A question many parents of senior dogs ask is “why does my dog pant so much?”
They realise panting is normal, but they aren’t sure if what they’re seeing in their dog is excessive, and if yes what it means.
Why dogs pant
Dogs don’t sweat like we do, so they pant in order to cool off and regulate body temperature.
So when is it a concern?
When he’s panting for no reason, and when he sounds different than normal.
Causes of panting
There are lots of reasons why dogs pant, some expected, others more serious.
We know dogs can’t sweat, we know they pant to regulate body temperature, so it could simply be a matter of them being hot. Perhaps it’s warm in the house and they’re feeling it. Maybe they’ve walked a bit too far, or been running in the fields and haven’t had enough water to drink, or are in a car without air conditioning.
Suffering from heatstroke
Beyond being hot on a summer’s day, there’s heatstroke. A dog suffering from heatstroke may still be panting even when resting. An emergency trip to the vet is in order. Avoid going for walks during the hottest part of the day, and keep them shorter. Walk in the shade when possible, and stop for water breaks.
Excitement can cause panting in dogs of any age, but seeing as older dogs can be more reactive to excitement and adrenaline, they may be more prone to panting as a result.
Congestive heart failure
The most serious condition that causes excessive panting is congestive heart failure. My senior dog Red has a few heart problems, so I’m always on alert if she starts to pant for no apparent reason. In her case if she pants due to prolonged stress, like being restrained for a test at the vet, her tongue will turn blue. Obviously we avoid those scenarios, or keep them as short as possible. Luckily it’s a rare occurrence.
- Build up of fluid in the lungs
- Bronchitis or pneumonia
Obesity is not limited to senior dogs, and can cause panting in dogs of any age. What if your senior obese dog has heart issues you may not be aware of? This is a potentially life threatening situation, so call your vet immediately and voice your concerns.
Even if your dog has no heart issues but is panting simply because he is overweight, he needs help starting right now.
- Cut out the fattening treats and replace them with fruits or vegetables such as: banana, apple or carrot
- Take an honest look at the amount of food you’re putting in his bowl, and reduce it, at least a little bit
- No feeding table scraps, and make sure you tell everyone the new rule
Once you see your vet, he will advise you on the safest route to weight loss, and recommend appropriate exercises
Some medications such as steroids
Doggie dementia can cause panting due to confusion or a lot of pacing
Your dog may be suffering from arthritis for example
- Fear of thunderstorms
- Separation anxiety
- Failing eyesight or hearing
What do you do now?
Make an appointment to see your vet. Explain your concerns over the phone, and try and get in to see your vet sooner rather than later. If your dog’s panting is particularly worrying, please don’t be shy about asking for an appointment that day. You know your dog better than anyone, and if you’re worried you need to explain the sense of urgency. Early diagnosis increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.
Why does my dog pant so much – conclusion
You know your dog best, so you will know what is “normal” and what is cause for concern. When dealing with senior dogs, particularly those with other health concerns, it is never a good idea to adopt a “wait and see” attitude.