As pet parents, we are accustomed to seeing our dogs panting after a play session or a walk outdoors when it’s very hot. We understand that panting is a natural reaction; it’s our dog’s chief way of cooling off. However, if we happen to notice our dog panting when there is no obvious reason for Fido to do so, we become concerned. Why is my dog panting and restless?
What causes a dog to begin excessive panting and restless out of the blue? Is it a cause for serious concern or symptomatic of something else? There are often times when dog panting and restless pacing can be chalked up to anxiety (yes, our canine companions can get stressed just like we humans do), but there are also some serious causes for this type of behavior.
The most common cause of a dog’s panting and pacing restlessly is anxiety. Perhaps your pup is unsure of a new situation; even a simple change in routine can cause a dog to pant and appear restless. In fact, some dogs will even begin to shed due to stress caused by a routine change!
However, there ARE some serious reasons why a dog may pant and become restless. Let’s take a look at why your dog may display abnormal panting and restlessness. Keep in mind this list is NOT in any particular order—we’ll discuss each scenario and recommend whether or not to contact your vet.
Yes, we understand this is a “no-brainer,” but it must be mentioned. Vigorous exercise can cause Fido to shake, pant, and pace until he calms down. This is especially true in dogs with a naturally high level of energy. These little bundles of joy are naturally “wired,” and they really love running, jumping, and playing. Sometimes, they are so excited about playtime that it takes them a minute or two to calm back down. If Fido has been outside playing or indoors with you having a play session, observe him for about a half-hour. Most likely, he will get some water, pace a bit, but be curled up taking a nap within a few minutes. This is not an emergency, and you shouldn’t reach out to the vet—in most cases.
Keep in mind that some breeds cannot withstand very vigorous play. Brachycephalic breeds—bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Boxers—can become very enthusiastic about play, but they can actually become ill if they are allowed to get too hot or overexcited. Always keep their playtime to about fifteen minutes per session, and allow them time to cool off before another walk or playtime.
We mentioned routine changes causing anxiety and therefore changes in a dog’s behavior. When dogs are unsure about the environment around them, they can physically show signs of anxiety. In addition to the dog pacing and excessive panting, you may also observe him pawing at something, shaking, or whining. It’s a good idea to speak soothing words to your dog and work to comfort him. Don’t be surprised if Fido doesn’t follow you around a little more than usual while displaying this behavior. Again, not a situation that needs the attention of your vet.
Your dog may display this behavior at the vet’s office; dogs remember things such as getting shots, and they may display anxious behavior when going somewhere they associate with a negative experience.
3. Heat Exhaustion
We know that panting is a dog’s way of cooling itself off. However, if you notice your dog panting and restless after exercise that is accompanied by drooling or muscle weakness, then your dog may be experiencing heat exhaustion. Get your dog indoors immediately and make sure she has plenty of clean water to drink. She may lay down on a cool tile floor in order to try and get her body temperature back down.
A dog in the initial stages of heat exhaustion will usually be okay if they are able to get water and cool off. However, if the panting and pacing (and drooling) continue even if you get her inside and get her water, you may need to contact your vet—your dog’s health might be in danger.
Being overweight is never good for dogs, no matter how cute they look with a few extra pounds. Being overweight is hard on their cardiovascular system; any extra weight can cause them to overheat more quickly, and it is hard on their joints.
While the best way to treat this cause of pacing and panting is to help your dog lose weight, monitor Fido any time he is exercising, especially outdoors in the heat. Your vet may be able to help you figure out a program on how to help your dog lose weight.
5. An Injury
A dog in pain may begin heavy panting; some dogs will also display restlessness in addition to this initial symptom of injury. Of course, this will depend upon the nature of the injury. If your dog has not been exercising and begins abnormal panting and pacing, check for an injury. The nature of the injury will determine whether you should contact your vet or treat the issue at home.
6. Respiratory Illness
When a dog experiences respiratory issues, rapid breathing is often a symptom of the illness. In addition, when a dog is experiencing trouble breathing, she may begin to pace or otherwise appear restless.
Two very serious respiratory illnesses, pneumonia and kennel cough, can cause a dog to breathe rapidly . Some pet parents take this rapid breathing to be panting (it often mimics the way a dog breathes when panting). If you notice increased rates of breathing in addition to cough or the appearance that your dog is struggling to breathe, then you should contact your vet.
7. Arthritis and other joint pain
If your older dog experiences joint pain due to arthritis, then you may observe her panting and act restless from time to time. Just as some dogs pant and pace (if possible) when in pain, you may notice the same behavior any time your dog experiences increased joint pain. You may notice this behavior when the weather changes, or during the winter (in areas with a lot of humidity, your dog may experience joint pain during the summer as well).
Providing the best joint supplement for dogs helps alleviating the pains from arthritis. However, this is something that should be discussed with your vet before simply picking up a supplement at the pet store. Remember that not every joint supplement is equal!
8. Other Pain Across the Body
Back pain, abdominal pain, and the like can cause your dog to pant and pace. Back pain can really affect your dog’s overall health and happiness. If you’ve noticed your dog becoming reluctant to play as she once did, you may want to get her to the vet for an examination. This is often a form of arthritis and can be treated with diet changes or supplements.
Abdominal pain, on the other hand, is likely something you should get the vet to check, no matter how innocuous the pain may seem. What seems like a tummy ache to pet parents could be an obstruction in the stomach or intestines, and it could be deadly.
Belly pain could be something as simple as dog food that doesn’t agree with Fido, or it could be your dog’s bloated stomach. If your dog is a large or giant breed or could be described as having a “deep chest,” then you will want to check with the vet to make sure this isn’t bloat or GDV (gastric dilation – volvulus).
9. Tooth Pain
Dogs with dental issues may pant and become restless. This is especially true if the pain comes from an infected tooth. If you observe Fido no longer gnawing on a favorite chew toy or a reluctance to eat, you may need to contact your vet to ensure there is no infection in the mouth.
10. Laryngeal Paralysis
The larynx in a dog should open and close as a dog breathes; the larynx is integral in a dog’s ability to “be vocal” and to eat. However, if the larynx isn’t functioning properly, the dog may exhibit panting and pacing. When this occurs, the dog’s larynx is partially paralyzed, and this causes problems from their ability to eat to their breathing normally.
This is a condition that should be monitored by your vet. In fact, if your dog is panting, but the panting seems louder than usual, then you should have Fido checked for this issue.
The onset of a seizure could cause your dog to pace and pant. Seizures occur for a number of reasons, and your vet should be consulted to rule out something serious.
Some breeds are more prone to seizures than others. Regardless, it is still better for Fido to have this issue treated by a vet rather than simply trying to handle it on your own.
If your dog has been exposed to something toxic in her environment, she may display signs such as panting and restless pacing. Keep in mind this could happen if your dog accidentally got into the garbage or even chewed on something inedible outdoors. Dogs may also ingest plants that are toxic while outside for exercise.
Look for the panting and pacing accompanied by vomiting, stomach upset, pain in the abdomen, and possible hyperactivity.
Contact your vet immediately if you believe your dog has ingested something toxic.
Other issues that can cause a dog to be restless and panting incessantly include cardiac issues and neurological issues. Look for other symptoms such as drooling or seizures. Always contact your vet if you believe your dog is seriously sick.
1. Why is my dog panting at night when it’s not hot?
There could be many reasons. She could be anxious in a new situation; she could be nervous about a trip to the vet. Conversely, she could be excited to ride in the car with you!
Other serious conditions such as pain or a neurological issue could be to blame. If you feel your dog may be seriously ill, contact your vet.
2. What are the signs of your dog dying?
Here are some typical signs of a dog’s impending death: loss of coordination, loss of appetite, refusal to drink water, extreme fatigue, twitching muscles, vomiting, seeming confused, incontinence.
A dog panting heavily and pacing restlessly does not automatically mean it is dying. Not all of these symptoms are indicative your dog is dying. Most of the time, a dog will give up eating or drinking before he dies. Extreme fatigue, loss of interest or enthusiasm, twitching, and vomiting typically come closer to death.
3. Why is my dog restless and can’t settle?
There may be a number of reasons from simple anxiety and nervousness to something more serious such as heat exhaustion.