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Why Is My Shih Tzu Panting? 8 Likely Reasons

Gregory Iacono

By Gregory Iacono

Shih Tzu Showing Teeth

When we see a dog pant, most of us pay no mind because it’s something all dogs do and is considered completely normal, like playing fetch or barking at squirrels. Because dogs have very few sweat glands, panting is one of several methods they use to cool off when they’re too hot. Since Shih Tzus are brachycephalic dogs that often have difficulty breathing, they tend to pant a little bit more than other breeds.

However, there are a few other reasons that your Shih Tzu might be panting, and some aren’t as wholesome. If your Shih Tzu seems to be panting when it’s not hot, panting more often than normal, or making more noise than usual when they pant, it could be a sign they’re suffering from something other than being too hot. Read on to learn about the seven likely reasons your Shih Tzu might be panting.

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The 8 Likely Reasons Your Shih Tzu Is Panting

1. Your Shih Tzu Is Too Hot

The main reason that all dogs pant is to cool off on a hot day. Dogs only have sweat glands in their ears and paws, which are not enough to cool them off. By opening their mouth and sticking out their tongue, the moisture on your Shih Tzu’s tongue and mouth evaporates, which helps them cool off.

Panting like this is 100% normal and prevents them from overheating. Your dog’s breathing rate when panting is typically around 300 breaths per minute, about 10 times more than regular breathing.

Image Credit: Nikolay Tchaouchev, Unsplash

2. Something Exciting Is Happening Around Your Shih Tzu

If your Shih Tzu is excited about something that’s happening in its environment, it will often begin to pant, even if it’s not hot. This behavior is normal and nothing to worry about, although you might not want your Shih Tzu to get overexcited since many already have difficulty breathing.

3. Your Shih Tzu Is Suffering From Heat Stroke

If your Shih Tzu’s panting becomes extreme, it could mean they’re suffering from a life-threatening condition called heat stroke. Heat stroke is when a dog’s body reaches or exceeds 109 degrees Fahrenheit. When it does, rapid cell death is the result, as well as swelling of your dog’s brain, lack of blood supply to their GI tract, and dehydration.

These can cause seizures, ulcers, and irreparable kidney damage, and the combination can often be fatal. Some other outward signs your Shih Tzu is having a heat stroke are a bright red tongue and glazed eyes. If they’re showing these signs and panting much more than normal, cooling your Shih Tzu down quickly and correctly¹ is critical.

shih tzu lying outdoor
Image Credit: minimomo, Pixabay

4. Anxiety and Fear Are Overwhelming Your Shih Tzu

If for some reason, your Shih Tzu is panicky, anxious, or fearful, they will often start panting. This is called behavioral panting and is seen along with several other signs. Those include pacing around the room, yawning more than usual, whining, trembling, and, occasionally, losing control and having potty accidents.

Your Shih Tzu might also drool a lot and lick their lips excessively while they pant, all signs that something is stressing them out and making them scared.

5. Your Shih Tzu Is in Pain

If your Shih Tzu is in pain, it may pant before showing any other signs of distress, even before whimpering or limping. If your Shih Tzu is panting more than usual and everything else seems to be in order, check to see if they are hurt or injured.

veterinarian examining the heard of a shih tzu dog
Image Credit: Elayne Massaini, Shutterstock

6. Your Shih Tzu Is Stressed Out

Stress can cause your Shih Tzu to start panting. The source of the anxiety can include stormy weather, fireworks, home renovations, and a new dog being brought into the family. Having a safe space for your Shih Tzu during stressful times can be helpful, as well as simply holding them in your lap and speaking to them in a soothing voice.

7. A Disease Process Is Affecting your Shih Tzu

Several dog diseases can affect your Shih Tzu and cause them to pant more than usual as they process the disease in their body. A lung disease like pulmonary hypertension is possible, but one condition that affects small dogs like Shih Tzus is tracheal collapse, which is often seen in brachycephalic breeds. The best way to determine if a disease or other health condition is making your Shih Tzu pant is to have them examined by your veterinarian.

shih tzu on wooden bench
Image Credit: No-longer-here, Pixabay

8. Medication Is Causing Your Shih Tzu’s Panting

If your Shih Tzu has a condition that necessitates the use of some medications, those meds might be the reason they’re panting so much. The most common type of medication to cause a panting reaction is prednisone, which is a steroid given to dogs with immunity issues or skin allergies. Prednisolone and other steroids can also cause panting. If your Shih Tzu is on medications of any type and panting more often than usual, speak with your veterinarian to seek a solution.Divider 5

What Does Abnormal Panting Look Like in a Shih Tzu?

As a dog owner and pet parent, you’re probably used to seeing your Shih Tzu pant when it’s hot or when they exercise. The question, however, is how to determine if their panting is normal or if it’s a sign that something else is going on that needs your attention. Below are the most prominent signs that your Shih Tzu’s panting isn’t normal, and they might need veterinary help.

It’s Not Hot Inside or Outside

If your Shih Tzu is panting heavily and it’s not hot inside or out, it might be a sign that they’re suffering from one of the conditions and health problems above.

Close up White shih tzu laying on the floor
Image Credit: Sanyalux Srisurin, Shutterstock

Your Shih Tzu Is Resting

Typically, your Shih Tzu won’t be panting if they’re resting and relaxing (unless they’ve just stopped running around). If they are, and it continues to happen, you might want to take them to your vet for a check-up.

Your Shih Tzu’s Panting Sounds Raspy or Wheezy

Panting usually sounds like your dog is breathing quickly and nothing more. If you can hear your Shih Tzu’s panting and it sounds like someone using sandpaper or gasping for air, that’s a sign their panting is abnormal.

White Shih Tzu Puppy on Fabric Sofa Chair
Image Credit: Dominic Buccilli, Pexels

Their Gums Are Discolored

Discolored gums are one of the easiest signs to spot that your Shih Tzu’s panting isn’t normal. The discoloration, usually blue, purple, or white, is generally caused by a lack of oxygen in their blood. If this is the case, your Shih Tzu will pant more because panting oxygenates their blood.

Their Panting is More Intense than Normal

If your precious puppy is suddenly panting much more than usual, it could be a sign that something is amiss and needs to be checked out.

shih tzu with tongue out
Image Credit: Michael Mong, Shutterstock

Your Shih Tzu seems Lethargic or Unresponsive

Lethargy is when your dog has so little energy that they don’t want to move, play, or even eat. If your Shih Tzu is lethargic or unresponsive while panting, it is recommended to take them to your vet immediately.Divider 5

Final Thoughts

Panting is 100% normal for a Shih Tzu and because they are a brachycephalic breed that sometimes has difficulty breathing, they may pant more than other dog breeds. However, sometimes panting isn’t normal and is caused by an underlying factor that needs to be attended to. If you believe your Shih Tzu’s panting is abnormal and you’re unsure what to do, contact your veterinarian immediately.


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Featured Image Credit: Marissa B., Shutterstock

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