Do Dogs Pant When They Are In Pain?


Your furry friend is panting heavily and as a loving dog owner you get concerned and worry that he or she may just be sick. Should you pay the vet an impromptu visit? Maybe you should.

There are two instances of panting in dogs. When it is considered normal and when it comes off as abnormal. Panting is a natural and healthy body response that comes about when your dog’s body is overheating. Other times when your dog pants naturally are when they are excited, energetic or after a run or playtime. This gradually fades away with time when the dog cools down.

When the panting gets heavy and intense, that is when you should start getting a little worried. Try pay attention to your dog’s breathing everyday so you can easily notice the little signs that point to suspicion.

Signs of abnormal panting

– When the breathing gets excessive compared to his normal breathing.

– The panting occurs at random times and not when the dog is overly warm or from a vigorous exercise.

– The breathing is louder or harsher.

– The panting seems to be taking a lot of energy from him or her.

What are the causes of heavy or abnormal panting?

These are some common causes of dog’s panting that usually indicate a serious underlying issue.

Heatstroke / Poisoning

When you notice heavy breathing in your dog, he may be experiencing a heat stroke or he may have consumed a toxic substance. Other signs that accompany a heat stroke are excessive thirst, elevated temperature, increased pulse or heart rate. To confirm it is a heat stroke you can check his temperature and if it falls at 109F your dog is experiencing a heat stroke. Luckily there are ways you can cool down your dog easily at home before the situation gets out of hand.

Type of dog breed

Dog breeds are varied but some breeds are predisposed to breathing difficulties that usually results in heavy and regular panting. Breeds with short snouts or pushed in faces like Boston Terriers, pugs or bulldogs are such breeds. Their short snouts makes the airway passage challenging leading these breeds to experience lifelong breathing difficulties. This means they are regularly panting heavily and faster to compensate and this predisposes them to heatstroke. It is recommended not to travel with such breeds and if needed to travel, it is advisable to take the necessary precautions.


Pain could also be the underlying issue when you notice your dog’s irregular heavy panting. He may be experiencing pain both physically or internally and since they cannot speak, they communicate with body language. As a dog owner you should know when your dog is acting different from the norm. If you suspect, it is pain and cannot detect the source, call the veterinarian immediately.

Heart failure

If you notice signs like reduced exercise, coughing, tiring quickly and increased or heavy breathing or panting then your dog may be experiencing heart issues. The heavy breathing and tiring quickly is usually due to fluid accumulation in the various organs. When your dog is panting heavily due to a diseased heart, it is a result of the inefficiency of the heart to pump blood causing the tissues to lack oxygen. Your dog pants in an effort to compensate for that lack of oxygen.

Cushing’s disease

Cushing’s disease comes about when a dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. At normal levels, cortisol performs a number of useful functions such as stress response and modulating the immune system. When produced in high amounts, cortisol causes hyperadrenocorticism which is basically known as Cushing’s disease. It is characterized by heavy panting, excess hunger /thirst, hair loss and rotund stomach. Your vet will diagnose this and offer the best treatment for your furry companion.


Anemia is basically oxygen deprivation due to low volume of red blood cells and insufficient hemoglobin to transport oxygen to various organs and tissues. This would naturally cause your dog to pant heavy and hard as in the case of heart failure or disease. Other telltale signs of anemia are lethargy, loss of appetite and rapid breathing.

Stress, anxiety ,fear/phobias

Yes. Even dogs experience stress and anxiety. They respond by panting. This is usually referred to as behavioral panting. Your dog just like you may have fears or phobias probably from a past traumatic event or unfamiliar events. Stress and anxiety causes your dog much discomfort and you may see him pacing around, whining, lip licking and sometimes worst case scenario loss of bladder control.

What can you do about your dog’s condition now?

If you notice abnormal panting in your dog, do not hesitate or hope that it will go away soon. Pick up the phone and book an appointment because clearly it could be a sign of a serious medical condition. If you have confirmed that your dog is experiencing a heat stroke you may do as follows:

– Move your dog to a cool spot or take him inside

– Submerge your dog in cool water not ice cold as this has the effect of constricting his blood vessels

– Apply cold towels on his body especially the chest, neck and head.

– Make him drink cool water or an ice cube to lick

– Take him to the vet immediately after he has cooled down a little.

Avoid having your dogs in situations that will predispose him to heat stroke such as leaving him in a locked parked car outside. Also ensure your dog has easy access to water while at home or has a cool shade he can run to when the heats gets too much for him.

Call the vet when:

– The panting is heavy and intense.

– The panting starts suddenly.

– When he has an injury or in pain.

– The tongue or gums  turn purple due to lack of enough oxygen.

Panting in a dog is normal so dog owners are advised to be observant and take note when the breathing changes or is different from the norm.

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