Panting during a warm day or while playing fetch is normal for dogs, but excessive panting at night can be cause for concern. Our Elk Grove vets discuss signs, treatments and when to go to the vet if your dog pants at night.
Similar to sweating in humans, panting is a normal bodily process for dogs and can be an effective way for them to regulate their body temperature. However, panting at night is a different matter — especially if there is no obvious reason for this to be occurring.
Why is my dog panting so much at night?
At times, a dog's panting is not cause for alarm, such as after a long walk on a warm spring day, excitement at reuniting with their owner after they've been away or a rigorous play session. Panting and restless behavior (e.g. pacing) in mild or ideal weather conditions or during the night when it is cooler, however, may be a symptom of a more serious health issue. Some potential reasons for excessive panting in dogs may include:
- Cushing’s Disease. This condition develops when too much cortisol accumulates in the bloodstream. In addition to panting, other symptoms of Cushing's Disease in dogs include increased hunger and thirst, hair loss, frequent urination, and a pot-bellied appearance. Senior dogs commonly experience this disease, which is often a cause of abnormal, heavy panting.
- Respiratory disease. Your dog's ability to breathe may be severely impacted by respiratory issues, which makes it difficult for them to receive the oxygen their bloodstream needs to carry through the body. A dog with respiratory issues may pant heavily or struggle to breathe after even light exercise. Have you noticed that your dog's tongue is not a healthy pink but instead grey, purple or blue? Go to the vet immediately for treatment; your dog may be suffering from oxygen deprivation.
- Heart disease. Excessive coughing and panting can be a symptom of heart disease or failure, which can seriously affect your dog's ability to breathe. In these circumstances, you may notice your dog panting heavily after walking even a short distance.
- Heatstroke. Left untreated, heatstroke in dogs can have fatal consequences and is more likely to occur in temperatures over 106°F (41°C). It causes heavy panting, which leads to dehydration. Short-nosed breeds like pugs are at increased risk for heatstroke in high temperatures. However, you must never leave a dog of any breed alone in a car in warm weather, as they can quickly overheat and suffer from heatstroke.
Why is my dog panting and restless at night?
Many concerned dog parents wonder, 'Why is my dog restless and panting at night?'. Here are some other common causes of this occurrence:
- Stress or anxiety. This can be caused by upsetting events like loud thunderstorms or fireworks, or issues like separation anxiety.
- Environmental issues. Puppies and senior dogs have a harder time coping with high nighttime temperatures, and dogs with untreated allergies often have disrupted sleep.
- Pain or Discomfort. Dogs experiencing pain from an injury or a condition such as arthritis may 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 may exhibit excessive panting and restlessness.
When should my dog see a vet?
If your dog exhibits symptoms of excessive nighttime panting, pacing, or other anxious behaviors get in touch with your vet to find out whether your dog should come in for a wellness exam. If you spot any signs of heatstroke in your dog, immediately take them for urgent veterinary care during clinic hours, or treatment after hours at a nearby emergency veterinary hospital. Your veterinarian will examine your canine companion, perform any necessary diagnostic and treatment procedures, and work with you to help your dog feel better today and tomorrow.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.