We’ve all experienced our dogs panting when they’ve had a good workout. Sometimes though dogs pant when we’re perhaps not expecting them to do so, such as in cars. So why do dogs pant in cars and is it something we should worry about?
In this article I’ll explore why dogs pants in cars, what the possible reasons are and whether it indicates something’s amiss.
Table of Contents
- Why Do Dogs Pant?
- Why Do Dogs Pant in Cars?
- They’re Excited
- It’s Too Hot
- They’re Frightened
- They Have Motion Sickness
- They Feel Discomfort or Pain
- They’re Dehydrated
- They’re Unwell
- Summary – Why Do Dogs Pant in Cars?
- Related Posts
Why Do Dogs Pant?
Outside of a good run around and a need to catch their breath, believe it or not dogs generally pant to cool down. Dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their body to regulate temperature in the same way we do. Hence panting is a way to remove heat from the inside by replacing it with cooler air from outside.
Dogs also pant if they’re:
- in pain or discomfort
Although panting is to be expected after hard exercise (like when dogs get the zoomies), it’s not at all uncommon for dogs to pant in cars.
So Why Do Dogs Pant in Cars?
On many occasions dogs pant in cars for the same reasons as they pant at other times… so let’s take a look at them in more detail.
Dogs Pant When They’re Excited
Have you ever seen your dog breathing hard when it’s.stimulated by something like the hunt for a squirrel or the thought of walkies?
Dogs pant when they’re excited and a trip in the car might just trigger feelings they can’t contain!
A car journey might suggest you’re going for a nice walk off leash at a favoured spot. Or it might mean you’re visiting family your dog loves. Perhaps the car trip itself is so stimulating that your dog pants in excitement.
If your dog gets overexcited at the thought of a car journey and pants excessively, try to calm it down by speaking in a soothing voice, driving calmly and not hyping things up further.
They’re Too Hot
This one’s a no brainer really since we already know that dogs pant to cool down. Dogs famously struggle in cars when the temperature goes up, indeed it’s important that you never leave your dog in a car during the summer months without substantial ventilation.
However, even short car journeys during the warmer months can cause your dog’s temperature to rise. As a consequence, your dog might pant in your car as a means to regulate its temperature and cool it down.
Make sure you let air into your car by keeping windows open, or keep your air conditioning on so your dog doesn’t overheat. Additionally make sure you travel with water in your car so your dog can drink.
One of the symptoms that your dog is feeling fearful is panting. Cars can be intimidating to dogs… you travel in them in a confined space, the sense of motion is unusual and travel within them can be noisy.
One of the visible symptoms when dogs become frightened or anxious is panting. Given that vehicles can be disconcerting to dogs, it’s not unusual for them to pant when traveling in cars.
If your dog has never been in a car before, it’s best not to throw them in at the deep end by taking a long car journey as a first experience. Try to help them get accustomed to your car by taking short trips at low speeds for a while before embarking on that cross-country jaunt!
Dogs Pant When They Have Motion Sickness
It’s most young pups that get motion sickness in cars but in reality even older dogs can feel queasy when they’re on the road.
Motion sickness can occur during car journeys due to the repeated small (and sometimes large) up and down movements of the vehicle as it navigates the road.
The inner ear, which helps with a dog’s sense of balance (ours too) sends messages to the brain that conflict with what their eyes see. This dissonance results in a sense of nausea… and one of the symptoms of nausea in dogs is panting.
So dogs can pant in cars because they’re feeling sick because of the motion of the car. This nausea can result in drooling and even vomiting.
Some dogs may be more prone to motion sickness than others but if you notice your dog pants in your car it may be a sign they’re experiencing motion sickness.
If you drive with your dog regularly try to drive as slowly, calmly and smoothly as possible.
Sometimes there can be a physical issue with a dog’s ears that predisposes them to motion sickness. A veterinary professional may be able to see if there are underlying issues that make it difficult for a dog to travel in cars, and provide treatment for them.
Other times it might be a question of the dog getting used to traveling in cars gradually so they become accustomed to the strange motion sensations.
Dogs Pant When They Experience Discomfort or Pain
Cars might not provide the kind of comforts that many dogs enjoy. They can be noisy, cramped (especially if your dog is traveling in a crate), hot and uncomfortable.
Furthermore, if your dog becomes super uncomfortable, discomfort can turn to pain. Think about how you feel sometimes if you’re stuck in the same position for long periods. You can feel painful numbness or and muscle cramps.
Your dog will pant in the car if it feels uncomfortable and experiences pain as a result.
If your dog pants in your car and you’ve eliminated other reasons why, it’s a good idea to stop somewhere safe and let it get out to stretch its legs.
Especially on long journeys!
Dogs Pant in Cars If They Need Water
As we’ve established, dogs can get hot in cars, in particular during the summertime.
When dogs get too hot or if they pant to help cool themselves down. This can lead to dehydration, since dogs don’t just lose heat when they pant but they lose water too.
Ironically, one of the signs of dehydration in dogs is panting… so it’s entirely possible a dog will pant in a car if it needs a drink, regardless of whether it’s hot or not.
Keeping some fresh water in your car will be helpful not just if your dog gets too hot but also if it starts to pant because it’s too thirsty.
If your dog’s nose is dry it might indicate dehydration.
Your Dog Might Be Unwell
Of course sometimes dogs pant because they’re unwell and just happen to be in a car when you notice. The car journey may have nothing to do with the panting at all.
If your dog is panting excessively and you can’t determine that your car is the cause you should speak to a veterinary practitioner as soon as possible.
Although in most cases panting doesn’t mean your dog is seriously ill, if combined with other symptoms such as wheezing, weakness, lethargy and distress it should be investigated by a medical professional.
Summary – Why Do Dogs Pant in Cars?
Dogs pant in cars for lots of reasons and most of them are relatively innocuous, from over-excitement to motion sickness.
That said, cars can also cause dogs to overheat and suffer dehydration and so symptoms of either should always be taken extremely seriously
If you’re ever at all concerned about the wellbeing of your dog, perhaps because it’s panting in your car without good reason, speak to a veterinarian to seek proper guidance.
Does your dog pant in cars? I’d love to hear your thoughts about why. Please leave a comment at the bottom of this page to tell more.
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