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While we expect our dogs to be breathing a little heavier after some playtime, it can be unexpected when your pup is sleeping or relaxing. Our veterinarians talk about why your dog is panting and restless at night and when to bring them to our emergency veterinary hospital serving Halifax, Bedford, Dartmouth, and the Maritimes.

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

Panting at night can be expected if is exceptionally hot or humid weather, but there are times when it can be unexpected and worrisome. But what is considered normal, and when should you seek veterinary care?

When is panting normal?

Most of the time, panting is both natural and healthy. Since dogs are unable to sweat, they pant to help cool themselves down. 

How does this work, exactly? While your dog is panting, its mouth is open, allowing cool air to enter, and the blood passing near the surface of the mouth to cool down.

At the same time, water vapour evaporates from the tongue, inner mouth, and back of the throat contributing to this cooling effect.

While this panting is perfectly normal, there may be times when your dog won't stop panting. When you can't see a clear cause, it can be very concerning, causing you to wonder, 'Why is my dog panting and restless?' or 'What are some common reasons why my dog pants non-stop at night?'.

What is considered abnormal panting?

If you begin to wonder why your dog is breathing so fast, it may be a good idea to start counting their breaths. This will give you a better idea of whether they are breathing too fast.

You can expect your dog to take around 15 to 20 breaths a minute when resting. Your dog's breathing would be considered abnormal if they are taking 35 to 40 breaths per minute while resting.

If this occurs, you should immediately move your dog to a cooler location. If their heavy breathing does not improve within 30 to 60 minutes, you should seek veterinary care.

There are other signs of abnormal panting and breathing difficulties to look out for, such as:

  • Strained or laboured breathing
  • Harsh or high-pitched panting
  • Panting with signs of distress (such as restlessness in dogs, drooling or whining)
  • Heavy  panting with no obvious cause
  • Only happens at night during rest

Important: If your dog is displaying signs of heatstroke, you should not spend any time waiting. You should bring them in for emergency veterinary care right away.

The symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Distressed panting
  • Restless behavior
  • Drooling
  • Red gums or tongue
  • Increased heart rate
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Seizures

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What are the causes of abnormal panting in dogs?

The potential reason for your dog's excessive panting comes down to one of four main causes. These are:

  • Anxiety or stress
  • Pain
  • Illness or an internal condition such as:
    • Cushing's disease
    • Respiratory disease
    • Heart disease
    • Heatstroke
    • Canine cognitive disorder (dog dementia)
  • Medication side effects

While we know it may come down to one of these causes, your dog can't tell you exactly what it is. This makes visiting a veterinarian for care extremely important.

When is panting an emergency?

Panting is often entirely normal, but there may also be harder times when it turns dangerous.

You should contact your primary veterinarian or Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital right away if you notice any of the following:

  • Signs of heatstroke (as listed above)
  • Intense panting
  • Panting after an injury
  • Tongue turns blue, purple or grey
  • No obvious cause for excessive panting

These all indicate that there is a serious and potentially life-threatening issue at hand. It is crucial to seek nearby emergency veterinary care as soon as possible. Our emergency veterinarians at Coastal Care Veterinary Emergency & Referral Hospital will perform a thorough evaluation of your dog's symptoms and diagnostics to help get to the bottom of their condition quickly.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical issues  advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's medical condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact us right away for 24/7 emergency veterinary care for pets from across Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, and beyond.

Why is my dog panting at night?

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