Is your dog panting at night only? This could be a sign of an underlying health or behavioral complaint. Most dogs will pant when it’s hot or when they are playing during the day but panting in the night is far less common. In this article, we are going to explore the various reasons that your dog might be doing this and the things you can do to improve the situation.
So, if you are wondering why your dog is panting at night, then hopefully this article can help!
What is panting?
Panting is something that all normal dogs do on occasion, and is most often seen when they are hot or overexcited. Panting is your dog’s way of cooling down. Dogs are unable to sweat as we do and they are covered with a thick fur coat, so they need a way to lose excess body heat. Panting draws air over the tongue allowing heat and moisture to evaporate.
When your dog pants he will have his mouth open and will be rapidly breathing through it. His tongue will be sticking out and his breathing will be a bit more noisy than usual, though he shouldn’t look like he’s struggling. Many dogs will pant whilst they are playing and often have a happy, open-mouthed expression, along with relaxed body language.
Whilst we expect dogs to pant when they are hot or playing in the daytime, it can be a bit more unusual to see them panting in the evening.
Why do dogs pant at night?
If you are trying to find answers as to why my dog keeps panting at night, then read on to explore some of the many causes.
They are trying to cool down
If it’s a hot and humid evening, then your dog may simply be panting because he’s trying to cool down. This is more common in large or thick-coated dogs that struggle more in warm weather. You might notice your dog trying to lie on cool tiled floors or near an open door or window to further cool off.
In extreme cases, heatstroke could also cause your dog to pant excessively. This is more often seen in the heat of the day, or when the dog has been left somewhere overly warm, with no access to water. Heatstroke can be fatal, so if your dog is drooling excessively, seems disorientated, or is struggling to walk then call a veterinarian immediately.
Some dogs will pant excessively due to anxiety or stress. This behavioral panting usually accompanies other signs such as yawning, excessive lip licking, pacing, vocalization, and trembling. These dogs can also become destructive, chewing or digging things as a way of trying to deal with their anxiety. They may also toilet inappropriately.
This will be most commonly seen around nights when fireworks are going off, as many dogs have noise phobias. Some dogs with separation anxiety can also act like this, getting stressed when their pet parents aren’t close by. Working with a qualified pet behaviorist may be the best way of dealing with these issues before they get out of hand.
Dogs with a raised body temperature due to a fever will pant to try and lose heat. Fever (pyrexia) can be caused by several things, including –
- Infection – such as pyometra (womb infection), abscesses, tick-borne diseases, and pneumonia
- Immune-mediated – such as polyarthritis and certain types of meningitis
- Neoplastic (cancer) – for example, lymphoma or leukaemia
- Miscellaneous – conditions like pancreatitis and panosteitis
Dogs with a high body temperature require veterinary attention to try and work out what is going on. Sometimes diagnostic tests will be required to try and understand the cause.
Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome
Many flat-faced breeds struggle with their breathing. These brachycephalic dogs include pugs, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Pekingese. Many of these dogs suffer from brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS), which is a combination of structural issues that all impede the dog’s breathing.
These issues include small narrow nostrils, a more narrowed trachea (windpipe), overlong soft palate, and everted laryngeal saccules. Surgery can help these animals to a degree, but ultimately better breeding is required. These dogs are now bred for fashion, not function, meaning that many suffer from breathing difficulties causing them to pant. This can be even worse in warm weather, so try and keep your brachycephalic dog as cool as possible.
Many dogs will pant when they are in pain. Signs of discomfort can be quite subtle in animals but panting and restlessness can be a sign that things aren’t right. If your dog is struggling to sleep at night and he is panting, then he could be in pain. Common causes of subtle pain include joint diseases such as osteoarthritis or potentially more serious issues like cancer.
Your vet will help to determine the source of their discomfort and discuss treatment options with you. For animals with joint disease, providing them with a more padded bed at night could help, alongside pain relief and joint supplements.
Animals that are very overweight may pant excessively, even at night. They are more prone to overheating, and their excess weight also puts increased pressure on airways, causing them to pant more. Overweight dogs struggle to pump enough oxygen around effectively, so panting helps them to bring more into their body.
Being overweight also makes these animals more prone to other health complaints such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint disease. If you are unsure about how to tackle your pet’s weight issue, then speak with your veterinarian who should be able to help.
If your dog has underlying respiratory disease this could affect how much oxygen they can get into their bloodstream. This could mean your dog pants to get more oxygen. Other signs of respiratory disease include coughing, labored breathing with increased abdominal effort, noisy, crackly, or wheezing sounds, lethargy, and changes in appetite. There are many causes of respiratory disease in dogs, including conditions like pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, and cancer.
Dogs with heart complaints can pant at night. This occurs when they are trying to get more oxygen into their body. If their heart is struggling to pump blood effectively then oxygen levels around the body will fall, prompting your dog to pant to try and get more oxygen on board.
Other symptoms may be noticed if your dog is suffering from heart disease. Coughing, lethargy, more labored breathing, weakness, and fainting could be additional signs that your dog is struggling. Some heart complaints can be managed with medications if diagnosed early. Your vet may discuss diagnostic imaging with you, such as x-rays and ultrasound scans, as well as blood tests.
Your dog may pant during an allergic reaction. Dogs can react to insect bites and stings, or possibly to certain medications. Other symptoms might be noticed too, such as swelling or difficulty breathing. If your dog is struggling to breathe, then he could be in anaphylactic shock and needs to get to a veterinarian as soon as possible for medical attention.
Medication side effects
Some medications can cause dogs to pant. Many pet parents report that their dogs pant excessively on prednisolone, which is a type of glucocorticoid medication often used for its anti-inflammatory properties. Dogs can be on these steroid tablets for many reasons but most commonly for skin and ear complaints and autoimmune conditions like steroid-responsive meningitis arteritis. Some animals are on steroids as part of a chemotherapy protocol to help with their cancer treatment.
If you have concerns about your dog’s medication, you must always speak to your veterinarian for advice. Never just stop their tablets without checking with your vet first.
Certain hormonal conditions can cause dogs to pant excessively. The most common of these is Cushing’s disease (or hyperadrenocorticism), a condition where a mass in the adrenal or pituitary glands in the body causes an over-production of steroid hormones. This leads to an array of symptoms such as changes in thirst, thinning of the skin, and a pot-bellied appearance, as well as panting.
To diagnose this condition your vet will need to perform some blood tests. It can often be managed through medication, though occasionally surgery may be warranted.
If your dog is anemic, then he has a lack of red blood cells to carry oxygen around his body. This means he will attempt to compensate by trying to get more oxygen into his system another way, causing him to start panting. This will help him to get more air, and therefore oxygen into his body.
There are many different reasons why your dog might be anemic. Blood loss could occur from a large wound or trauma, a tumor that is bleeding internally, or because of poisoning from anti-coagulant rat bait (rodenticide). Anemia can also occur due to the red blood cells themselves becoming damaged from things like onion or garlic poisoning and autoimmune conditions. Your veterinarian may need to run some diagnostic tests to try and work out the cause of your dog’s anemia and treatment will depend on what is found.
Some animals can suffer from cognitive dysfunction with dementia-like symptoms. This is usually an age-related decline in brain function, leading to your pet starting to behave abnormally. Some dogs seem restless and wander around aimlessly. Others will become more vocal, barking and crying for no reason. They may forget where to find their food and water bowls and be unable to decide whether they want to be indoors or outdoors. For some dogs, panting may accompany these behaviors, which seem to become more obvious at night-time.
How do you stop a dog panting at night?
If you want to help stop your dog from panting at night, then you need to identify the underlying cause. If it’s not something obvious like stress related to fireworks or hot weather, then you might want to get your dog checked over by a veterinarian. They will be able to suggest the best course of action for your dog based on their findings.
Is it possible for a dog to pant for no reason?
There will usually be something that is triggering your dog to pant. If it’s not hot and the panting occurs at a time of day when your dog should be resting, then it could indicate an underlying issue. If you are concerned about your dog’s behavior, then get them checked over by a veterinarian.
Why does my pug pant all the time?
Unfortunately, brachycephalic breeds such as pugs often have problems with breathing and struggle to get enough oxygen into their bodies. Their flat faces, whilst endearing, hide multiple issues such as narrow nostrils, overlong soft palates, and narrowed tracheas (windpipes). This can mean they pant excessively as a way of coping with their impaired breathing.
There are several reasons, behavioral as well as medical, as to why your dog might be panting at night. It’s important to work out the underlying cause to treat him effectively, so a trip to your veterinarian might be warranted, especially if he is showing any other symptoms alongside the panting. If you are worried about your pet then always seek help – some conditions can be treated more effectively if they are seen promptly.