My Old Dog Is Panting What Does That Mean?

My Old Dog Is Panting What Does That Mean?

Here’s a breakdown of why senior dogs pant, when it’s normal, when it’s cause for concern, and how to help them:

Why Older Dogs Pant

Panting is how dogs release excess heat and regulate their temperature. However, excessive panting in older dogs could signal:

  • Normal Aging: Senior dogs may pant more easily due to reduced body regulation capability.

  • Pain: Arthritis, injuries, or internal discomfort can lead to heavy panting.

  • Anxiety: Older dogs can get anxious due to separation, noise, or unfamiliar situations.

  • Cognitive Dysfunction (Doggy Dementia): Confusion and disorientation can cause panting.

  • Respiratory Issues: Heart disease, lung problems, or airway abnormalities can all cause breathing difficulties.

  • Heatstroke: This is a dangerous emergency. Signs include heavy panting, bright red gums, weakness, and collapse.

When to Worry

  • Constant Panting: Even when at rest, in cool environments, or for no obvious reason.
  • Panting with Other Symptoms: Coughing, lethargy, changes in eating/drinking, weakness.
  • Blue or Pale Gums: This signals poor oxygen levels and requires immediate vet care.

How to Help Your Panting Senior Dog

  1. Vet Visit: Rule out underlying health issues first. Your vet will examine your dog and may recommend tests to diagnose the cause.

  2. Comfort Measures:

    • Cool Environment: Provide shade, air conditioning, and access to cool water.
    • Weight Management: Obesity puts extra strain on breathing.
    • Calm Routine: Reduce stress by sticking to predictable schedules and managing anxiety triggers.
  3. Medication: Your vet might prescribe medication to manage pain, heart disease, or anxiety if those are the causes of the panting.

  4. Supplements: Talk to your vet about supplements to support joint health or cognitive function.

Key Takeaways

  • Excessive panting in older dogs can be a red flag. Don’t dismiss it as just a sign of aging.
  • Take your dog to the vet. They’ll identify the cause and help you manage it.
  • Comfort and care make a difference. Provide a cool, stress-free environment, and address any underlying issues.

Remember, with proper attention and care, your senior dog can have many healthy, happy years ahead!

Why Is My Old Dog Panting?

There are many reasons why an old dog might be panting, including:

  • Normal panting: Dogs pant to regulate their body temperature and cool down. This is especially common in hotweather or after exercise.

  • Pain: Pain can cause dogs to pant excessively. If your dog is panting and also showing other signs of pain, such aslimping or whining, its important to take them to the vet right away.

  • Anxiety: Anxiety can also cause dogs to pant. If your dog is panting and also pacing, drooling, or licking their lips,they may be anxious.

  • Cognitive dysfunction: Cognitive dysfunction, or doggy dementia, can cause dogs to pant excessively. If yourdog is panting and also showing other signs of cognitive dysfunction, such as getting lost in familiar places or havingtrouble following commands, its important to take them to the vet for a diagnosis.

  • Respiratory problems: Respiratory problems, such as heart disease or lung disease, can also cause dogs to pantexcessively. If your dog is panting and also coughing, wheezing, or having difficulty breathing, its important to takethem to the vet right away.

My Old Dog Is Panting What Does That Mean

Although panting is a common behavior in dogs, you might be curious as to why your pet pants or if it’s excessive or out of the ordinary. Usually, owners do not pay attention to how the dog breathes. Moreover, the majority believes that if the pet’s breathing is almost imperceptible, then everything is in order.

A healthy dog’s breathing is calm, soft, and rhythmic, and the movements of the chest wall during inhalation and exhalation are smooth.

Normal breathing is quiet, silent, and cannot be heard even if you come close to the dog. Only brachycephalic breeds produce noisy, loud breathing with whistles, snores, and sounds, even when the dog is sleeping. Dogs normally breathe through their nostrils with their mouth closed.

The surest way to determine whether a pet has a breathing disorder is to count the frequency of breaths per minute.

The norm is up to 27 breaths per minute during sleep and up to 30 at rest. Even in the absence of other changes in the body, an increase in breathing rate may indicate diseases of the dog’s respiratory system.

When a dog is breathing rapidly, it is not always a sign of illness. Many physiological conditions are accompanied by an increase in respiratory rate and the appearance of shortness of breath.

Breathing in dogs can be shallow and deep, frequent and rare, rhythmic and irregular, as well as thoracic, abdominal, and thoraco-abdominal.

Panting is a necessary cooling-down mechanism because dogs do not have an efficient sweat gland system like humans. Instead, dogs cool their bodies using evaporation of moisture from the mouth and tongue, and by exchanging warm air from their lungs with cooler outside air.

When You Don’t Have To Worry?

Breathing and the functioning of other body systems are interconnected. Thus, changes in the pet’s body also affect respiratory function, because breathing is not only the exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) between the body and the environment in the lungs. It’s the same:

  • The use of oxygen in chemical reactions (cells also respire);
  • Participation in heat exchange;
  • Participation in maintaining the constancy of the internal environment (homeostasis).

Causes Old Dog Is Panting:

There can be several causes of respiratory distress, and for each of them you need to act immediately: call a veterinarian.

The fact is that the body of animals living on land is not able to create oxygen reserves. If the slightest signs of breathing problems appear, it is necessary to consult a doctor, otherwise, the outcome may be disastrous.

First, you need to understand that there is a problem. There are a number of breathing changes that are not associated with the disease. These are…

Breed Features:

The smaller the animal, the more frequent the breathing, even among dogs. In a small body, all metabolic processes proceed faster,

so the body temperature, pulse, and breathing rate of a toy terrier weighing 1.5 kilograms will be higher than that of a Great Dane weighing 60 kilograms.

As a result, the parameters of heartbeat, respiration, and body temperature have physiological variability, that is, there are upper and lower limits of normal.

We must not forget about brachycephaly, whose shortened muzzle and narrowed nasal passages are features of the breed.

This structure has led to the fact that with the normal need for oxygen, its entry into the body is difficult due to the structural features of the respiratory tract, so these dogs can breathe more often, producing a wide variety of sounds, even in their sleep.

When a large dog is resting, it is difficult to notice how it breathes. Also, do not be afraid of rare breathing, because the frequency of sighs in large animals is much lower and can be 10-12 breaths per minute, which is associated with a large lung volume and a lower metabolic rate in the body.


Ambient temperature and heat affect the frequency and type of breathing in a pet. This is more related to thermoregulation, which in dogs is mainly carried out through the respiratory system, paw pads, and ears.

An increase in external temperature leads to overheating of the body. The evaporation of moisture from mucous and hairless areas of the body is accompanied by cooling. In this way, a constant body temperature is maintained.

A dog’s shortness of breath (breathing with its mouth open and tongue hanging out) is normal in hot weather.

Pain or Discomfort:

Certain canines may effectively conceal discomfort and ailments from people. They make a greater effort than others to mask their discomfort as a result.

But after they experience enough discomfort, they frequently can’t help but exhibit symptoms like panting. Keep an eye out for any further symptoms of pain or illness, such as diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, tiredness, limping, irregular heartbeat, and behavioral abnormalities. If you believe your dog is ill or hurt, get in touch with your veterinarian.


Heat stroke warning indicators include bright red tongue and gums, wide eyes, weakness, and an elongated tongue appearance in addition to severe panting.

Reduce your dog’s exposure to heat and keep them cold to avoid heatstroke. When it’s hot outside, always take precautions to keep your dog safe.

Cars may get extremely hot very quickly, even hotter than the outside temperature, therefore never leave a dog alone in one. Take your dog to the vet if in doubt.

Physical Exercise:

Breathing is also aimed at maintaining the basic parameters of life within normal limits. Active movements, games, and sports activities lead to the fact that the organs require more energy and oxygen.

At the same time, the dog’s body temperature rises, so during physical activity the pet experiences rapid breathing and shortness of breath. The purpose of this process is to regulate body temperature and increase the amount of oxygen delivered to the cells.

Your dog’s body and facial features will be relaxed. Eyes will appear bright and happy. Once things have calmed down, the panting will slow down and eventually stop. Light, continuous panting with an open mouth and bright eyes is normal in a relaxed and content dog. In fact, many people consider it a puppy smile.


A pet’s entire life is under constant stress. When adaptation to stress has occurred, then the dog behaves calmly.

Unfamiliar situations lead to excitement in the animal and activation of brain activity, stress hormones are released into the blood, blood pressure rises, and more energy is expended. To obtain energy, cells use a large amount of oxygen entering the body during respiration.

Therefore, in order to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the body, in “extreme” conditions the pet’s breathing quickens, and shortness of breath appears.

Reaction to vaccination:

Your pet may experience rapid breathing after vaccination. This may be due to:

  • Transporting a dog, for example, in a car;
  • Visiting the clinic because the dog is nervous;
  • Short-term increase in body temperature as a reaction to the vaccine;
  • Allergic reactions, but in this case, there will be other signs – redness of the mucous membranes, swelling of the muzzle, and urticaria.

If, after vaccination, increased breathing, labored breathing, and whistling persist, coughing appears, the dog lies down, refuses food and water, then it must be shown to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Anxious Dream:

Just like people, dogs dream. Sleep in pets also consists of several phases – fast and calm. REM sleep is accompanied by increased brain activity.

When a pet is dreaming, its paws, eyelids, and lips begin to tremble, breathing quickens, and sometimes even the dog begins to make quiet sounds. This is not a pathology and a cause for concern, so you should not wonder why the dog began to breathe more often.


Neoplasms of a malignant nature cause intoxication, anemia, pain, and hypoxia (oxygen starvation). The breathing pattern becomes shallow: the dog often breathes through the nose, taking short, convulsive breaths.

Foreign Body:

The foreign object causes an obstruction in the airways and blocks the flow of oxygen to the lungs. The dog is breathing heavily, wheezing, and making expectoration movements.

First Aid For Rapid Breathing at Home:

To prepare your dog for transport to the veterinary clinic, administer first aid at home.

Eliminate Irritants:

Place your dog in a quiet, secluded area away from sunlight and drafts.

Provide Access To Fresh Air:

Open the window and let the room air out.

Provide Plenty Of Fluids:

Place a bowl of water or ice cubes in front of your dog. If your pet refuses to drink on its own, try feeding it with a spoon.

Provide Complete Peace:

Let the dog calm down: talk in a quiet, gentle voice, scratch behind the ear, and try to keep him in a static position.

Act According To The Circumstances:

  • If heatstroke is suspected, cover the dog’s head with a wet towel and provide access to fresh water at room temperature.
  • If you observe cyanosis of the mucous membranes, wrap them in a blanket and warm the paws with a heating pad.
  • If the dog loses consciousness and you do not feel a pulse, perform artificial respiration: place the pet on the right side, clasp his nose with your lips, exhale short but strongly, press on the chest as if pulling it to the neck, make 15 rhythmic movements, and then repeat all over again until the pet wakes up. After completing resuscitation, call a doctor at home. It is not recommended to move an animal that has suffered cardiac arrest from place to place.
  • Please note: do not use medications from a human first aid kit. They can distort the clinical picture and lead to a sharp deterioration in health. If the dog becomes worse and emergency transport to a veterinary clinic is not possible, contact a specialist by phone.
  • Many doctors provide online consultations around the clock and help you understand why your dog’s breathing is becoming more frequent via video call.

Prevention Of Respiratory Diseases:

  • Avoid drafts. Place the dog bed in a warm, dry corner away from the front door and windows.
  • Provide a safe external environment. Limit access to small objects, sharp bones, and sticks that could become lodged in the throat.
  • Follow the parasite vaccination schedule. Vaccination against common canine viruses is carried out annually. Deworming – quarterly.
  • Strengthen your immune system. Enrich your diet with veterinarian-approved vitamin and mineral supplements.
  • Avoid exposure to heat and hypothermia. Reduce walks under the scorching sun and in severe frost.
  • Provide easy access to clean water. Change the water 2-3 times a day. If your dog doesn’t drink from a bowl well, buy a fountain drinker.
  • Prevent an allergic reaction. Do not walk your dog on lawns with flowering plants and do not give food from the table. If your dog begins to pant rapidly after changing food, introduce a monoprotein diet. If the condition returns to normal, reintroduce the previous diet, and if allergy symptoms return, contact your veterinarian. He will help you choose a hypoallergenic diet that suits your pet’s age, weight, and physiological needs.


In this article, we have mentioned only a few possible causes for difficulty breathing. If you notice your pet is short of breath, contact your veterinarian immediately! If oxygen does not reach the lungs, home treatment will not solve the problem.

Aapt Dubey
Aapt Dubey

Aapt Dubey, a devoted canine enthusiast and experienced dog Owner, brings boundless passion to our team. With a heart full of love for our four-legged friends, Aapt is dedicated to sharing insights on dog care, behavior, and training to make every pup's life happier and healthier at

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