Although panting during a warm day or while playing fetch is normal for dogs, excessive panting at night can be a cause for concern. Today, our vets in O’Fallon will discuss the signs, treatments, and when it is necessary to take your dog to the vet.

Dogs pant as a way to regulate their body temperature, just like humans sweat. This is entirely normal. However, if a dog begins to pant at night without any apparent cause, it may be a sign of distress.

Why is my dog panting so much?

In a number of circumstances, there's no cause for alarm if your dog is panting, for example, after a long walk in wet weather, an energetic play session, or a moment of excitement. Panting and restlessness (such as pacing) in mild or ideal weather or at night when it's cooler may indicate something more serious. Here are some of the possible reasons for excessive panting:

  • Cushing's Disease. This is when the bloodstream has a buildup of too much cortisol. Along with panting, other symptoms of Cushing's Disease in dogs include an increase in thirst, increased hunger, frequent urination, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance. This issue is commonly seen in senior dogs and is often one of the reasons for abnormal heavy panting.
  • Respiratory disease. Respiratory issues impact your dog's ability to breathe, making it hard for them to receive the oxygen their bloodstream needs to carry throughout their body. A dog with respiratory issues might pant heavily or struggle to breathe after even light exercise. If you notice your canine companion's tongue is no longer a healthy pink but instead blue, purple, or grey, head to the vet immediately for treatment; your dog may be experiencing oxygen deprivation.
  • Heart disease. Excessive panting and coughing can be heart disease or failure symptoms, impacting your dog's ability to breathe. In these cases, you may notice your dog panting heavily after walking for a short distance.
  • Heatstroke. Heatstroke in dogs is a serious issue and can have fatal consequences if left untreated. Heatstroke in dogs is more likely 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 must never leave a dog of any breed alone in a car in warm weather, as they can overheat or suffer from heatstroke quickly.

Why is my dog panting at night?

Here are some common reasons why dogs pant and become restless during the night:

  • Stress or anxiety. Upsetting events like loud thunderstorms or fireworks, or issues like separation anxiety can cause this.
  • 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 shows signs of excessive nighttime panting, pacing, or other anxious behaviors, it's best to get in touch with your vet immediately to find out whether they should see your dog. If you notice any symptoms of heatstroke in your dog, it's important to take them for urgent veterinary care during clinic hours, or treatment after hours at a nearby emergency veterinary hospital. Your veterinarian will examine your furry friend, perform any necessary diagnostic and treatment procedures, and work with you to help your dog feel better today and tomorrow.

Are you concerned that your dog is panting excessively at night? Don't hesitate to contact our O’Fallon veterinarian team for information and treatment options.