Why Do Dogs Pant in the Car?

It’s always fun to bring your dog with you anywhere you go. They make great company whether you are at home or traveling. 

But some dogs hate car rides. They pant during road trips and show signs of fear and anxiety.

Why do dogs pant in the car? 

We break down the reasons for dogs panting in the car and how to best calm them down.

We also share how to identify panting in dogs and how to stop dog motion sickness.

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Dogs pant in the car

What is Dog Panting?

Panting in dogs is defined as a moderate to fast open-mouthed respiration that lowers their body temperature and helps them get oxygen.

The oxygen that they inhale from panting moves into their bloodstream. 

Panting is usually normal among our furry friends because it’s an effective way to cool themselves since they do not have the same sweat glands that we do. 

To stay cool, dogs evaporate moisture from their mouth and tongue. They also switch hot air with cooler air.

Panting usually occurs in cars, but dogs will do it anywhere and anytime. After a long walk in the park, during their sleep, or while you have guests over at home.

Why Do Dogs Pant in the Car?

There are several reasons why dogs pant in the car all the time. Here are the most common causes.

Panting from Pain or Discomfort

Your dog is likely to pant in the car out of pain or discomfort. In fact, panting, whether in the car or not, is a symptom of pain in dogs.

If your dog reaches a certain level of discomfort, they will start panting. Remember that this is not always the case because panting is normal when dogs feel hot.

This panting becomes more intense as they feel more uncomfortable. 

If your dog has eaten something they don’t usually eat before the car ride and they start panting, it can be an allergic reaction.

It can also be an allergic reaction to a topical substance they have encountered.

Car Sickness

Car sickness can be classified under pain or discomfort, but we made a separate section for it because of how common this case is.

Car sickness shows itself in panting, excessive drooling, and even vomiting. It’s common among puppies, although they usually grow out of it.

Puppies are more likely to experience this because they are too small to see the window, therefore worsening their feeling.

Talk to your vet about it so they can recommend medications and supplements that can treat car sickness.

You can also avoid car sickness by not feeding them one hour before the car ride. 

They are Hot

Your dog might be panting in the car because they feel hot inside your car. Even if your dog is fit for the tropical weather, they may still feel uncomfortable during the heat.

No matter if they are sleek or short-haired, they still get hot! Dogs have a higher average body temperature than humans, so they overheat more quickly.

If your dog doesn’t feel nervous during car rides, then they are panting to ask you to roll down the windows. Or they want you to turn up the air conditioner. 

Heatstroke is one of the deadliest threats of summer to your pooch, so always keep them cool!

Panting Due to Stress

Does your dog hate car rides? If yes, then they are probably panting due to stress. 

This stress has nothing to do with feeling hot or being in pain. They simply don’t feel emotionally okay inside the car. 

This means that they pant out of excitement, fear, or stress. 

And it is not a good type of excitement! The new view and different scents they smell can result in over-stimulation. They also get overwhelmed by the sound of the engine and people.

Aside from riding the car, fireworks, being left alone, trips to the vet, having guests at home, and triggering objects and sounds can lead to panting due to stress.

Other signs of stress in dogs include:

  • ears down
  • head turned away
  • hiding
  • no eye contact
  • shivering
  • tail down or tucked between their legs.

Travel anxiety usually develops due to motion sickness. Your dog probably associates car rides with that feeling, so they get stressed the moment they hop in your car.

My Dog Suddenly Pants in the Car

If your dog used to act normally during car rides but suddenly pants now, some anxiety or trauma may have developed. 

Have they experienced a car accident recently? It’s possible that their latest experience in the car led them to their newfound hatred for road trips.

They might have experienced injuries from previous car rides too. Bumpy roads can make sore joints hurt more.

It is also possible that you came across loud sirens or fireworks before, which caused their anxiety-induced panting.

How to Identify Panting in Dogs

How do you know if your dog’s panting is normal or not? 

First, know the normal breathing rate. At rest, dogs breathe at 10 to 40 breaths per minute. 

Once it exceeds 40 breaths per minute, it means they are already panting. But do not panic because it is usually normal!

If your dog does not show other signs of sickness, then they just might be cooling themselves.

Always check if it is too hot for your dog. Make sure they are comfortable and safe wherever they are.

Panting vs. Labored Breathing

As mentioned, you should not panic right away when you see your dog panting. So, when does panting become abnormal?

Panting becomes a cause of concern when it is paired with crying, whining, wheezing or whistles from their nose. This is also referred to as labored breathing.

There is no exact information on how many breaths per minute it takes for painting to become abnormal, so just watch out for the signs mentioned.

Panting in the car is not an issue if they do not seem to have trouble breathing. You also don’t have to worry if they are not vomiting

But it is also important to get your dog to the nearest vet before the painting becomes worse. 

How to Stop Your Dog from Panting in the Car

If your dog keeps panting in the car, here are some ways to calm them down.

Comfort Your Dog

Train your dog to behave well during car rides or let them take anxiety treatment before going for a car trip. Training must be done gradually.

You can medicate your dog but talk to your vet about the best medication for dog anxiety before administering anything to your pup. 

Sedioso Stuffed Dog Toys, Tug of War Plush Dog Toy for Large Breed, Cute Donkey Squeaky Dog Toys, Dog Chew Toys for Puppy, Small, Middle, Big Dogs

Another way to comfort your dog during car rides is by providing them with their favorite toy. Silent plush toys, like Sedioso Stuffed Dog Toy, are the most recommended.

This toy is made of natural cotton which is durable and safe for heavy chewers. It also has another waterproof layer, preventing your dog’s saliva from getting inside.

Hugs, kisses, and pats on the head may also help so your dog can focus on you instead of the car ride. Be careful not to overdo it as you might only reinforce their anxious behavior.

Provide Water

On long car rides, make sure your dog stays hydrated with fresh water.

They need water to beat the heat, especially if it’s a hot day. Water is also necessary, so they stay calm during stressful situations.

Use Dog Pheromones

Dog pheromones mimic the odor of a nursing mother dog. It aids in relaxation, even among adult dogs

These pheromones are available as collars, diffusers, and sprays.

Try Adaptil Calming Spray for dogs. It is proven by vets to reduce fear and anxiety. This drug-free product also allows your dog to focus during training sessions. 

ADAPTIL Spray 60 mL – Calms & Comforts Dogs During Travel, Veterinary Visits and Stressful Events - The Original D.A.P. Dog Appeasing Pheromone Spray (60mL Spray, 1-Pack)

The spray will last 4 to 5 hours and can be sprayed on your dog’s collars, jackets, leash, blankets, or bed.

Train Your Anxious Dog

Training is a long-term way to stop your dog from panting in the car. But take note that this is only applicable to anxiety-induced panting.

Some dogs pant in the car because they feel nauseous, or they have an underlying medical problem.

Training also helps your dog to see you as the pack leader. One method to try is counter-conditioning. 

Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Natural Soft-Moist Training Dog Treats, Beef Recipe 19-oz Bag

For this, you will need treats and your car. Try Blue Buffalo Blue Bits for travel-friendly, healthy, and moist training treats!

Let your dog get into the car on their own terms. Start by giving your dog basic commands or playing with them near the vehicle as you reward them with treats.

Every time they go near the car, give them treats until they feel more comfortable. Open the car door and reward them again.

If you notice signs of stress, get out of the car, or close the door again. Take small steps! 

Immediately give them a command when they jump inside the car so they will associate it with their action. Every time you say the command, they know what is expected of them. 

Repeat the same method for starting your engine until they feel safe and comfortable while the car is moving.

Calm an Excited Dog

If you dog pants due to excitement instead of anxiety, calm them down by only rewarding good behavior. 

Instead of trying to comfort them, do not interact with them in any way when they become hyperactive. Remember that negative attention is also attention.

Another difference is that treats are not required. Attention and being let outside are the rewards in training an excited dog.

As soon as they calm down, reward them with attention. You can also reward them by opening the car door so they can finally smell and run around the place.

Stay consistent so your dog will learn that they can only go outside the car when they stop panting out of excitement.

Check the Temperature in Your Car

Always check the weather outside and the temperature inside your car before taking them for a car ride. 

Dogs overheat quickly so never leave them alone inside the car. This can lead to serious illness or even death. 

Keep Your Dog in the Back Seat

Make sure your dog stays in the back seat so they feel comfier and safer. 

If you let them stay in the front seat, you’ll be distracted. They can also be injured by the safety bag if an accident occurs.

Give Them New Experiences

Your dog needs to be used to different experiences ever since puppyhood so they can manage new events with confidence and courage.

Aside from car rides, new parks, people, smells, and foods should be provided to them. 

Stop dog panting in car

How to Prevent Dog Motion Sickness

If your dog can’t seem to overcome their motion sickness, here are some tips that can help you:

  • Roll the windows down a few inches so that there is a balance between the air outside and the air inside. Many dogs do not like the air pressure inside the car.
  • Make sure your dog is facing forward. You can restrain them from facing other sides by putting them in a seatbelt. But don’t attach it to their collar!
  • Keep the AC on to prevent nausea and discomfort.
  • Feed them two to three hours before the car ride. You also want to limit the amount of food they eat to prevent them from feeling sick.
  • Exercise your dog regularly, especially before the trip.
  • Slow down your driving or gradually introduce them to the sensation one short car ride at a time.
  • Consult your vet about motion sickness treatments.

If your puppy continues to show symptoms of nausea, talk to your vet about it. They might be experiencing a more serious medical issue.

How to Keep Your Dog Safe Inside the Car

Aside from treating your dog’s motion sickness or anxiety during car rides, you also want to make sure they are secure.

Don’t put them in danger! Here are a few tips to keep them safe inside the car:

  • Buy a dog harness for the car since most cars are not designed with dogs in mind. 
  • Put your dog in a crate if they don’t experience anxiety or fear of car rides.
  • A plush carry box is suitable for small puppies who are scared of car rides.
  • You can also try using a back seat hammock if you have an older dog who needs to lie down and has a weak balance.
  • Keep the car well-ventilated since dogs can get hot.
  • Don’t let your dog hang out of the window because it can dry out their eyes and expose them to flying debris.

FAQ Dog Traveling and Stress

What is the Best Way to Travel with a Dog in a Car?

The best way to travel with a dog in the car is by purchasing a dog car seat or a doggy seat belt. This prevents them from moving too much when they are alone in the back of the car.

You can also train them to behave well in the car by taking them to the park to socialize and get them used to new environments.

This will allow them to calm down and get used easily to unfamiliar places during car rides.

We have more tips on how to travel with a dog in the car. Check them out now!

What Should I Give My Hyper Dog to Calm Down?

Dogs tend to get hyperactive in different situations other than car trips. They are excited and active, so they run around, explore, and chew on stuff.

Some of the things you can provide for your overly enthusiastic dog include natural foods and herbs like chamomile, oat, hemp.

You can also offer essential oils and flower essences. Just add a few drops to their drinking water or rub it on their gums.

Find out other home remedies for hyperactivity in dogs to keep them calm and composed.

How Else Can I Calm My Dog in a Car?

Dogs usually get scared of car rides because of unfamiliar places and previous negative experiences. 

For instance, the noises of the radio or the people walking outside can make them anxious. You are also putting them in the car you use for taking them to vets and groomers.

Some ways to calm your dog in the car include hugging them, offering treats, and wrapping them.

You also want to start car rides as early as possible.

There are many other ways to calm a dog in the car! Learn all about them in our guide.

Dog panting in the car

Teach Your Dog to Love Car Rides!

Dogs pant in the car for mental, emotional, or physical reasons. 

The amount of noise and smells they encounter can be stressful. Sometimes, they associate your car with negative experiences.

But there are also cases where dogs pant in the car because of motion sickness or more serious medical conditions.

Consult your vet if you notice signs of disease or injury aside from panting. 

But if they are simply enthusiastic about traveling, teach your over-excited dog to calm down.