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Pet Doc
Pet Doc, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 6523
Experience:  Veterinarian - BVSc
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Why is my dog panting heavily at night?

Customer Question

My dog is panting heavily at rest.

During the night her breathing is rapid and shallow.

Submitted: 7 years ago via PetPlace.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Pet Doc replied 7 years ago.

Thank you for your question regarding your dog who seems to be excessively panting. As you can probably well imagine, there are many different things can cause constant panting. Heavy panting can be caused by heart problems, lung problems, fever, or bronchitis. You can read about this here:

As you probably will have read whilst on PetPlace, dogs pant for various reasons. They pant to cool down, but they also pant when they are under stress, in pain, or afraid. There can also be medical causes such as neurological problems, respiratory disorders, and Heart problems such as heartworm, anemia, and fever, and even sometimes a toxicity! Sometimes in older dogs, there can even be a tumor to blame!

If your dog is panting but has no other symptoms, keep a watch on her. If it still seems excessive after a day or so, or if she develops more symptoms, I'd schedule an appointment with your Vet to get her fully checked over.

In the meantime, I would like you to please keep a close eye on her mucus membranes and capillary refill time tonight as follows:

Mucus membranes - flip her lip and look at the color of her gums. They should maintain a nice salmon pink color. Get her to the emergency Vet if they appeal white or very pale pink, or if they are a dark deep red color.

Capillary Refill time - this measures blood perfusion and test this by putting your thumb on her gum to apply pressure. After you release your thumb you will see the gum blanch. Capillary refill time is the amount of time it takes (in seconds) for the gum to return to a healthy pink color from the blanced white color. If 2 seconds or less don't worry - if it is taking significantly more time, again - off to the emergency Vet.

If this is ongoing tonight and you are really worried about your girl then I really would encourage you to just take her to the emergency Vet now. It is always better to be safe than sorry in these situations and although she could just be hot, anxious or painful, there may also be something else to blame here!

Best of luck with your girl and please let me know how you get on. Also be sure to check out: Canine Health a book I have helped write on canine health problems for future reference for your girl. I hope this helps and just reply if you need more info won't you!

Kind Regards,

Dr M D Edwards

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Expert:  Pet Doc replied 7 years ago.
It is definitely abnormal for a dog to have a high respiratory rate all the time. If your Vet has taken chest xrays and the lungs appear clear, I would also encourage they send the xray films off to be analysed by a specialst Veterinary radiologist as well to ensure nothing has been missed. Also see if you can get a referral for a thoracic ultrasound - this will help localize any other soft tissue abnormalities that are hard to see on xrays. I really do think it is important we get to the bottom of this girl excessive panting problem. You could even consider referral to a Veterinary medical specialist who can under take bronchoscopy, the ultrasound of the chest and further blood work. All of these diagnostics will help rule out more of the above possible causes I have mentioned.

Also be aware that if your girl happens to be on steroids for another problem (as many dogs tend to be some times for skin problems and so on) that these can cause excessive and ongoing panting. I doubt your girl is on steroids for any reason, but I just thought I would let you know to be sure!

I hope this has been of some help and do enquire about the possibility of a referral to a medical specialist if your vet doesn't seem to want to take the diagnostic process any further.

Kind Regards,

Dr Edwards

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