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Why Is My Dog Panting at Night? 14 Common Reasons

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Your dog is panting at night because of age, anxiety, stress, they are cooling down, or due to a narrow upper respiratory tract specific to some breeds. Serious conditions cause dogs to pant at night, such as pain, heatstroke, heart disease, obesity, respiratory issues, medication, anemia, poisoning, allergic reactions, and Cushing’s disease.

In most cases, there’s no need to worry if your dog is panting during the night. If you notice additional symptoms which indicate severe disease, you should contact your vet.

This article examines all the potential causes of panting during the night and will help you learn how to identify them. It will also teach you to differentiate non-dangerous causes from potential health risks.

What Is Panting in Dogs?

Panting in dogs is recognized as heavy and spasmodically breathing, interrupted by short breaks.

Dogs are only equipped with sweat glands on their paws, which is not enough to cool them down. Panting is a way for dogs to lower their body temperature. 

Dogs pant to let heat out of their bodies by evaporation through moist tissue, such as the lungs, mouth, nose, and tongue.

Why Is My Dog Panting at Night? 

Dogs can pant at night because of non-dangerous reasons, such as stress or anxiety. Panting can also be the result of severe issues, including heart failure, heatstroke, poisoning, and more. Take your dog to the vet if you notice additional symptoms.

If you are able to determine why your dog is panting at night you will be able to take the necessary steps to reduce the frequency of the panting and potentially save your dog’s life.

The reasons why your dog is panting at night are classified as harmless and alarming, as follows.

4 Harmless Reasons for a Dog Heavily Panting at Night

The inoffensive causes behind a dog panting during sleep are:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Age
  • Breed characteristic
  • Attempt to reduce body temperature

1. Stress and Anxiety

Dog Panting due to Stress and Anxiety

Similar to humans, dogs can experience anxiety and stress, even if the causes seem insignificant to their owners. Fireworks, thunderstorms, crowded situations, and meeting strangers have the potential to trigger anxiety in dogs.

Anxiety and stress can both cause heavy panting.

Anxiety in dogs is sometimes triggered when a dog is separated from their human, even if the separation is not permanent. This is known as separation anxiety. The roots of this behavior stand in a combination of the dog’s personality traits, how the dog interacts with their owner and the nature of the relationship.[1]

While anxiety is defined as a low or intense sensation of fear, stress is a feeling of unease caused by an overwhelming, unknown, or uncomfortable situation, and when experiencing a lack of control.

Dogs can feel stressed when they find themselves in a new setting, their routine changes, they get a new owner, or when their home environment is abusive. 

A calm environment, exercise, certain supplements, and interaction with your dog have been proven to reduce their stress and anxiety levels.[2]

2. Age

Old Dog Panting at night

A senior dog panting at night should not alarm you as this is a common behavior for mature dogs. Elderly dogs, similar to humans, are prone to experience cognitive issues, such as dementia. 

Senior dogs experience a variety of changes to their bodies which causes distress, leading to panting during sleep.

3. Breed Characteristics

Some breeds, such as French Bulldogs, have a narrowed upper respiratory tract. Panting at night, and during the day, is common for breeds with this specific physiology. 

Boxers and Pugs are also prone to developing this problem. This can potentially cause a severe condition called brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome. 

4. Attempt to Reduce Body Temperature

Attempt to Reduce Body Temperature

If your dog has exercised in the evening before sleep, or if the room temperature where they sleep is high, they will try to cool down by panting. This is the most common reason why dogs pant.

10 Alarming Reasons Why Dogs Pant at Night

The dangerous causes behind a dog’s excessive panting at night are:

  • Pain
  • Heatstroke
  • Heart failure
  • Respiratory issues
  • Excessive weight
  • Cushing’s Disease
  • Allergies
  • Poisoning
  • Anemia
  • Medication

1. Pain

Some dogs experience pain non-related to an injury during their sleep. Various health conditions lead to pain, such as gastritis, arthritis, and ear infections. If your dog has experienced an injury during the day, it can suffer from pain while sleeping.

Related: 5 Reasons Why Dogs Cry in Their Sleep

2. Heatstroke

Dog Panting and Drooling

Heatstroke is another word for overheating. This condition occurs after intense periods of exercise or when a dog is exposed to high temperatures. Heatstroke in dogs represents an emergency and can lead to death if you don’t take action. 

Heatstroke can cause dogs to pant during sleep, but this usually happens during the day when the temperatures are high. This rarely happens during the night but it is a possibility if the indoor temperature is high.

Dogs experiencing heatstroke have other symptoms which allow you to recognize the issue. These symptoms include a fast heart rate, drooling, vomiting, weakness, and seizures. 

 It is essential to check a few key points to determine if a dog is having heatstroke at night:

  • Did it engage in heavy exercise before sleep?
  • Is the room temperature higher than 85 degrees Fahrenheit?[3]
  • Is the dog’s heart rate accelerated?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, you should take your dog’s temperature. If their temperature is above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, your dog is experiencing heatstroke.[4]

3. Heart Failure

Excessive panting during the night is sometimes a sign of heart failure. This condition is accompanied by fatigue while exercising, coughing, and difficulty breathing, which can also be observed during the day when the dog is active.

4. Respiratory Issues

Dog Panting due to Respiratory Issues

If your dog is panting heavily at night, consider the possibility of respiratory disorders, such as pneumonia, lung cancer, or laryngeal paralysis. Regular visits to the vet will help identify these disorders in time and prevent your dog from becoming severely ill.

5. Excessive Weight

Obesity in dogs is not a direct cause of panting during the night but has the potential to trigger several health problems, such as heart failure, respiratory issues, arthritis, and fatigue while exercising.

There is a direct correlation between obesity in pet owners and obesity in their dogs. If you are overweight, analyze your dog-feeding patterns to prevent them from becoming overweight.[5]

6. Cushing’s Disease

Melatonin for Cushing’s Disease
Image Source

Cushon’s Disease affects a dog’s adrenal glands and forces them to produce high amounts of cortisol. High cortisol levels can cause panting, hair loss, excessive urination, and extreme thirst and hunger. Panting alone is not an indicator of Cushing’s.

7. Allergies

Allergic reactions can make dogs pant during the night even if the dog ate the allergenic foods for breakfast. Allergic reactions are often related to certain foods, but tick bites and flowers can also act as triggers. 

8. Poisoning

Poisoning in dogs is caused by the ingestion of toxic foods, such as onions and garlic. In this case, besides panting, dogs present other symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive salivation.

9. Anemia

Dogs with anemia do not have enough red blood cells in their bloodstream. The role of the red blood cells is to transport oxygen to the dog’s organs. Anemic dogs have less oxygen than they need for their organs to function properly, resulting in heavy panting. 

10. Medication

Medication Side Effect

If your dog is taking any medication and starts panting heavily during sleep, read the package leaflet to see if panting is listed as a side effect. This sometimes happens when taking prednisone and other steroids.

How To Determine if a Dog Is Panting During Sleep

To determine if a dog is panting during sleep, set a timer to 60 seconds, count your dog’s breaths, and compare it to the normal breathing rate of a resting dog. The normal breathing rate ranges from 10 to 30 breaths per minute for healthy adult dogs and from 15 to 40 breaths per minute for puppies and toy breeds.[6] 

A different way to measure your dog’s respiratory rate is to count how many times the dog breathes in 15 seconds and multiply that number by 4.

Related: Why Is My Dog Breathing Fast While Sleeping?

What To Do if My Dog Is Panting at Night? 

If your dog is panting at night, check for other symptoms which indicate a more severe health issue. If you don’t notice any, try to improve the quality of your dog’s sleep. If you notice any critical symptoms, call your vet.

Suppose your dog is panting because of non-dangerous reasons. In that case, there are some steps to take to improve your dog’s sleep patterns, such as:

  • helping them get enough exercise during the day 
  • keeping their sleeping space cool
  • providing more human-dog interaction
  • regular visits to the vet

If you conclude your dog is panting at night because of heatstroke, try to reduce their body temperature. To cool down a dog, take them to a chilly spot or immerse them in cool water. Make sure the water is not too cold to avoid thermal shock. 

When the dog feels better, take it to the emergency room.

Old Dog in Comfy Bed 

When To Take Your Dog to a Vet

Take your dog to the vet if you notice their panting is heavy and lasts more than 5 to 10 minutes, or if their tung and gums appear blue-ish. Do the same if you identify a potentially life-threatening condition, such as heatstroke, allergic reaction, heart disease, or poisoning.

Call your vet first in case your dog shows symptoms of severe illness. 

In some cases, your vet will tell you to set an appointment for the following days. If they assess the symptoms as critical, they will tell you to go to the emergency room.

Conclusion

A dog heavily panting at night is not always dangerous but can indicate a variety of issues, some critical and life-threatening, such as heatstroke and poisoning. 

Regular visits to the vet and providing your dog with a proper routine to reduce their stress levels are essential to keep problems away.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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