Have you observed your dog breathing heavily at night, even if they haven't been active? In this blog, our veterinarians in Exeter will explain why your dog might be panting a lot and when you should consider taking them to the vet.
Panting in Dogs at Night
To identify unusual breathing or panting in your dog, it's important to understand their normal breathing rate. Typically, a healthy dog at rest will take around 15 to 35 breaths per minute. Keep in mind that dogs tend to breathe more rapidly and pant when they're active. Therefore, if your dog is resting and breathing at a rate exceeding 40 breaths per minute, it's considered abnormal and should be looked into.
However, it's essential to know that panting doesn't always point to an issue and that it's your furry friend's way of cooling themselves down, regulating their body temperature, and letting heat and water evaporate from their mouth, tongue, and upper respiratory tract.
Dogs can't sweat like humans do to cool themselves down. Instead, they need to breathe faster to circulate air through their bodies. Panting is their mechanism for returning their body temperature to a normal level.
Signs of Excessive Panting in Dogs
To tell if your dog is panting heavily, count your dog's breaths for a minute while they are resting or sleeping. (You might also want to do this when you aren't worried to determine your dog's normal respiratory rate). Anything under 30 breaths per minute is considered normal, anything above 35 may be a cause for concern and is worth contacting your vet over. Your vet will have a good understanding of your dog's normal respiratory rate from previous examinations.
Causes of Heavy Panting in Dogs
Brachycephalic dog breeds, (breeds with 'squished faces' or shortened snouts), such as Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs, face a higher risk of developing breathing issues and should always be closely monitored by pet owners for signs of increased respiratory effort.
It's not just short-nosed breeds that might have trouble breathing. Regardless of your dog's breed, if they are panting heavily or breathing rapidly, it could mean they're sick or injured and need immediate veterinary attention. Some possible reasons for fast or heavy breathing in dogs include:
- Smoke Inhalation
- Kennel Cough
- Stiffening of Airways
- Windpipe Issues
- Pressure on Wind Pipe
- Fungal Respiratory Infection
- Bacterial Respiratory Infection
- Lung Diseases such as cancer
- Laryngeal Paralysis
- Breed Characteristics
- Heat Stroke
- Compressed Lungs
- Collapsing Windpipe
When to Call Your Vet For Your Dog's Panting
If you notice your dog panting a lot while resting or breathing heavily while sleeping, it could be a sign of breathing problems. If your dog shows any of these signs, the first thing you should do is call your vet right away. They will guide you on what to do before you can get to the animal hospital.
- Heavy, fast breathing that's louder or different sounding than normal panting
- Their panting starts suddenly
- Open-mouthed breathing while at rest
- Reluctance to drink, eat, or move
- Pale, blue-tinged, or brick-red gums
- Out-of-character drooling
- Noticeably labored breathing (engaging stomach muscles to help breathe)
Diagnosing The Cause of Your Dog's Excessive Panting
Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your dog to find out why they are panting excessively. This examination will check for problems in the heart, circulatory system, lungs, airways, neck, head, or other areas. It will also assess your dog's overall health to see if that might be contributing to the issue.
Your vet will need to know about any previous medical issues that your pup has experienced and may recommend diagnostic tests such as X-rays to check the heart, lungs and abdomen for issues such as lung tumors or broken ribs.
The veterinarian will also watch your dog for any signs of anxiety, stress, or other psychological factors that could be causing the fast breathing.
Treating Excessive Panting in Dogs
The underlying cause of the issue will determine the treatments used for your dog's excessive panting. This could include pain relief, intravenous fluids, or other medications to help your dog recover.
If your pup's heavy breathing is the result of anxiety or stress, your vet may recommend special training with a certified dog behaviorist.
Rest and oxygen therapy are usually necessary to begin your dog's recovery. Most dogs can be treated at home, but in severe cases, hospitalization may be needed to monitor breathing and address the underlying health problem.