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 Sharpsburg vets discuss signs, treatments, and when to go to the vet.

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

Why is my dog panting so much?

There are a number of circumstances wherein your dog panting is no cause for alarm, such as after a long walk in humid weather, an energetic play session, or excitement. Panting and restless behavior (e.g. pacing) in mild or ideal weather conditions or during the night when it is cooler could be a sign of something more serious. Some of the potential reasons for excessive panting could include:

  • Cushing’s Disease. This is when the bloodstream has a buildup of too much cortisol. Along with panting, other symptoms of Cushing's Disease in dogs include an increase in thirst, increased hunger, frequent urination, hair loss, and a pot-bellied appearance. This issue is commonly seen in senior dogs and is often one of the reasons for abnormal heavy panting.
  • Respiratory disease. Respiratory problems impair your dog's ability to breathe, making it difficult for its bloodstream to carry oxygen throughout its body. Even light exercise may cause a dog with respiratory issues to pant heavily 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 may 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. Heatstroke in dogs is a serious issue and can have fatal consequences if left untreated. Heatstroke in dogs is more likely in temperatures over 106°F (41°C) and causes heavy panting, which leads to dehydration. High temperatures are especially hard on short-nosed breeds like pugs, but you must never leave a dog of any breed alone in a car in warm weather, as they can overheat or suffer from heatstroke quickly.

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?

If your dog exhibits symptoms such as excessive nighttime panting, pacing, or other anxious behaviors, contact your veterinarian to determine whether your dog should be seen. If you notice any signs of heatstroke in your dog, take them to an urgent veterinary clinic during clinic hours or to a nearby emergency veterinary hospital after hours. Your veterinarian will examine your dog, perform any diagnostic and treatment procedures that are required, and collaborate with you to help your dog feel better today and tomorrow.

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