Why is my dog restless and panting so much at night?

Although panting during a warm day or while playing fetch is normal for dogs, excessive panting at night can be cause for concern. Besides causing sleepless nights for you and your dog, nighttime panting can be an indication that something is amiss. Today, our Edgewater vets discuss signs, treatments, and when to go to the vet.

Panting, like sweating in humans, is a perfectly normal bodily process for dogs and an efficient way for them to regulate their body temperature. Panting in the middle of the night, on the other hand, is a different story, especially if there is no obvious cause for the dog's distress.

Why is my dog panting so much?

There are times when your dog's panting is normal, such as after a long walk in hot weather, an energetic play session, or excitement. Panting and restless behavior (e.g., pacing) in mild or ideal weather conditions, or at night when it is cooler, could be signs of something more serious. Some possible causes of excessive panting include:

  • Cushing’s Disease. When there is an excess of cortisol in the bloodstream, this occurs. Other signs of Cushing's Disease in dogs, in addition to panting, include increased thirst, hunger, frequent urination, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance. Senior dogs frequently experience this problem, which is frequently one of the causes of unusually heavy panting.
  • Respiratory disease. Respiratory issues impair your dog's ability to breathe, making it difficult for its bloodstream to transport oxygen throughout its body. Even light exercise can cause a dog with respiratory issues to pant or struggle to breathe. If you notice your dog's tongue is no longer a healthy pink but instead blue, purple, or grey, take him to the vet right away; he could be suffering from oxygen deprivation.
  • Heart disease. Excessive panting and coughing can be a symptom of heart disease or failure, which can majorly impact your dog's ability to breathe. In these cases, you may notice your dog panting heavily after walking for a short distance.
  • Heatstroke. Dog heatstroke is a serious problem that, if left untreated, can be fatal. Heatstroke in dogs causes heavy panting, which causes dehydration, and is more likely in temperatures over 106°F (41°C). Pugs and other short-nosed breeds are particularly sensitive to high temperatures, but any dog, regardless of breed, should never be left alone in a car in warm weather as they can quickly become overheated or experience heatstroke.

Why does my dog pant at night?

Below are some other common causes of panting and restlessness in dogs during the night:

  • Stress or anxiety. This can be caused by upsetting events like loud thunderstorms or fireworks, or issues like separation anxiety.
  • Environmental issues. Puppies and senior dogs have a harder time coping with high nighttime temperatures, and dogs with untreated allergies often have disrupted sleep.
  • Pain or Discomfort. Dogs experiencing pain from an injury or a condition such as arthritis may exhibit nighttime panting and/or pacing behaviors. (e.g. injury, arthritis, allergies)
  • Canine Cognitive Disorder (dog dementia). Dogs affected by this disorder often have disturbed sleep-wake cycles and may exhibit excessive panting and restlessness.

When should my dog see a vet?

In order to find out whether your dog needs to be seen, call your veterinarian if they notice symptoms like excessive panting at night, pacing, or other anxious behaviors. If your dog exhibits any signs of heatstroke, take him to an after-hours emergency veterinary hospital or an urgent veterinary clinic during business hours. When necessary, your veterinarian will examine your dog, carry out any diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, and work with you to improve both your dog's current and future health.

Concerned that your dog is panting excessively at night? Don't hesitate to contact our compassionate Edgewater veterinary team for information and treatment options.