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.
I do hope this post has answered your question “why does my dog pant so much” and if you have any comments or experiences to share, please leave them in the section below, or on my Facebook page.
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Rebecca at MattieDog
Great article – and it is so very important to monitor a pup’s panting, particularly as they get older. Little differences, including if the panting has wheezing, etc., included indicate different things. I just love how you carefully watch over Red and share your journeys – such incredible devotion and love (going both ways)!
Hi Rebecca, thanks very much. Absolutely, it’s important to watch out for not only an increase in panting, but changes in sounds etc… That’s so kind of you to say. I share when I can in order to help people see just because a dog is older, blind or has health issues, they are still important members of the family and should be included, not left behind. She did pick me at the shelter, the least I can do is live up to her expectations!!
My dog is 14yr old.golden retreiver/shepard.
He has long blonde hair. In the last few years I have had to have him shaved down as low as possible.
I guess his long hair makes him too hot.
I say that bc when hes near bald he doesnt pant nearly as much.
So winter or summer he needs to be bald.
I have dog sweaters for him bc I live in the northeast and winters are freezing.
Dog sweaters and coats are the best, they helped my dog as well. I assume you’ve had the vet check to see if he has any heart issues?
Rasta, my 14 yr old Chocolate Standard Poodle is panting a lot. Last week we had a full chemistry panel completed. Kidneys are 2 out of 4 concerning failure. He is stable. Last yr. I knew of his kidneys as well. However, he has sebaceous cysts that will ooze. Last year a large cyst on his tail burst and was removed. Non cancerous. Surgery none the less. He did well. He has lost 6 pounds since Feb 2019, however, is happy, eyes bright and likes his walks and car drives. He appear well but….he has difficulty getting up and down and is unstable. I help him in the car. He can get out on his own. Listing all of this in writing creates self awareness that I may not have, much more time with Rasta. It breaks my heart. I love him so. I give tumeric, kreel, senior holistic vitamins and minerals and cook his meals: fish, veggies over dry Senior Solid Solid kibble now I have added CBD oil. Rasta follows me around, as if he too knows, we haven’t much more time together. My heartbreaks.
Hello Janet, thank you for your comment and I’m sorry to hear about Rasta’s struggles. I can relate! Six pounds is a lot, is he not eating as well as he used to? There are a few reasons for panting, one of them being pain and you did say he has mobility issues. Has your vet actually said he has arthritis? I noticed you give him CBD oil which could help, but what about some pain relief medication? Acupuncture and laser therapy are other additions you can make to his treatment protocol, after speaking with your vet. Let me know what he says.