Dogs use panting as their way of cooling down after physical activity. Panting is a natural and typically healthy dog behavior. But how long should a dog pant after exercise? It depends on a dog's athleticism and breed, among other factors. Also, dogs who are unable to pant can't cool down as effectively, and are at risk of heatstroke in a worst-case scenario.
If your dog is overweight, older, out of shape, or is brachycephalic (has a shortened muzzle), they may take 10 minutes or more to return to normal breathing. Outside temperature also plays a role. An in-shape, healthy dog typically pants for around 10 minutes after vigorous exercise, though this can vary widely depending on circumstances. Discover when panting could be problematic and when it warrants a trip to the vet.
The Science Behind Why Dogs Pant
Dogs use panting as their primary way of cooling off. They don't sweat in the way we do. Instead, they only have a few sweat glands located primarily in the pads of their feet. Because most breeds are covered in fur, panting provides canines with a more efficient way for them to release excess body heat.
When dogs pant, their respiratory rate increases from a normal baseline of 30 to 40 breaths per minute, to upwards of 300 to 400 breaths each minute. This rapid breathing is shallow and focused within the upper portion of the respiratory tract. Panting quickly forces air back and forth over the moist tissues of your pet's tongue and lungs, which facilitates evaporative cooling. Along with cooling, dogs may pant as a way to draw in more oxygen.
Panting After Exercise
It's not unusual to see your dog pant following exercise. Just as you sweat during and after a workout, dogs pant to control their internal body temperature. But how long after they finish exercising can you expect your dog to stop panting? This timeline can vary from dog to dog based on their fitness level as well as other factors, such as the outside temperature.
In general, overweight or sedentary dogs may take longer to recover compared to athletic dogs who engage in regular exercise. Being overweight puts a great deal of strain on a dog's body, particularly on the cardiac and respiratory systems. Discuss a weight loss plan with your veterinarian and ease your dog into exercise to slowly build up their endurance.
Brachycephalic breeds also have more difficulty recovering after physical exertion due to their airway anatomy. Monitor these dogs closely for signs of heatstroke, as even a short walk on a warm day can cause them to overheat. Provide every dog with adequate ventilation, plenty of shade, and water to help prevent heat exhaustion.
When Panting Could be Worrisome
Excessive or prolonged panting after exercise could be a sign of a serious problem, so it's critical to know when to seek help. See your veterinary right away if you notice any of the following signs in addition to panting:
- Excessive drooling
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Disorientation or confusion
- Racing heart rate
- Deep, heavy breathing
- Red or purple gums
- Prolonged panting
- Spontaneous panting without exertion
Other Causes of Panting
In addition to post-exercise cooling, there are several other scenarios that could cause panting in dogs.
- Heat: Even if a dog hasn't physically exerted themselves, they can become hot and need to pant for temperature control. This can happen in a warm climate or hot environment. Always provide your dog with plenty of water and shade on hot, summer days so they don't become overheated. Also, never leave your dog alone in a car unattended.
- Pain: Dogs tend to be stoic and may hide obvious signs of pain. However, panting could be an indication that they're in pain or even nauseated.
- Anxiety: When dogs become stressed out, it's common for them to pant. This can happen during a visit to the vet, a car ride, thunderstorm, or any other stressful event. If you're able to anticipate scenarios that make your dog anxious, you can put calming solutions into practice early to avoid anxiety.
- Pharmaceuticals: Certain medications, including prednisone, phenylpropanolamine, and some analgesics, can cause panting as a side effect. If your dog's panting coincides with starting a new medication, it's important to report this side effect to your vet to confirm that it's not something to be concerned about.
- Health disorders: Pneumonia, obesity, heart disease, heartworm infection, Cushing's disease, anaphylaxis, and laryngeal paralysis are a few of the medical conditions that can present with panting as a common symptom, but typically, other concerning signs accompany the panting. These scenarios can be life-threatening if not treated.
Panting in Cats
While panting is a normal behavior in dogs, regular panting, even after exercise, is not normal for cats. Cat panting, or what veterinary professionals refer to as "open-mouth breathing," it's typically a concerning sign. If your cat holds their mouth open for longer than a few seconds, contact your vet or seek urgent care.
Keep an Eye on Your Dog's Panting
Exercising with your dog should be a fun, bonding experience. Take precautions, including exercising during cooler parts of the day, offering your pup water throughout, and keeping an eye on their overall demeanor to make sure they stay safe. Swimming is an excellent physical activity that can allow your dog to stay cool naturally. However, if your dog appears distressed or continues to pant excessively after any physical exertion, seek help from your vet.