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Why is My Dog Panting and Restless?

When your dog is panting and restless, it can cause you great distress. Most often, panting and an inability to settle are signs of anxiety in a dog. If your dog is typically a contented little soul, panting and restlessness could indicate your dog is suffering with pain or a more serious health issue such as congestive heart failure, Cushing’s disease, or laryngeal paralysis. Though seeing your dog in this state can be quite upsetting for you; most typically, dog panting and restlessness can be attributed to something that is normal or that can be resolved.

In this article, we will explore reasons why a dog may be panting and restless and what health conditions could be contributing to these issues.

Is Dog Panting Normal?

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Dogs pant on a regular basis as part of their everyday life. Panting, in and of itself, is not a cause for concern. It is considered to be normal behavior. When it’s hot outside or your dog is highly stimulated or even when experiencing some pain, it is not uncommon for your dog to pant.

During the heat of the summer months, nearly every dog you encounter will be panting at some point in their day. Dogs do not contain sweat glands like humans do, and thus, panting is their means of cooling down their bodies.

In addition to this, our dogs’ paws allow for the release of some sweat to help their bodies to return to a normal temperature and reduce the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Because releasing heat from the body through the paw pads is an inefficient means to cool down a dog, the dog pants to regulate its body temperature more quickly.

When a dog pants, it allows moisture to evaporate from surfaces such as the tongue, mouth, and throat. Panting is not the ideal means a dog can utilize to cool itself since their bodies naturally retain heat, making it harder for them to release it. Still, in combination with the heat loss from the paw pads on the feet, this is the best method a dog has for cooling itself down.

Dog breeds known for short noses, also referred to as brachycephalic dogs like the Pug, the Bulldog, and the Pekingese, pant more frequently than other breeds with different facial conformation. Because brachycephalic breeds have short airways, it is more difficult for them to cool their bodies without panting more heavily. Because of the unique construction of their faces, nasal passages, and shorter airways, short-nosed breeds are also more susceptible to frequent bouts of reverse sneezing.

In areas of the world known for high humidity, many dogs will pant more frequently. Overheating can rapidly occur in extremely humid conditions, meaning it is important for you to carefully observe your dog when outdoors in the heat and bring them in if showing signs of excessive panting.

If you notice your dog is panting heavily and the weather conditions are not hot and humid, a more serious problem may be at play. Most often, panting that is outside the norm will be accompanied by other symptoms including restlessness and pacing.

Why is My Dog Panting?

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Panting, on its own, is less concerning that when it is accompanied by other symptoms. If your dog is both panting and restless, there may be more going on with your dog than what meets the eye. Frantic panting is a very strong indication that something more serious is at play, and veterinary assistance is required. Though pacing often is more often associated with dogs that are experiencing emotional distress, pacing coupled with panting may convey a dog that is in pain and unable to find relief from its suffering when still.

Typically speaking, panting and restlessness are characteristics displayed by a dog struggling with anxiety or stress. These feelings can come from many different external stimuli including the following:

  • Noise
  • Their environment
  • Unusual smells
  • Separation anxiety

Dogs that are extremely anxious may exhibit other symptoms with their panting and restlessness such as whining, shaking, barking, and loss of bladder control. If anxiety is the reason for your dog’s panting and restless behavior, your dog will most often look to you for comfort. To gain your attention, your dog may place its paws on you while continuing to pant and seek your protection from the stimulus that is causing them to feel distressed. Most often, panting and restlessness associated with anxiety is exhibited during the daytime hours.

Why is My Dog Panting at Night?

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There are many possible reasons why a dog might be panting at night. One of the most common possibilities for this behavior is Canine Cognitive Disorder, a health condition that often affects senior dogs. Canine Cognitive Disorder can make sleeping very difficult for your dog, leading to aimless pacing and heavy panting through all hours of the night when you are trying to sleep. Dogs suffering with Canine Cognitive Disorder are also deeply sensitive to loud noises and changes of routine.

If your dog is unable to settle at night and accompanies its pacing with heavy panting, here are some of the common causes that may be to blame:

Heart Disease

Since heart disease affects the cardiovascular system, panting is a commonly seen side effect in dogs. In addition to panting and restlessness, dogs with heart disease may cough, have poor energy levels, and will tire very easily. In general, your dog will lack the ability to participate in the things that it loves most about life.

There are many different heart conditions that present with panting and restlessness including arrythmias and valve disorders.

Cushing’s Disease

When the body releases too much cortisol into the blood flow, the dog develops Cushing’s Disease. There are many different reasons why a dog may be affected by this condition, so it is best to rely on your veterinarian’s advice as to what the root cause might be and how to fix it. Panting alone is not sufficient evidence to yield a diagnosis of Cushing’s. Other symptoms seen in dogs with this hormone disorder are great thirst, increased urination, hair loss, and a tummy resembling a pot belly.

In many cases, Cushing’s Disease is diagnosed in a dog’s senior years. Bloodwork can provide an appropriate assessment as to whether or not your dog is affected by Cushing’s.

Canine Cognitive Disorder

Canine Cognitive Disorder or Dysfunction, sometimes called simply CCD, most often affects older dogs. It is essentially a form of canine dementia. Chemical changes impact the brain function, leading to erratic and unusual behavior in your dog. Over time, Canine Cognitive Disorder erodes memory, brain function, and motor skills. The degradation is gradual but constant.

Unfortunately, at present, there is no cure for this disease. Among the signs a dog is affected by Canine Cognitive Disorder are confusion, fear, anxiety, wariness, and extreme sensitivity. Panting and restlessness are often among the first symptoms you will see in a dog affected by CCD.

Digestion Problems

Dogs can suffer from a wide range of digestive issues that may make it difficult for them to find a comfortable place to rest. Among the gastrointestinal problems that may lead to panting and pacing are irritation of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, and colon, and many different types of cancers. In addition to panting and restlessness, your dog may vomit, drool, eat grass, lick themselves excessively, or increase their water intake.

Neurological/Back Pain

Intervertebral Disc Disease, or a slipped disc, is a common problem that can affect dogs of all ages and sizes. This medical condition can vary in severity and at its worst can be very painful. Dogs affected by this problem often pant and display an inability to settle due to the pain they are experiencing.

Bladder Issues

As dogs age, they become more susceptible to bladder issues such as infections and stones. Restlessness is a very common symptom of dogs suffering from these bladder problems. Among the other signs you will see in dogs affected by bladder-related conditions are incontinence in the home, excessive thirst, an increase in urination, straining to urinate, an unpleasant urine smell, and blood in the urine.

Anemia

When a dog’s body lacks sufficient red blood cells, the dog becomes anemic. Without the correct amount of red blood cells in the body, the dog’s vital organs become oxygen deprived, leading to panting and restlessness.

Medication Side Effects

Drug side effects can also be to blame for restlessness and heavy panting. In rare cases, some dogs will take an allergic reaction to prescription drugs that will result in difficulty breathing and pacing. Among the prescription medications that can have unpleasant side effects for some dogs are corticosteroids, opioids, anti-seizure drugs, NSAIDs, sedatives, and antihistamines.

Respiratory Disease

There are many different respiratory issues that could result in heavy panting and restlessness. Two of the prime conditions evidenced by these symptoms are collapsed trachea and laryngeal paralysis. As with most respiratory conditions, other symptoms will accompany the panting and inability to settle.

General Pain

Sometimes, it isn’t a disease or illness that is causing your dog to pant and pace. Your dog may simply be struggling with pain. This pain can be from many different sources including injuries, wounds, and even old age-related problems such as arthritis and joint pain.

Stress, Nervousness, and Fear

Stress, nervousness, and fear often result in panting and restlessness in dogs. To alleviate this problem for your dog, you must find the source of what is causing these negative emotions then eliminate the trigger or desensitize your dog to it if possible.

The symptoms of anxiety include heavy panting, drooling, trembling, pacing, restlessness, whining, barking, howling, incontinence, digging, escape attempts, excessive self-grooming, sleepless nights, and property destruction.

How Can I Help My Dog with Panting and Restlessness?

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Once you have determined why your dog is panting, you can then help your dog find relief from it. If your dog’s restlessness and panting stems from high heat and humidity, removing your dog from the hot weather conditions is an excellent first step. If after doing so; your dog is still panting very heavily, it is possible your dog is succumbing to heatstroke. To help prevent this from occurring in the feature, be certain your dog has access to a plentiful supply of clean drinking water at all times.

For panting as a result of stress, anxiety, or fear, your best course of action is consulting a professional dog trainer who can assist you with safely employing behavior modification techniques. If you have determined that your dog’s panting and inability to settle is not related to anxiety or to heat, it is time to make an appointment to visit your vet for your dog to undergo a thorough veterinary assessment. Sometimes, there is no obvious reason, and you need medical assistance to help find the health problem contributing to your dog’s heavy breathing.

My Dog Won’t Stop Panting, Do I Need to Call My Vet?

If your dog is panting relentlessly in spite of all of your best efforts to help it find relief, veterinary assistance is required. When it comes to panting and restless behavior, it is better to make that call and discover your concerns were unfounded than to allow the panting to continue and find a serious health problem is at play. Often, there is an underlying cause that only your veterinarian will be able to determine and treat.

How Can I Tell the Difference Between Normal and Abnormal Panting?

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The best way to determine the difference between normal and abnormal panting is to take your dog’s vital statistics when at rest. Begin by counting the number of breaths your dog takes in a minute. It is important to do this when your dog is resting and has not recently engaged in vigorous amounts of activity as this will give you an accurate baseline measurement.

Most dogs take 15 to 20 breaths per minute. If your dog is breathing as much as 35 to 40 times per minute, you need to contact your veterinarian right away. To help restore your dog’s breathing to a healthier rate, move the dog to an area of the home that is cool and that offers excellent ventilation.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke, time is of the essence. Do not attempt to restore your dog’s breathing to normal on your own. Immediate medical attention is required.

Other signs of abnormal dog panting include:

  • Forced breaths
  • Labored breaths
  • High-pitched breaths
  • Vocalizations with breaths
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Drooling
  • Excessive licking
  • Whining
  • Vomiting
  • Hiding
  • Shaking
  • Retreating
  • Shutting down

Why is my dog panting and restless? There are lots of reasons why your dog’s breathing may be accelerated and they are unable to settle. If your dog isn’t overheated or suffering from stress or anxiety, it’s best to head to your veterinarian for a thorough assessment to rule out an injury, illness, or more serious medical condition. Though most often, heavy panting is not of great concern, it is better to be safe than sorry and consult a professional if you have any doubt.

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