Most people assume that dogs like car rides. We've all seen those videos with dogs excitedly taking in the view! While it's true that some dogs enjoy the new sights and sounds, some aren't too crazy about the experience.
You plop your dog onto the back seat as you prepare for a trip to the vet. Immediately, they start panting. Seems like normal behavior, right? While panting is a common behavior that's usually no cause for concern, it could also be a sign of something bigger going on.
Dogs can't communicate what they're feeling like we do. So, they have to rely on other behaviors to calm themselves down or get relief. Panting happens to be one of them.
So, why do dogs pant in the car in the first place? Here are some common reasons and solutions you can try to put a stop to it.
6 Common Reasons Why Dogs Pant in the Car
The most obvious cause of panting is excessive heat. Dogs do not sweat as we humans do. They may sweat a little bit on their paws or around other key areas. But that thick coat of fur is preventing them from using sweat mechanics to cool off. They just don't have as many sweat glands as we do!
Panting is a telltale sign that your pup is hot. It's how they regulate their body temperature. By panting, your dog is able to quickly take in cool air. This helps to lower their temperature from the inside out.
What You Can Do
The best thing that you can do is take a minute and help your dog cool off. Pump up the air conditioner and make them sit still for a bit. The last thing you want is for them to get overexcited and start moving around the car.
Before you get into the car, take some time to bring the temperature down a bit. This is especially important on those hot summer days. Once your dog gets cool, the panting should stop.
If your dog is feeling dehydrated, they'll likely start panting, too. This is an issue that commonly accompanies overheating. But, dogs can become dehydrated even if it's snowing outside! It all comes down to their water intake.
Pups who don't drink a ton of water are more susceptible to the effects of dehydration. Maybe you took your dog to the park at a time they're not used to going. So, they didn't drink any water beforehand.
With dehydration comes a lot of potentially dangerous symptoms. Your pup may become weak and lethargic. In bad cases, they could even pass out.
With dehydrated panting, you might see your dog's tongue wagging in the wind. Use this is a sign and take action as soon as possible!
What You Can Do
It's important to act immediately if you suspect that dehydration is to blame for your dog's panting. Give them access to clean water.
If your dog is unwilling to drink, take a trip to the vet immediately. Many diseases can cause dehydration. There are even some ailments that will make your dog less inclined to drink water. Your vet will help diagnose the problem so that you can address it.
If push comes to shove, your vet can also rehydrate your dog intravenously.
#3. Bodily Pain
Sometimes, panting is simply a sign that your canine companion is in pain. Think of it like grimacing or labored breathing in humans. When we are dealing with ongoing pain, we tend to pant and have strange behaviors, too.
You can sometimes identify this kind of panting by monitoring your dog's behavior. It may occur in waves.
Alternatively, the panting may look more like labored breathing than standard heat-related panting. For example, the tongue could remain inside the mouth while your dog's eyes are shut in pain.
Several conditions could cause this behavior. It could be a physical injury that you didn't immediately notice. Older dogs are prone to tearing ligaments in their knee for example. Your pooch could have made its way to the car before the pain set in.
If you don't see any physical harm, it could be an internal problem. Inflammatory bowel disease, parasitic infections, and bloat are known to cause ongoing pain. This pain could make it difficult for your dog to breathe, resulting in panting.
What You Can Do
Don't disregard the panting if you think that your dog is in pain. Take it as an early sign that you need to investigate further. Visit your vet! Your vet is the only one who can properly diagnose your dog.
From there, you can work out treatment plans and finally give your dog the relief he or she needs.
#4. Motion Sickness
Did you know that dogs can suffer from motion sickness? It's pretty common with puppies! Most adult dogs grow out of it. But if your pup isn't used to taking trips in the car, they could very well get motion sick.
Motion sickness is not a comfortable feeling. It can cause nausea in dogs, which eventually leads to vomiting. The continual rocking of the car paired with the fast-moving sights outside is the perfect recipe for motion sickness.
What You Can Do
There are a few ways to address motion sickness. The easiest option is to block out your dog's view of the outside world. In most cases, motion sickness is caused by a lack of effective communication between what your dog is seeing and what they're feeling in the inner ear.
It's the same thing with humans. However, we can take steps to minimize the effects. Dogs cannot!
Consider putting your dog in a plastic kennel. Cover the sides with a blanket to create a dark safe space. Your pup will still feel the effects of the car moving from side to side. Hopefully, blocking the view will prevent any nauseous feeling.
Most dogs will get more comfortable with car rides as they get older. The more you expose your pup to that experience, the better.
#5. Pure Discomfort
It might not be motion sickness that's the issue. Rather, your dog could just be uncomfortable in your back seat! Let's face it: backseats are not exactly the most effective riding spot for dogs. Ideally, you should be putting them in a separate kennel for safety.
However, most owners will simply let their dogs ride in the back seat. The awkward shape of the bench-style seating makes it difficult for dogs to sit normally. This is especially true for larger pups.
They can't exactly sit up. Most can't even curl up without hanging off the seat! The frustration and pure discomfort of the ride could be causing your dog to pant!
What You Can Do
There's not much that you can do to provide immediate relief other than placing them in a more comfortable area. If you have a larger cargo area, consider letting your dog sit there.
The area is more secure and has more square footage to get comfortable.
That said, the best option would be to use a crate! An appropriately sized kennel already has the room for your dog to get comfortable. Confining their movement not only keeps them safer, but it forces them into a seated position.
Finally, your dog could be panting out of anxiety. Dogs can be a bit dramatic with how they experience emotions. Stress and anxiety for canines are much more laborious emotions with dogs. They have physical reactions to those feelings.
Dogs that aren't used to car rides will exhibit this behavior. It's a brand-new experience that's both terrifying and exciting!
All of a sudden, they're whirring past all of these new places and smells! It's an overwhelming experience that will send any mild-mannered dog into a tizzy!
What You Can Do
Positive reinforcement is key here. If your dog is feeling uneasy riding in your car, take some time to show them that there's nothing to be afraid of. Slow down a bit and avoid any jarring movements.
Try to take small trips with your dog here and there. Over time, they will become desensitized to the experience and learn to love it!
Panting in the car is normal behavior for dogs. But, that doesn't mean that you should ignore it! We all want our dogs to stay healthy and happy. Knowing how to read between the lines and understand your dog's panting will give you the tools you need to make them feel at ease.
Also Read: When Do Puppies Calm Down?