is labored and there is typically strained respiration, your pup will most likely cry or whine, and they may struggle with breathing and make shrill sounds through their nostrils or trachea. While dogs have sweat glands within their ear and underneath their paws, these glands do not help to keep them cool. 

dog panting in alameda, CA

What Is Normal Panting in Dogs?

There is normal and abnormal panting in dogs. Panting is normal for pups in certain situations, and if they are panting for the following reasons, you should not worry:

Your Dog is Cooling Off

Dogs will pant after exercise, like humans breathe heavily after a hard workout. Panting helps your dog to release heat and exchange it for cooler, more refreshing air. The hotter it is, the more your pup will pant. They are trying to keep their body temperature at a normal level.

They Are Expressing Excitement

  Sometimes pups will pant to express their excitement. They may pant excitedly when:

  • They welcome you when you get home from work
  • They are being rewarded with a treat
  • They are meeting a new dog
  • If you are petting them and they are happy

When your dog is excited, they may whine, and breathing can be rapid and shallow. Excited pups usually demonstrate other signs, such as if they are wagging their tail or jumping up toward you.

They Are Expressing Distress

Your pup may be panting to express distress. They may also be feeling fear or anxiety. Some of these situations can include:

  • Fireworks
  • Thunderstorms
  • Car rides
  • Vet visits

Dogs may also show signs of distress if they have separation anxiety. You should pay attention to your dog’s body language and see if they demonstrate fear or clingy behavior.

They Want to Play

When dogs are panting, it looks like they are smiling. It may be because often, when they are panting normally, it is because they are happy and are excited to play. If this is the case, your pup’s facial features may be relaxed, and their eyes may appear “smiling” as well. Next time you go to play a game of fetch with your dog, look at their facial expression to see if they are happy!

dog panting in alameda, CA

When is Panting Abnormal?

There are times when panting is abnormal. Your pup may be breathing very heavily, and they may be struggling. It may indicate a serious issue if you see any signs of them panting when it is cool or when they have stopped running around. The following are all demonstrations of abnormal panting:


If your dog continues to pant for a long time after they ceased activity or cooled down, they could be having a heatstroke. Dogs are at risk for heat stroke in the summer months. You should never leave your dog in a hot car in the summer, and if they are directly in the sun, make sure you move them away from it.

If a dog is having a heat stroke, you will likely see the following signs:

  • High heart rate
  • High body temperature
  • Extreme thirst
  • Glazed eyes
  • Excessive drooling
  • Dark color gums and tongue

If a pup is suffering from heat stroke, you may also notice that they are weak and disoriented. More serious signs of a heat stroke include seizures and sudden loss of consciousness. If you suspect your dog has heat stroke, you need to get them out of the heat, give them some water, and take them to the vet immediately. 

Pain or Discomfort

Dogs can be somewhat stealthy when it comes to hiding pain and illness. However, once a dog reaches a certain level of pain or discomfort, they cannot hide it anymore. Panting may be a clue that your dog is experiencing pain, or they may be sick. Some other symptoms of pain or illness include:

  • Not wanting to lie down
  • Loss of appetite
  • Limping
  • Pacing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

They may even pant before they start to limp or whine. You may also see your pup licking or biting at the pain site.

Heart Problems

Some dogs that have labored breathing may have problems with their heart. The heart pumps blood and oxygen to vital organs throughout the pup’s body. If your dog has a heart problem, it is more difficult to get oxygen into their system.

They may pant more heavily than expected because of the struggle, or they may breathe more heavily even when they are inactive. The dog may also cough and have an intolerance to exercise. If you suspect your pup has a heart problem, get them to the vet immediately.

Allergic Reaction

If your pup has an allergic response to a medication that was given to them, or they may be reacting to insect bites or stings. Some of the signs of an allergic reaction in dogs:

  • Hives
  • Swelling
  • Itchiness
  • Redness of the skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Most allergic reactions tend to affect the skin and gastrointestinal systems of dogs. If you see any of these signs in your pup, get them to the vet immediately.   

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is a syndrome in which too much cortisol is produced in the body. Some of the symptoms of Cushing’s disease include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Pot-bellied presence

Tumors can develop in the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland, which causes excessive cortisol to be released. Long-term use of oral steroids can also trigger Cushing’s disease.

Respiratory Illness

Abnormal breathing can occur due to respiratory illness, as it makes it difficult for the body to receive enough oxygen into the bloodstream and for the body to eliminate waste products, such as carbon dioxide, from circulation. Certain problems are specific to large and small breeds, such as the tracheal collapse in smaller breed dogs and laryngeal paralysis in large breed pups.


Panting is a normal function in dogs. They pant to cool themselves down because, they do not have the same effective sweat glands as humans. However, sometimes panting in dogs could signal trouble. If you see signs that your pup is struggling to breathe, do not hesitate to get them to the vet.

For more information on why your dog is panting, call Providence Veterinary Hospital East at (510) 521-6608 or West at (510) 521-5775.

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