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Why Is My Dog Panting and Restless? | When to Relax and When to Call the Vet

A panting dog is quite normal. Unlike humans, dogs don’t have sweat glands and instead sweat through their paws and nose or pant to regulate their body heat. Panting is especially typical on a hot day after they’ve been playing outside.

But, if you may be wondering: why is your dog panting and restless at night, and is it normal? There might be another reason for this pattern.

If your dog is restless, panting, and whining all of a sudden, you may need to keep your eye on them to see if there is more to it. But, when do you know when it’s a serious matter or just regular dog behavior?

Find out why your dog keeps panting and won’t settle down, and when to visit the vet when they do.

why is my dog panting and restles

Why is my Dog Panting and Restless? 8 Reasons Not to Worry

Dogs pant for numerous reasons, and not all of them are signs to speed off to the vet. Here are a few reasons why your pup may be panting that are pretty normal.

1. (Flat-Faced) Breed

Like the pug or Imperial Shih Tzu, certain breeds are called Brachycephalic dogs. The name literally translates to ‘Short Head’ dog because ‘Brachy’ means short and ‘cephalic’ means head. Due to their genetic disposition, these ‌flat-faced breeds have shorter bones in their noses and faces. This causes airway problems, and as a result, you’ll often find them breathing heavily or panting.

brown faced white body shih tzu imperial

They also usually have lots of congestion, so you’ll hear a lot of snoring, wheezing, and snorting as well. You only need to get worried if they are breathing heavily while also gagging, vomiting, and having trouble breathing. These could be signs of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).

2. To Cool Off

Dogs, like many mammals, regulate their body heat. But where humans have multiple sweat glands all over our bodies, dogs don’t. Instead, they regulate their body temperature through sweat glands on the pads of their feet and noses. They can also regulate their body temperature by panting.

dog nose up close what does it mean when a dog's nose is dry

Simply put, when dogs pant, they move hot moisture-filled air in and out. This air evaporates moisture from their tongues and wet noses, which allows them to cool down. The speed of their panting depends on how hot they are feeling.

3. Excitement

Panting may simply be a sign of joy and happiness in your dog. You might have noticed them eagerly trotting around and panting excessively when you tell them it’s time for their walk or if you reach for their treats. If they are panting and restless from excitement, the rest of their body language will reflect this too.

These excitement pants are continuous and mild, with a tail that furiously wags behind them. They also relax their face into a big toothy ‘smile.’ When you encounter this excitement from your pup, it’s just a sign to show them some extra love through a walk, pet, or extra treat.

white fluffy tail

4. After Playing

Your dog might become restless if they have pent-up energy. An excellent way to burn energy is to go outside and play with them for a bit. Dogs love to play and exercise, whether it’s with you, their toys, or other dogs. After this, they might pant to catch their breath, similar to humans. If they were panting while on their walk or during a session of tug and war, this is totally normal.

german shepherd running

However, it would be good to get your dogs checked out if they’re out of breath or panting heavily from light exercise or activity. Additionally, if they are still panting 30 minutes to an hour after playing, it could be a sign of a health issue.

5. Anxiety

Sometimes dogs become restless because they’re anxious. Just like humans during anxiety spells, they might start shaking and panting too. While CBD oil for dogs might help calm your pooch down momentarily, finding the root of the problem is most important to avoid any anxious feelings in the future.

If your dog is constantly stressed and anxious, they should see a vet to get proper treatment or medication.

6. Stress

Dogs are usually our protectors, but even they can get scared and stressed. In turn, they will need our protection. A stressed-out dog may start pacing back and forth or even start shaking. You’ll also notice that they might begin panting or breathing heavily during stressful situations.

Stressful events for a dog might be a visit to the vet, car rides, thunderstorms, or moving house. The best way to help your dog in a stressful situation is to remove them from the stressor. Exercise and extra playtime might help calm your dog down and get rid of their excessive energy.

brown dog with tongue out

7. Fireworks

Fireworks and any loud noises can make your pup feel highly anxious. Dogs have very sensitive hearing, so any loud noises for us sound even more audible to them including things like chainsaws. Fireworks are especially a stressor for dogs because there is usually more than one going off for a prolonged period.

If your dog is anxious during a firework show or thunderstorm, there are a few ways you can help until it blows over:

  • Close all doors and windows to minimize ‌outdoor noise
  • Put on the TV or radio to drown out any noise that is still getting in
  • Add a sense of security by keeping them comfortable and away from the noise. This could mean putting your dog in the basement away from the noise, giving them a toy, or putting them in their crates and covering it with a blanket
  • If you know there might be a thunderstorm or fireworks going off later in the day, tire them out earlier in the day with exercise. This is so they don’t have any nervous energy left in them when loud noises do arise

8. Separation Anxiety

Some dogs are capable of being ‌left at home for a few hours while you’re off at work, while others aren’t. This can lead to separation anxiety in your canine. Vizslas, Retrievers, and Border Collies are notorious for needing that extra affection and attention from their owners.

border collie blue merles on beach

Dogs with separation anxiety will often show discontent and restlessness by engaging in destructive behavior. They might injure themselves trying to escape or damage furniture to let out frustration. They may also pant excessively and bark or whine while you’re away.

To avoid this stress overload, ease your pup into the process by only leaving a few hours a day. It is also good to help them burn energy by walking them before you leave or leaving toys around to keep them entertained.

When Should I Worry About My Dog Panting? 7 Reasons You Should Worry

While there are many reasons not to be panicked if your dog is panting and restless, there are a few instances where it can be a bit more serious.

1. Heat Exhaustion

While dogs can pant to cool themselves down, sometimes that isn’t enough. If your dog becomes excessively hot, they can get heatstroke. This is a severe condition that can cause organ damage or death. While panting is a symptom of heat exhaustion, it’s not the only symptom.

brown dog drooling

Dogs with heatstroke may also become restless or agitated. They might also have very red or extremely pale gums. Their tongue will also be bright red, and they might salivate or drool excessively. Heatstroke is severe and if you notice any of these symptoms, or your dog acting strangely on a hot summer’s day, take them to the vet.

You can do a few things to help them while making your way to the vet. If they are in a ventilated area like a locked car, remove them from the space immediately. Allow them to drink plenty of fresh and cool water, but not iced, which may worsen the problem. You can also cool them down by wetting them slightly with tepid water and fanning them cool.

2. Old Age

As dogs get older, they are more prone to illness. These illnesses might cause them to breathe heavily or become restless as their anxiety, and joint pain grow.

Canine Cognitive Disorder

If you notice that your elderly dog is acting confused and restless, they might have Canine Cognitive Disorder (CCD). This condition is also known as dog dementia. Symptoms usually show up in dogs ages 11 and up. As their cognitive functions decline, their symptoms will worsen.

Besides restlessness, symptoms include excessive barking, staring into space, lack of self-grooming, and excessive grooming. Unfortunately, CCD cannot be cured, only managed. There are a few ways to treat CCD through drug therapy, dietary therapy, and additional nutritional supplements.

brown dog with long tongue

3. Pain

Some dogs have a pretty high pain tolerance and might try to hide their injuries from their owners. Sometimes the pain is so severe that you might notice them panting and limping around from pain regardless of age.

If your dog has acquired a bodily injury, you might notice them taking shallow breaths or not finding a comfortable position. This might be to try and remove any pressure on the sore area on their body. This is also a way to tell you that they are in any sort of pain.

If they have an eye injury, you might notice them pawing at the eye or rubbing it well before you notice any discharge. Similarly, with joint pain in elderly dogs, they might become restless and constantly bite and lick the affected area.

Tooth pain is another injury that can cause significant discomfort and restlessness. You might notice them eating less or not playing with their chew toy as frequently. Severe tooth decay can move into your dog’s jaw, which could cause even more pain.

You can avoid this dental problem altogether by taking them for regular dental checkups and using canine toothpaste and toothbrush to their teeth every day.

black dog with long tongue

4. Obesity

If your dog lacks exercise, it might become restless because they crave that physical exertion. A lack of exercise and excessive eating can cause dogs to become overweight and eventually obese. While they may not be restless when they’re obese, they certainly will pant excessively.

Of course, dogs should be different healthy weights depending on their size. But, if you struggle to comfortably see or feel your dog’s ribs and waistline, it might be time for a visit to the vet.

Other symptoms of obesity include tiredness and refusing to go for a walk or play. When they do eventually go for a walk, they lag behind. Obesity isn’t an immediate threat to your dog’s health, but it does increase their risk of other life-threatening health issues.

Diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are a real threat to your dog’s life expectancy and life quality.

black and white dog panting

5. Toxicity

Golden Retrievers and Poodles are retrievers and water dogs, respectively. These dogs are scavengers and naturally curious, which is great if you hunt and need to retrieve animals. But, in highly populated places, there isn’t much opportunity for this.

golden toy poodle with tongue out

So, they might scavenge in the wrong place when they’re bored and might find and eat something toxic to them. By now, you probably know that chocolate is toxic to your dog, but it’s not the only thing or even the most dangerous thing your dog can eat.

A few potentially dangerous food items for your pet include caffeine, fat trimmings, and bones. Some plants like Aloe Vera or Hibiscus may also be toxic to your pup, so it’s best to keep them far away from such plants. The average time for your dog to show signs of poisoning or that they ate something toxic is about three to four days.

But, it depends on what they ate and the amount they ingested. Symptoms of toxicity include panting, pale or yellow gums, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sick dogs might also be restless by constantly stretching themselves to try and get the pressure off of their stomach.

beige dog with tongue out

6. Heart Disease

There are a few heart diseases dogs can get, but the two main ones are valve disease and heart muscle disease. As the name implies, valve disease affects your dog’s heart valves and its ability to pump blood around the body. Heart muscle diseases affect the heart muscles, weakening its ability to pump blood around the body.

There is no single cause for heart disease in dogs. It can be for many reasons, including old age, obesity, nutrition, or hereditary due to their breed. Whether the heart disease is congenital or acquired later in life, it’s still important to know the symptoms.

Dogs with any form of heart disease will typically have the same symptoms. Besides excessive panting and restlessness, they may also have a dry cough after exercise or late at night. They may also have a potbelly despite rapid weight loss over a few weeks because of fluid build-up.

If your dog has any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Many dogs live a long life with treated heart illnesses, but it’s not easily treatable without a proper diagnosis from a vet.

beige dog with tongue out

7. Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease is a condition that happens when a dog’s body makes an overproduction of cortisol, better known as the stress hormone.

The adrenal glands produce this hormone and, when working correctly, help dogs control their weight, fight infections, respond to stress, and more. A dog with Cushing’s Disease won’t stop panting or, despite being fatigued, won’t be able to settle down.

They may seem hungrier, thirstier, and have increased accidents despite being potty trained. However, these aren’t the only symptoms of this disease. Additional symptoms include hair loss, thinning skin, skin infections, and an inflamed potbelly. There are three types of Cushing’s Diseases which each require different courses of treatment:

black and white dog in grass panting

Pituitary Tumor

Tumors in the pituitary gland cause an excess of hormonal production. This gland is at the base of the brain and influences many bodily functions such as growth and reproduction. The treatment for a pituitary tumor is two types of medication, namely mitotane and trilostane, which both help stop the production of excess cortisol.

Adrenal Gland Tumor

A dog’s adrenal gland is in front of its kidneys and is essential for day-to-day living. Regardless of if the tumor in your dog’s adrenal gland is cancerous or malignant, it is best to remove the tumor surgically. If it is too small to remove by surgery, a vet may prescribe medication to control it.

Iatrogenic Cushing’s Disease

This unfortunate disease is due to a dog’s prolonged use of steroids. If your dog is using oral or injectable steroids, there is usually a medical reason for it. However, an overdose of it can cause more harm than good.

To treat this disease, the steroid dosage gets lowered gradually, which could cause the initial problem to resurface. That is why it’s best to monitor the situation under regular vet supervision.

shaggy white dog with tongue out

Should You Be Worried about your Dog Panting and Getting Restless?

There are many reasons your dog may be panting and restless. Often, a restless and panting dog might not be a cause for concern. They might be because they are catching their breath after an intensive exercise or cooling off after a play session.

Luckily, dogs will often show symptoms similar to humans when they’re sick. If their restlessness and heavy breathing accompany other symptoms like gagging, a fever, or a cough, it might cause concern. Unless there are any additional symptoms, you wouldn’t need to worry too much. They’re probably just excited to see you after a long day.

beige dog with pink tongue

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