Why Is My Dog Panting and Restless?

Pet Health


May 18, 2020

Panting is a common behavior in dogs that occurs after vigorous exercise and when they’re excited or hot. As a dog’s sweat glands are located in its paws, sweating isn’t enough to cool them down. Dogs, therefore, pant to release heat across a greater surface area, cooling them down more effectively. But can heavy panting actually be an indicator of an underlying problem?

Heavy panting is a different and often concerning behavior for pet owners – and you’re right to be concerned! Commonly, heavy breathing usually comes with restless behavior, making it seem like your pet cannot settle down and is agitated.

What to Do If Your Dog Is Panting and Restless

There are numerous possible causes of this behavior in your pet, and they range in severity. It’s important to know other accompanying signs of these conditions to help you decide whether or not your pet needs immediate veterinary attention. Whilst this is understandably distressing to experience as an owner, it’s imperative that you don’t panic as this could worsen your pet’s condition. The best way to help your pet is by staying calm and looking for any of these additional symptoms in your dog so you can start to understand what’s wrong with your pooch.  

Heatstroke or Poisoning

Heatstroke, or heat exhaustion, occurs when your dog’s core body temperature rises above its optimum level. If you just can’t seem to cool your dog down, this is a classic sign that he or she is suffering from heatstroke. It’s essential to act fast because heatstroke can lead to organ and tissue damage. Certain risk factors may make your pet more susceptible to heatstroke, including obesity.

Alongside increased panting, excessive drooling/salivation and anxious, restless behavior are also common signs of heatstroke. You might notice that your dog is excreting urine that is a darker pigment than usual, which is another useful indicator that your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion. Signs of more severe complications include discolored gums (usually purple), highly concentrated urine, and seizures.

If you suspect heatstroke, you must take your pet to the vet even if the symptoms are mild, as heatstroke is potentially life-threatening if not treated quickly. 

Abnormal panting may also be a sign that your dog has been poisoned or suffering from an allergic reaction to a medication. These are some of the most regular emergencies seen by vets because the cause is often something that is commonly encountered by you and your pet in everyday life. Some repeat offenders include chocolate, dangerous plants, insecticides, and antifreeze.

Additionally, if your pet has started on a new treatment such as antibiotics and other medications, and is vomiting or lethargic, they may be having an allergic reaction. In that case, you should read the possible side effects of this particular medication and then contact your veterinarian where appropriate.

There are many accompanying symptoms to panting and restlessness that are associated with poisoning, and these symptoms will be specific to the poison that your pet has encountered. If your pet has any of these accompanying symptoms, take them to the nearest vet. It is crucial to act quickly in these situations. 

Chronic Illnesses

Heavy panting is often a common symptom associated with chronic illnesses such as heart failure, Cushing’s Syndrome, and Laryngeal disease. Chances are if your pet already has one of these conditions, you will be aware of it. If this is not the case, and your pet is displaying symptoms of one of these diseases, you must get your pet checked by a veterinarian and get a diagnosis.   

  • Heart Failure

Heart failure is common in dogs, just like it is in humans. Dogs may also show similar symptoms to humans suffering from heart failure, which include exercise intolerance, coughing, and breathing difficulties. As the disease develops, your four-legged friend may show signs of a swollen belly from fluid build-up, fainting due to blood clots, and weight loss. Your pet’s treatment will depend on the specific heart problem that he/she is suffering from, and thus various medications are available.    

  • Cushing’s Syndrome

This is a disease in which the adrenal glands overproduce certain hormones. Cushing’s syndrome is another disease that is also prevalent in humans, and the most widely known hormone affected by it is cortisol. There are various types of Cushing’s disease, and each has a different cause. This includes pituitary gland tumors, which are the most common reason the syndrome develops. Alongside panting, your pet may additionally have a potbellied appearance, thin skin, chronic skin infections, and dark-colored spots. If you are concerned that your furry friend may be displaying symptoms, you should promptly make an appointment with your veterinarian.   

  • Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal Paralysis is a disorder in which the muscles and cartilage of the larynx malfunction. During inhalation, your pet’s laryngeal cartilages do not open correctly, and this makes breathing difficult. Typically, the panting associated with this disease is often loud and raspy.  

Brachycephalic Syndrome and Other Illnesses

Brachycephalic Syndrome is the term that is often used to describe regular breathing problems in dog breeds that have flattened faces and short noses, such as Pugs, French bulldogs, and Shih-tzus. Displaying behaviors such as panting or snorting during meals and post-exercise is common in these breeds due to a condition called BOAS – Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome.

If your pet is a brachycephalic breed and displays heavy panting behavior, they are likely to suffer from this common congenital ailment associated with generations of selective breeding.

There are also other common conditions that could be causing your dog to pant heavily, such as anemia and obesity. Anemia is a condition in which the red blood cell count of your dog falls below the normal threshold, and thus your dog struggles to circulate enough oxygen around its body. This, in turn, results in your pet panting more to compensate for the lack of oxygen supplied to its brain and working muscles. Accompanying signs of anemia also include tiredness and pale gums. If your dog is displaying these particular symptoms, it is important that you seek the advice of your veterinarian.

Obesity is becoming an increasingly common problem seen in animals, just as much as it is in humans. It’s a frustrating issue as, despite gene predispositions, it is often totally down to the diet of your pet. Eating and lifestyle habits have the most significant impact on canine obesity.

It’s a high-risk factor in debilitating conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. If you’re concerned that your pet is heavily panting and that they may be overweight, you should seek advice from your veterinarian. Not only can you reduce your pet’s panting behavior, but you can also improve its overall health and prevent further complications. 

Anxiety, Stress or Fear  

It can be distressing for pet owners to see their dog uncomfortable, nervous, or scared. While small amounts of stress are common in life, problems ensue when a dog’s reaction becomes more persistent and more severe.

In addition to panting, nervous or anxious pets may tuck their tail, pace, whine, and whimper. They may also display restless behavior like fidgeting when suffering from anxiety, stress, or fear. The causes of this anxiety vary, and it’s important as a pet owner to know whether your dog is simply an anxious pet, or if it has a phobia that could be producing these behaviors. While it is not necessarily an emergency, it’s essential to know more about these issues to relax your pet appropriately. 

Final Thoughts

Keeping an eye on your pet’s overall health is an owner’s top priority. It’s almost like you have a sixth sense when it comes to recognizing something is wrong with your pet. You should never play down this gut instinct as you know your dog and their usual behavior better than anyone.

While it won’t necessarily prevent some of these conditions, one of the best ways to look after your pet is to make sure they get plenty of exercise and a healthy, balanced diet, ensuring that they get all of the nutrients that they need.