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What should I do if my dog pants at night?

If your dog is panting at night it could be nothing more than a normal cooling mechanism or it could be a sign of underlying health issues, anxiety, or environmental factors. Read on to learn more about the potential causes of night panting and possible solutions to help you and your canine companion enjoy restful nights.

Why is my dog panting at night?

Similar to how humans sweat, panting is a completely normal bodily process for dogs and it is an effective way to regulate their body temperature. However, panting at night is a different matter — especially when there's no clear reason for the dog's distress. 

Are there health problems that could cause my dog to pant at night?

Sometimes, your dog panting may be no cause for alarm, such as after a long walk on a summer's day, excitement at seeing their favorite human or an energetic play session. If your dog is panting and restless (e.g. pacing) on nights when the temperature is cool to ideal, it's time to head to the vet.

Some potential reasons why your dog might be restlessness and panting at night, include:

  • Heart Disease - Heart disease (or heart failure) is marked by symptoms such as coughing and excessive panting. This condition can severely impact your dog's ability to breathe. You may notice your dog panting heavily after walking only short distances. 
  • Cushing's Disease - When too much cortisol accumulates in the bloodstream, Cushing's disease can occur. Other symptoms in addition to panting may include frequent urination, hair loss, a pot-bellied appearance, and increased thirst and hunger. This health condition is commonly diagnosed in senior dogs and is one potential reason for abnormal panting. 
  • Respiratory Disease - Respiratory issues can impact your dog's ability to breathe, making it difficult for oxygen to get to their bloodstream so it can be carried to the rest of the body. A dog suffering from respiratory issues may pant heavily or struggle to breathe after even light exercise. If you notice your dog's tongue has turned purple, grey or blue instead of a healthy pink, go to a vet immediately for treatment; your dog may be experiencing oxygen deprivation. 
  • 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.

Is panting at night due to pain?

Below are some answers to a question many dog parents have come to us with: 'Why is my dog restless and panting at night?':

  • Stress or anxiety. This can be caused by upsetting events like loud thunderstorms or fireworks, or issues like separation anxiety.
  • 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 I take my dog to see a vet?

If your dog exhibits symptoms of excessive nighttime panting, pacing, or other anxious behaviors get in touch with your vet to find out whether your dog should come in for a wellness exam.

If you spot any signs of heatstroke in your dog, immediately take them for urgent veterinary care during clinic hours, or treatment after hours at a nearby emergency veterinary hospital.

Your veterinarian will examine your canine companion, perform any necessary diagnostic and treatment procedures, and work with you to help your dog feel better today and tomorrow.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

If you are concerned about your dog's panting, contact Oakwood Animal Hospital to book an examination for your canine companion.

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