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Thank you for your question. My name is***** I have been a small animal veterinarian for 14 years and I'd like to help with your question.
Poor boy! How often is it happening? Without examining him, and preferably examining him while he is painful it is really difficult to know what is going on. The description that you are giving does make me speculate about a few things... the first is that this sounds more like nerve pain. Usually if they have joint (ie arthritis) or other musculoskeletal pain it doesn't come and go like that. I think that they can have nerve pain that acts like a pinched nerve and will come on quick and sharp. Nerve pain is the most difficult to localize and diagnose. Seeing the nerves requires advance diagnostic images, such as MRI. At this age I don't know if that is something you want to put him through to get at an answer, but it might be reasonable to do a trial with pain medication, such as gabapentin, that targets back and nerve pain. You could ask your veterinarian about it.
As far as the panting, that is a common complaint in older dogs too and it can just be related to pain. However, they can also pant more with heart disease, some hormonal imbalances like thyroid problems, or just as a component of anxiety related to decreased hearing or vision. I would start by trying to address any pain issues and see if that helps the panting. If not, then some blood work would be indicated to evaluate his thyroid.
I hope that helps, but if you have more questions, just ask. Please don't forget to rate our conversation once all your questions have been addressed.