Dogs pant because they can't sweat; their only sweat glands are located on the pads of their paws. Panting is normal when a dog is hot, but excessive panting can be a sign of an underlying health problem.
Abnormally heavy panting may be a sign of heat stroke. Leaving a dog in a car or allowing a dog to frolic in summer heat can cause body temperature to spike to more than 100 degrees, at which point the animal will start panting heavily. Heat stroke, if ignored, can cause brain damage quickly and even death.
Additional signs of heat stroke include heavy drooling, weakness, dizziness, vomiting, or deep red coloring of the gums and tongue.
Dogs that carry too much weight have difficulty breathing, and constriction of the respiratory system can cause heavy panting.
When a dog feels excited, scared or anxious, it will start panting. This is common in puppies or dogs in unfamiliar territory; the newness of the environment may cause them to become nervous.
Heavy panting may also be a sign of anemia, heartworm, heart trouble, under-performance of the thyroid (hypothyroidism) or poisoning.
What To Do
Give your dog plenty of water, especially on hot days, at the beach or at events such as picnics and barbecues where the presence of a lot of people is likely to make the animal excited. If the dog begins panting more than usual, take it indoors or in the shade immediately.
For dogs that are anxious or fearful in a new environment, some dog owners like to use herbal remedies to calm the animal, though most simply try reassuring the dog that everything is OK by petting or speaking in a calming voice.
If your dog is panting heavily and you do not suspect heat stroke, take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
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