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Why Is My Dog Panting Heavily?

Why Dogs Pant Heavily: Common Causes and Treatments continued...

Injury and pain. Dogs can’t tell us with words when they’re in pain. So, it’s up to us to know what to look for. Heavy panting is one sign your dog may have suffered an injury.

Other signs of pain or trauma in pets include enlarged pupils, reduced appetite, a reluctance to lie down, restlessness, anxiety, and licking or biting at the pain site.

Dogs may mask their pain with normal behaviors, such as wagging their tail. And an injury may be internal -- for example, as a result of being hit by a car. So if you suspect your pet may be in pain, don’t delay. Seek veterinary care right away.

Medication. Some medications, such as prednisone, may also lead to heavy panting in dogs. Talk to your veterinarian if you think your dog’s medication is causing heavy panting.

Other Causes of Heavy Panting in Dogs

Heavy breathing or deep, intense panting can also be a symptom of eclampsia, also called milk fever. Eclampsia is a dangerous condition that affects nursing mothers; low blood calcium levels lead to an inability to stand or walk and tremors.  And allergies, infection, or irritation within the airways can cause wheezy, noisy breathing in dogs.

No matter what kind of breathing your dog usually has, any unexplained change -- whether heavy panting, coughing, or wheezing -- always rates a call to your vet.

Heatstroke and Your Dog: Emergency Response

Overheating is a medical emergency -- and one of the most serious reasons for heavy panting in dogs. If you suspect your dog has heatstroke, a quick response can be lifesaving.

Symptoms of heatstroke include excessive panting, glassy eyes, weakness, fast heart rate, drooling, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and a body temperature over 104 F. If you think your dog may have heatstroke, here’s what to do to help:

  • Move your dog inside or to a shady spot.
  • Submerge your dog in cool water (avoid cold water, which constricts blood vessels) or apply ice packs or cold towels to your dog’s chest, neck, and head. Don’t spray your dog with a yard hose -- on hot days the water inside a hose can reach near boiling temperatures. You want to cool him off gradually.
  • Give your dog cool, not cold, water. Or give him ice cubes to lick.
  • After you’ve started cooling your dog down, take your dog to the vet immediately.

The best way to manage heatstroke is to avoid it. Never leave your pet in a parked car. It’s better to leave your pet at home than to risk heatstroke. At home, be sure to provide all pets with shade and water or a way to get inside during the hottest part of the day.

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