If you are new to German Shepherd ownership, you will likely be unfamiliar with their frequent panting. But is your dog panting more than they should? Is there anything in which you need to be aware of and take into account as an owner of this breed? I started to wonder why the German Shepherd breed was more prone to panting than other dogs. I decided to do some research. I’d like to share all that I was able to find here today.
So, why do German Shepherds pant so much? German Shepherds are known to pant a lot because they are large dogs with thick coats. So naturally, they need to pant more than other breeds to cool down and keep a cooler temperature. Extra panting is to be expected in warmer weathers, when their coats are at their longest and following exercise. However, excessive panting could be a sign of a potential health issue so you may need to get your dog examined by a vet if the panting persists.
Seeing your dog pant more than others may lead to questions as to whether or not you need to visit a vet. It is understandable to feel concerned.
Thankfully, however this is one of those things that varies by dog breed. German Shepherds do in fact pant more than most other dog breeds.
There are numerous reasons dogs pant, and most of those reasons are no cause for concern.
Let us now look at this breeds panting behaviors and the reasons for it more closely in the following sections. We’ll also be addressing some of the things you can do so be sure to keep on reading to the end!
Why Do Dogs Pant?
It is established that German Shepherds pant a lot, mostly due to their size. Size is not the only factor as to why German Shepherds pant, as panting is something all dogs do to cool down.
Panting is a natural, normal behavior in dogs that they instinctively use to control their body temperature, in response to the climate.
Equally, dogs are not able to sweat through their skin. They do not have the efficient arrangement of sweat glands like we do as humans.
Instead, canines cool down using the evaporation of moisture coming from their mouths, tongues, paws and nose.
Panting helps dogs to exchange the warm air of their lungs for colder external air.
With such few outlets to sweat, a dog can get very hot very fast. So, by quickly drawing in breaths of fresh air, they are able to stay cooler.
Excessive panting can be a worry for many dog owners, but bear in mind; panting is not labored breathing.
Labored breathing is often described as difficult respiration and is usually accompanied by distressing sounds like whining, crying, or whistling due to a blockage in the windpipe or the nostrils.
Why Does My Shepherd Pant So Much?
As previously mentioned, German Shepherds are known to pant more than most other breeds of dog. This is for two main reasons.
For one, the German Shepherd has a thick double coat that can be heavy and that naturally insulates heat. To help reduce the buildup of heat, panting is used to compensate.
Secondly, German Shepherds are a relatively large breed of dog. They therefore have a higher energy level than most other breeds.
Equally, because German Shepherds enjoy running, they can easily overheat – especially compared to dogs that are a lot more docile and calm.
There are, however, several other factors that can make your Shepherd pant more than usual.
Some of these factors are troubling, but there is usually something you can do about it.
Let’s take a look at some of the other main factors. Some are to be expected whereas others are a little more serious. We’ll start with some of the more common and normal reasons before more onto those more problematic.
Your German Shepherd Has Just Exercised
It is usual for German Shepherds to pant a lot after exercising or a period of activity; this provides more oxygen to their muscles.
Of course, if your dog is panting for longer than expected, even after a sufficient period of time has passed since activity, it may be a good idea to speak to your vet.
Equally, if you notice that even a small amount or moderate amount of exercise causes excessive panting, then this could indicate a potential problem.
Your German Shepherd Is Fearful Or Anxious.
German Shepherds are sensitive to people and situations.
These dogs can easily become frightened by loud noises like thunderstorms or fireworks, or can even be afraid of a certain person. They can also suffer from seperation anxiety when left alone for too long.
In each of these situations above, your dog may suffer from excessive panting.
As an owner you should monitor your dog in new environments and try to become familiar with their behavior in different contexts. This way you can identify whether certain situations are causing panting to arise and can then make suitable adjustments to help prevent the panting or support your dog during this time.
Your German Shepherd Has Heatstroke
Heatstroke is another common reason that a dog might pant more than usual.
Heatstroke Is often caused by a dog doing too much activity outdoors when it is hot. Of course, a German Shepherd is a likely candidate for heatstroke due to their size and coat mentioned above.
If you notice your Shepherd panting for an extended period after having been out in the heat, give him water to drink and place him in a shaded area straight away.
If your dog has heatstroke, you should take them to see a vet once they have cooled down. you need to ensure they do not suffer from dehydration and the detrimental effects this condition can bring about.
Your German Shepherd Has Heart Problems
If your German Shepherd has begun panting more than usual, then their is the possibility that they are suffering from a health issue. Usually, if this is the case it is a heart problem.
If your dog has only suddenly started panting heavily and all the time, when there’s no reason for them to do so, it is worthwhile taking them to the vet.
When Is Panting Normal/ Abnormal
Panting is normal right after exercise, and particularly if it’s warm outside.
German Shepherds are big dogs with powerful physiques, so you will hear them pant as a means of regulating their body temperature.
Shepherds have double coats, which keeps them feeling hotter for longer. Excitement will cause panting if they’re enjoying his play and exercise, or if his owner has just returned home.
Loud and sudden sounds frighten the most nonchalant of us, so it hardly surprising that a German Shepherd would become frightened, causing them to pant. Fear will cause your German Shepherd to pant; this is normal.
You should be concerned if the panting is sudden, deeper, and more extended than usual, particularly if your dog has no reason to pant.
Heavy and periods of extended panting can be a symptom of the following ailments: cushing syndrome, mitral valve disease, congestive heart failure, cancer, and/or anemia.
If your Shepherd’s tongue or gums appear blue, white, or purple, this indicates that they are not getting enough oxygen and should be taken to a vet immediately.
Here are some other things to look out for an when your dogs panting is more of a cause for concern:
- The temperature is cold – especially if your German Shepherd has not expended much energy.
- Excessive thirst and urination – coupled with panting means that your dog is not holding onto enough water.
- Dry skin/hairloss
- Lethargic or depressed
If you observe any of the above, it is best to contact your vet and get your dog examined.
What To Do When Your German Shepherd Is Panting?
Panting is usually nothing to worry about, but it still indicates your dog is attempting to regulate their body temperature. It usually means that they are too hot, and their trying to cool down.
The following are practical ways that you can support your dog and help them feel more comfortable during bouts of panting.
Give Your Dog Access To Water And Cool Areas
Giving your German Shepherd water allows them to naturally cool down, stay hydrated and reduce the possibility of them getting heatstroke.
You should also ensure your dog can access an area of shade or somewhere cool when they’re hot.
Always make sure that they can do this on their own accord and never leave them outside in the heat of the day without the ability to cool off.
If you’re on a walk – take a break and be careful of the times you are looking to go. Be cognizant of any steep hills or challenging landscapes too.
Give Your Dog A Cold Bath
Another option is to give your dog a cold bath. This works particularly well if they are already very hot, and are in need of a wash anyway!
Comfort Your Dog
If your dog is panting heavily even if it is not hot or they are not exercising, it could be a sign that they are anxious, are in pain, or even stressed.
In this situation, spend some time calming your dog. Give them a good stroke and divert their attention away from what ever is causing issues. Usually, their breathing will quickly return to a normal pace.
Investigate The Environment, Monitor Meals
Panting can be a sign that your dog has consumed something they do not agree with. Equally, they may have rubbed against something they are allergic to.
Check all the foods in which you dog has eaten, and check up on areas your dog has been to ensure there is not something that has caused the panting.
Keep Your Dog Fit With Daily Exercise
Your German Shepherd is a big athletic dog that needs exercise, and they needs it every day.
German Shepherds need at least one hour of exercise each day, to keep him fit, healthy, and to reduce panting.
Remove Your Dogs Undercoat
Removing your German Shepherds undercoat will help your dog stay cool and reduce panting. This is particularly effective in the summer months, or when you may be looking to increase their activity (on a walking holiday for example).
You can do this by using a de-shedding brush. The FURminator is one of the best brushes out there on the market. You can get it for a great price on Amazon and many German Shepherd owners swear by it.
There are many videos available online demonstrating how to use the de-shedding brush correctly.
It is usual for German Shepherds to pant and even more so than other breeds.
Panting is usually not a sign of anything serious with your dog; it’s just their natural way to regulate their body temperature.
For the most part it does mean that your dog is hot and is attempting to cool down.
If it’s hot outside and your dog has exercised more than they should, they are more at risk of getting heatstroke, which is something every dog owner wants to avoid.
As an owner, you need to remember that your German Shepherd has a thick double coat and they are a large breed of dog. Never make them overexert themselves or push them beyond their natural capacities.
Equally, panting is not a sound that anyone particularly enjoys, but it is natural in dogs and this breed. It is never something you should look to stop. By putting a muzzle on your dog or yelling at them to stop, you will stress them out and cause further issues with overheating.
Thankfully though, there are other things you can do to make your German Shepherd feel more comfortable and reduce their need to panting.
If these things do not work, or you notice anything abnormal, its advised to take your dog for an examination at the vet. Excessive panting can mean something more serious – so you should be vigilant and better safe than sorry.
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I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.