We’re in typical central Ohio August weather – hot and humid! As you know all too well, it’s not only us humans who are affected by the heat and humidity – our canine companions are feeling the effects, too. Put on a fur coat to see how they feel!
Let’s start with what “normal panting” is like. We sweat as a cooling mechanism when we get hot – a dog’s skin isn’t set up the same way. They cool off by – you guessed it – panting! Panting is rapid, shallow breathing that speeds up the evaporation of water from the tongue, from inside the mouth, and from the upper respiratory tract. That’s why the tongue is out – to help with evaporation! As the water evaporates, it helps to regulate their body temperature. Side note – dogs have sweat glands underneath their paws, but these glands contribute very little in the cooling off process. Dogs will also pant when they’re excited or energetic, but being hot either from the weather, or from exercise, are the most typical causes. If your dog’s been out in the heat, has been playing in the yard, or is meeting someone new – panting is probably a normal reaction.
Homework time – get to know what your dog’s normal respiratory rate is while resting. Watch them while they’re completely relaxed, and count how many times they inhale and exhale for 15 seconds. Multiply that by 4, and you have a good average. Normal is going to be somewhere between 15 and 30 cycles per minute – so your count will most likely be between 4 and 8 cycles for that 15 second period. Once you know your buddy’s regular respiratory rate, it will help you decide if their panting is normal or heavy.
When should you be concerned about heavy panting? Look for other signs that accompany it – do they have glassy eyes, show signs of lethargy, are they acting as if they’re in pain, or is the panting much more rapid, or harsher sounding, than normal? If so, this could be them trying to show you that something’s wrong. A big concern, with the weather we’re having, is heatstroke.
Heavy and excessive panting, if caused by heatstroke, can be accompanied by other symptoms including glassy eyes, weakness, rapid heart rate, drooling, gastrointestinal upset, and a body temperature over 104 F. If you suspect heatstroke, move your dog to a shady spot or inside. Call us, or if we’re closed, call an emergency clinic – heatstroke can be fatal if not treated quickly and correctly.
Steps you can take to help them while calling the vet – you can cool them down with cool (not cold) water – both externally, and to drink. You can give them ice cubes to lick, and put ice packs or cold towels on their chest, neck, and head.
The best way to manage heatstroke is to prevent it from happening. When at home, ensure your pet has plenty of shade and cool water, and monitor their outside play – set a timer when you let them out, to remind you to bring them back in within a certain time period. Never leave them in a parked car – “just a couple of minutes” can turn into “a couple of minutes too long” for their well being.
There can be other medical causes of excessive/heavy panting in dogs – chronic illnesses like heart failure, Cushing’s disease, or respiratory disorders. Pain or trauma, poisoning, anemia, and respiratory illness can also cause heavy panting.
Something to be aware of - brachycephalic dogs, like bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers, tend to breath heavier than other dogs because their short snouts and smaller mouths make cooling off more difficult. They will most likely have less of an exercise or heat tolerance than a “normal nosed” dog.
Bottom line – know what is normal for your dog, and what is abnormal. If their breathing seems labored and/or much more rapid than normal, with or without other symptoms, call us!
We offer both preventative care services (much like your visits to the dentist), along with dental x-rays and tooth extractions. Good oral hygiene is the best thing that you can do to ensure a longer life, with less health concerns, for your pet. Call us to schedule a dental exam or service.x
Laboratory services are a vital part of the diagnostic process when it comes to veterinarian care. This is because in many cases it is not possible to be able to give a firm diagnosis without undertaking additional tests to confirm the root of the problem. If you have any questions or concerns your vet will be happy to speak to you.x
This is the most effective way to assist in having your companion returned if they go missing. The microchip (about the size of a grain of rice) is placed under the skin between the shoulder blades. When scanned, it provides information that assists in reuniting you with your furry friend!x
Congratulations on the newest member of your household - we can’t wait to meet them! Call us today to schedule an initial visit – our team will conduct a thorough physical exam, in addition to discussing nutrition, training, and medical care. We’ll be more than happy to answer any other questions you may have, as wellx
Laser therapy is a holistic, non-invasive treatment that reduces inflammation, decreases pain, and accelerates healing for a variety of conditions. It is useful as a post-surgical treatment, for acute conditions such as sprains, strains, and wounds, and chronic conditions such as degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis.x