Why does my Labrador pant so much?

It is normal for a dog to pant. Like humans, who have sweat glands, dogs need to refresh themselves. Dogs cool their bodies using the evaporation of moisture from the mouth and tongue. Using this, they exchange the hot air of their lungs with cooler external air. What you should be looking out for is excessive panting. Read on to find out why a dog pants, what could cause excessive panting and how to cope with it.

When your pooch is panting, it usually will be due to excitement or play. You should not confuse panting and strained breathing. When your dog is straining, you will notice it wheeze, pant when in a cool place or when rested. It will also use more effort in the panting than usual. These are red flags, giving you cues to call your vet. 

Reasons behind excessive panting


It is common for Labrador retrievers to gain weight. However, if affected by an excess of it, it will have strained breathing. In many cases, you will notice the dog panting for air a lot and with a lot of energy. Being overweight strains a lab during exercise as well. Your dog is unable to breathe comfortably from the strain.

Heart stroke 

The more overheated your Labrador becomes, the heavier he will pant. Your pooch is overheated when you spot thirst, elevated body temperature, and glazed eyes. It will have a bright or dark red tongue or gums, an increased pulse, and a heartbeat. A heart stroke results from the overheating. 

Before the actual stroke, the cells die; the brain swells and causes seizures. In minutes, your dog’s kidneys also begin to fail, and the stroke happens.


If your dog has ingested a toxin, it may begin heavy panting. Ingesting a poison can lead to overheating the dog’s body. Many chemicals in poisons have burn effects on the dog as they start getting digested. Some heighten your dog’s heart rate, making him gasp for air in the process. Panting becomes a coping mechanism through which the dog communicates.

Pain and fever

Labs have a way of hiding their pain like other wild animals. It comes as an instinct to prevent them from being a target to others. So, how do you spot your pooch is in pain? Panting can be the dog’s sell-out as the pain pushes the dog to do it excessively. 

Heart failure

Heart failure is common to senior Labrador retrievers. Their air circulation becomes strained, and they tend to have heart failure in the end. A sign of nearing heart failure is excess panting. Once you observe this, rush your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Cushing’s disease

This disease occurs when a dog’s adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. Along with heavy panting, symptoms can include excessive hair loss, hunger, thirst, and a pot-bellied appearance. 

Respiratory illnesses

Pneumonia and lung tumors affect your dog’s breathing causing excessive pantingLaryngeal paralysis also affects many labs, especially as they grow older.


Anemia is diagnosed when there’s a reduction in the number of red blood cells. Since these cells transport oxygen around the body, anemia causes oxygen deprivation. This, in turn, may result in a dog panting more to compensate.

Other symptoms to look out for are weakness, lethargy, exercise intolerance, and elevated heart rate. You will also spot pale mucous membranes, mental confusion, and then collapsing.

When bloated

Your lab can start panting excessively when bloated. This is often a precursor to vomiting, which the dog aims for. Bloating occurs when you exercise your dog nearly immediately after his meals. Though exercise is important for labs to keep them from being overweight, it should be timely.

Anxiety, phobias, and stress

If your lab is anxious, stressed, or has noise phobias, panting will be the order of the day. This is “behavioral panting”. You will also notice repetitive yawning, whining, crying, pacing, trembling, and hiding. Sometimes, they may mess the floor due to low bowel control.

While training your lab to hunt, you can expect to experience it, reacting to gunshot phobia. Your consistency in training is what will normalize the sound to the dog and make it less afraid.

As a result of medication

If your lab is on medication, the drugs may cause excessive panting. It can be a sign that the drugs are heavy on the dog. Be sure to watch your dog through the sickness period. It could be exhibiting an allergic reaction to some drug components.

What to do when your dog pants excessively

Check the weather around you

If you left your dog in a hot car, the excess heat could be the reason behind the panting. Remove the dog from the car and offer some water. If you spot your dog panting excessively yet you are in a cool place, mark it as a red flag. Be sure to consult a vet as you look for other symptoms.

Check your dog for pain

Groom your dog as you look out for any pain-stricken areas. Gently press the paws and joints, trying to observe if your dog will wince in pain. Look for any hot spots in your dog’s fur. Check whether it has any tick, flea or mite infestation. They can be sucking your poor dog’s blood, which can lead to anemia.

Check their medication for expiry and contents

Have you checked the expiry date of your dog’s medication? Always give your sick dog proper medication, and check for any contents that they are allergic to. Remember to keep anything toxic away from the reach of your dog. 

Give it water

Give your dog cool water to cool off and observe the progress thereafter. 

Submerge your dog in cool water

You can submerge your dog in cool water or use some ice packs to pat its fur. Do not use a hosepipe to spray your dog with water, as you should cool it gradually.

Visit the vet

You can save your dog’s life by phoning or visiting the vet for a consultation. Armed with your dog diary, explain the symptoms you saw alongside the heavy panting. Your vet will be able to deduce the reason behind the excessive panting. Some issues may be underlying illnesses that need medication, while others need surgery. Whichever the deduction, your dog will have got professional diagnosis and treatment proposal.

Consider changing their food

If you think everything is okay, checking the dog’s weight can lead you to the reason behind the panting. Take a scale and weigh your dog to remove the possibility of the overweight reason. In case your lab is overweight, be sure to introduce a diet that is keen to help it lose some pounds. Remember to transition your lab slowly, with keen consultation with your vet.

It can be tough to distinguish between normal panting and excessive panting. Keeping your eyes and ears open to any extra symptoms can be a guide to noticing the abnormal. Be sure to keep your vet’s number nearby. Lastly, follow your doggy parent gut feeling. If it feels wrong, chances are it is. Learn more about your Labrador here.

Recent Posts