Panting is rapid, shallow respirations characterized by open-mouthed breathing, often accompanied by a protrusion of the tongue. It is seen commonly in dogs, and less commonly in cats.
A dog's primary method of cooling is evaporative cooling from the respiratory tract through panting. When a dog pants it provides increased air flow over moist surfaces in the upper respiratory tract through rapid, shallow breathing. The increase in air flow causes an increase in evaporation from the upper respiratory tract. At the onset of panting, respiration rate increases rather suddenly from around 30-40 respirations per minute to around 300-400 respirations per minute. Under a moderate heat load a dog alternates between brief periods of panting at high frequencies and periods of normal slow respiration.
Panting may also be the result of other factors, such as fear, stress or disease. Some cause may include:
Before any testing is performed, consider any factors that may be causative such as heat, stress or over exertion and eliminate them from your pet's environment. If your pet is still panting despite removing the possible cause, and/or signs are long standing or progressive, it is important to seek veterinary care.
Administer all prescribed medications and return for follow up evaluation as directed by your veterinarian. Keep your pet in a cool, stress free environment, and do not overexert your pet.
Panting is seen in both dogs and cats, but is more common in dogs. Panting is often seen associated with environmental changes such as anxiety, fear, excitement, exercise and heat. However, panting may reflect disease, and should not be ignored or assumed “normal” unless there are circumstances around the panting that suggest it is acceptable for the situation at hand. If your pet is panting excessively, or more often than normal, it is important to be evaluated by a veterinarian.
There are many causes of panting. Because panting may be a normal response to environmental and psychological events, it is quite feasible that no underlying illness exists and a full diagnostic workup is not in order. If, however, panting is excessive or your pet is in distress, it is important to identify an underlying cause.
Diseases that cause reduced oxygen-carrying capacity such as anemia or carbon monoxide poisoning often cause panting.
Obtaining a complete medical history and performing a thorough physical examination are necessary in order to create an appropriate diagnostic plan for the panting patient.
Your veterinarian may recommend additional tests to insure optimal medical care. These are selected on a case-by-case basis.
One or more of the diagnostic tests described above may be recommended by your veterinarian. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific (symptomatic) treatments may be applicable to some, but not all pets with panting. These treatments may reduce severity of symptoms or provide relief for your pet. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definitive treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your pet's condition.