Written by Megan McCorkle LVT
Have you noticed increased panting in your older dog?
The basic physiology behind panting in dogs is to cool them down. Dogs do not sweat like we do so panting allows them to cool when overheated. Panting can be an important indicator for some dogs as their are many reasons dog's can pant that are beyond cooling down. Paying attention to changes in panting patterns can clue us into medical changes as they age.
A simple increase in anxiety or excitement can cause an increase in panting for any dog. We see anxiety increase with age as they lose senses or develop cognitive dysfunction. This minor change in your dog’s panting can be considered “normal” if there are no underlying causes. This panting can seem prolonged compared to the usual pant pattern. It might occur at odd times of day or involve more effort than normal without being a response to trying to cool down.
There are a few medical reasons for increase in panting. If your pet is experiencing a lung disease, heart disease, Cushing’s disease, Anemia, or other conditions they may show changes to their panting patterns. Some transient reasons for increased panting can be side effects from medications like steroids. Finally, a large component to increased panting can be pain. When a dog is in pain they will pant excessively in attempts to alleviate their discomfort.
What should you do if you notice your old dog is panting a lot or with additional effort?
First, you should make sure your pet is not in respiratory distress or having difficulty getting air in and out of its lungs. IF you have any questions on that, grab a quick video and call your vet office and see if they can help you. Respiratory distress is an emergency.
Second, if your pet seems stable and the excessive panting seems to happen at random, consider getting a video and logging the time and events surrounding this increase in respiratory effort. A video and log can help you and your veterinarian understand what is happening that could be causing this increase in panting. If this is a new or concerning trend in your dog’s health, we can investigate with additional diagnostics which might include bloodwork and or x rays to determine the root cause.
Once you have determined the cause you might have to begin daily prescriptions to help manage your pet’s condition. Heart and lung diseases can be somewhat managed with medications. If pain from arthritis is the source of the increased panting addressing their pain can decrease the panting to a normal level. Maintaining a healthy weight can also make a big difference in their breathing patterns.
Being mindful of subtle changes can be our biggest asset in providing care for our senior dogs. Bringing these concerns to your veterinarian and working together to adjust treatment plans can help you and your senior have the best Golden Years.
Panting can have many different meanings, monitoring and logging these changes can help determine if it is transient or chronic and in need of additional medical advice. Excess panting should not be ignored- especially in our seniors.
Bringing changes in panting up to your veterinarian is important as in certain situations it may allow catching a disease or even pain your pet can not tell you about earlier which can lead to more quality time for you and your pet.
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