You probably know that dogs pant to cool themselves down after taking a walk, but heavy panting can be a sign of something more serious. Learn how to tell if your dog’s breathing and panting are normal or abnormal so you can see your Highland or Westville, IN vet immediately.


Like humans, dogs react to a perceived threat by producing a hormone called adrenaline. It sends signals to the pituitary gland in the brain, which then releases adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) to the adrenal glands, which release numerous substances including cortisol.

While a rush of adrenaline is an important response to an immediate threat, excessive amounts can have harmful effects. It can cause Cushing’s disease, a condition that affects the adrenals and can lead to heavy panting, weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart failure.

Anxiety disorders can be treated with medication, psychotherapy, and coping skills. A good support system can help a person cope with anxiety and make the treatment process easier.


Heavy panting is often a sign that your dog has heatstroke. It can be a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate hands-on treatment from a vet.

Generally, dogs cannot sweat like humans and so rely on panting and cooling through their noses and paw pads to regulate their body temperature. However, this is not always effective and it can lead to serious health issues if not treated early on.

A variety of conditions can cause excessive panting, including hypertension (high blood pressure), Cushing’s disease and certain painkillers. Panting is also a common side effect of many medications, especially prednisolone and corticosteroids.

Cushing’s Disease

If your dog has heavy panting and is anxious, it could be a sign of Cushing’s disease. This condition is caused by a tumor in the pituitary gland or adrenal gland that causes your pet to release too much cortisol, a hormone that regulates the body’s energy levels.

In many cases, this disease can be treated with medications that decrease the amount of cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. Two drugs, mitotane and trilostane, are commonly prescribed.

Other medications, such as selegiline hydrochloride and ketoconazole, may also be used. These medications, as well as other veterinary care and a healthy diet, can help manage your dog’s Cushing’s disease. Regular veterinary exams and blood work are essential for proper treatment of this condition.

High Blood Pressure

One common reason for heavy panting in your dog is high blood pressure. This is a serious medical condition that can cause damage to the heart and kidneys, as well as other organs in your dog’s body.

You can tell if your dog has high blood pressure when their systolic (pressure on blood vessels when the heart is beating) or diastolic (pressure between beats) numbers are elevated. A systolic number of 160 or higher is considered high.

Your veterinarian might check your dog’s blood pressure using an inflatable cuff and a Doppler device. The cuff blocks blood flow through an artery while the Doppler measures how much pressure is building up at each pulsation.


Many dogs pant excessively when they are stressed or anxious. Examples of stressful situations include car rides, fireworks, separation anxiety, vet visits, and thunderstorms (especially T-storm phobia).

Panting can also be an indicator of a medical problem. Dogs with breathing problems may pant heavily, as can those on painkillers and sedatives.

To help determine whether your dog is having a problem with their breathing, count their breaths for a minute while they are resting or sleeping. Anything over 30 breaths per minute is considered abnormal and should be brought to your veterinarian’s attention.

Likewise, excess panting that occurs while your dog is exercising or excited could be a sign of heart problems. The tongue and gums will often turn blue or white, which indicates that your dog is not getting enough oxygen to their tissues.