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Healthy dogs pant after rigorous exercise or if they're outside on a warm day. After all, that's how they eliminate excess body heat. Some dogs pant when they're nervous - during the dubious car ride to the veterinarian's office, or when there's a booming thunderstorm outside. Dogs will frequently pant when they're excited - and for some dogs, that's just about all the time!

But if your pet pants for no obvious reason, you should be concerned.


Aside from exercise and high temperatures, many medical conditions, such as heatstroke or fever from infection, can cause heavy panting. Short-nosed breeds such as bulldogs and pugs are especially prone to heatstroke because they can't always process enough air through their crowded nasal passages.

Some health problems reduce your pet's ability to take in enough oxygen or deliver it to the tissues, including anemia, heart disease, respiratory disease, and abdominal enlargement. Pets also pant when they're in pain. Common causes include spinal (disk) disease, arthritis, and gastrointestinal disorders, such as pancreatitis and obstruction. Other conditions that cause panting include:
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Kidney failure
  • Poisoning
What You Can Do at Home

A cool place to lie down and a drink of water will help your pet beat the heat. On extremely hot days, keep your pet indoors or provide shelter in a shaded grassy area and access to water. Don't let your pet lie on the concrete in direct sunlight- it absorbs heat like a sponge. And leave your pet at home on hot days while you run your errands to avoid his suffering from heat exhaustion.

Obesity taxes many of your pet's body systems, and pudgy pets may pant more easily. Help your pet maintain a healthy weight by feeding him the right amount of high-quality food. Regular exercise is crucial, but take it easy on hot summer days.

If your pet feels feverish, you can take his temperature with a rectal thermometer. Hold your pet tightly against your chest, coat the metal tip with petroleum or other lubricating jelly, and insert it slowly into the rectum about one inch. Depending on the size and squirminess of your pet, you may need a hand in holding him. After two minutes, remove and read the thermometer. A normal temperature will read between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

When to Call the Veterinarian

Make an appointment with the veterinarian if you suspect your pet is in pain or if he exhibits other symptoms, such as fever, appetite loss, lethargy, or vomiting.

Seek immediate medical care if your pet exhibits symptoms of heatstroke (weakness, panting, and a temperature above 104 degrees F) or if you suspect poisoning or airway obstruction.

If your pet is suffering from heatstroke, try to lower his body temperature by covering him with wet towels. Place him in a carrier, place cool towels around his abdomen and chest, and take him to your nearest veterinary hospital.

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