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We discuss 3 Causes of Panting in Older Dogs and what to do about it.

Written by Megan McCorkle, LVT

Has your older dog suddenly started panting at night? What can you do to comfort him and get everyone back to rest?

Here are common reasons old dogs might be panting

One reason older dogs can pant that seems obvious is they have gotten too hot. Try moving them away from others, have them lay on cold floor, and have a fan on them to help them cool and get back to sleep.

Another reason for sudden panting is anxiety or stress. Has anything changed recently that could be upsetting your older dog? Has your routine changed? Are there other people in the house that he may not be used to? Knowing if it is anxiety can lead to comforting them or discussing doggie dementia with your veterinarian. There are some medications that can be given at bedtime if there is a continuing concern for anxiety.

The last reason for painting is pain or discomfort. Have you also noticed any changes during the day to his activity or ability to get around or behave as he normally would? If you answer yes then perhaps talking to your vet about his joint comfort and beginning supplements or pain medications could help ease the night panting. Pain and discomfort can also occur from diseases that are not regulated such as kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and more. Signs of discomfort from illnesses can be panting, decreased appetite, lethargy, increased drinking and urination and more. If you see these in your dog, it's best to consult with your veterinarian right away.

Severe discomfort and pain can even happen with something like uncontrolled allergies and infections which may cause an older dog to pant. The occurrence of an ear infection can be very painful and cause her to want to scratch and shake and panting can increase due to distress and discomfort. Check the ears for redness, swelling, or discharge and follow any veterinary advice to clear up the infection. Other sources of pain could be causing the panting so it is best to discuss with your veterinarian.

Beginning with the simple things like temperature, anxiety or pain try to see if small changes can make them more comfortable. Another tip would be to get a video of your older dog panting and discuss the events surrounding the panting episodes with your veterinarian so they might be able to determine the cause.

When is Panting and Emergency for an older dog?

The concern for an emergency when an older dog suddenly begins panting is when his gum color changes. Healthy gum color is pink or a lighter shade of red. If you noticed his gums are pale or gray in color, it could indicate a lack of oxygen or anemia. This would be cause for alarm and a trip to the ER Veterinarian is warranted. Quick action could save your dog’s life.

Regardless, if the panting persists for several nights with little changes, a trip to the vet might be necessary. Other reasons for increased panting at night could be related to a medical change in your pet. There are a few diseases process that can cause excessive panting in older dogs - Cushing's, thyroid disease, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, etc can be ruled out by your veterinarian. These changes can creep up on us or they can be sudden and begin with panting at night as a subtle sign something has changed. Running diagnostics like bloodwork, urinalysis, and chest x-rays will be required to determine if there is an underlying disease. Treating or managing these things should ease the nighttime panting.


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