It's normal for dogs to pant while actively exercising or on a hot day. If your dog is panting at night, there could be an underlying health condition. Here, our Egg Harbor Township vets discuss the common causes of nighttime panting in dogs and when you should bring them to the vet.
Just as people sweat, dogs regulate their body temperature by panting, making it a completely normal bodily process for our canine companions. On the other hand, if your dog is panting at night (especially when there is no obvious cause for their distress) it can be worrying and could indicate a problem.
Causes of Panting in Dogs
There are various situations where you shouldn't be worried about your dog's panting, like after a long walk in humid weather, an energetic play session, or excitement. Panting and restless behavior (e.g. pacing) in mild/ideal weather conditions or at night when it is cooler, could indicate a more serious issue. Here are some potential causes for excessive panting and heavy breathing in dogs that require veterinary care:
- Cushing’s Disease. This is when there is too much cortisol built up in the bloodstream. In addition to panting, other symptoms of Cushing's Disease in dogs include increased thirst, increased hunger, frequent urination, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance. This problem is common in senior dogs and is often the cause of abnormal heavy panting.
- Respiratory disease. Respiratory disease affects your dog's ability to breathe, making it difficult for them to get the oxygen their bloodstream requires to travel throughout the body. A dog with respiratory issues might pant heavily or struggle to breathe after light exercise. If your dog's tongue is blue, purple, or grey and not pink, take them to the vet immediately for treatment because your pooch may be experiencing oxygen deprivation.
- Heart disease. Excessive panting and coughing can be a symptom of heart disease or failure, which can have a serious impact on your dog's ability to breathe. In these cases, you may notice your dog panting heavily after a short walk.
- Heatstroke. In dogs, heatstroke is a serious issue that can have fatal consequences if it goes untreated. This condition becomes more probable in temperatures over 106°F (41°C) and causes heavy panting, which leads to dehydration. High temperatures are especially hard on short-nosed breeds like pugs, but you should never leave any dog alone in a car on warm days, as they can overheat and develop heatstroke quickly.
Why is My Dog Panting & Restless at Night?
Here are some other reasons why your dog may be panting and pacing at night:
- Stress or anxiety. This can be caused by upsetting events like loud thunderstorms, fireworks, or issues like separation anxiety.
- Environmental issues. Puppies and senior dogs have a harder time dealing with high nighttime temperatures, and dogs that have untreated allergies may experience disrupted sleep.
- Pain or Discomfort. Dogs suffering from pain after an injury or due to a health condition such as arthritis, might exhibit nighttime panting and/or pacing behaviors. (e.g. injury, arthritis, allergies)
- Canine Cognitive Disorder (dog dementia). Dogs affected by this disorder often have disturbed sleep-wake cycles and could exhibit excessive panting and restlessness.
When to Bring Your Dog to the Vet For Panting
If your dog is showing symptoms of excessive nighttime panting, pacing, or other anxious behaviors, reach out to your vet to see if they recommend bringing your pooch in for an exam. If you spot any signs of heatstroke in your dog, immediately bring them to your vet or to a nearby after-hours emergency animal clinic to get urgent veterinary care. Your veterinarian will examine your canine companion, perform any necessary diagnostic tests and treatment procedures, and work with you to help your dog feel better.