Other health problems

Why is My Senior Dog Panting?

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. May 27, 2024
Why is My Senior Dog Panting?

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Is your beloved senior dog panting more than usual? While panting is a normal way for dogs to regulate their body temperature, excessive panting in older dogs can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health issue. In any case, early detection and treatment of underlying health issues can significantly improve your senior dog's quality of life. By being aware of the potential causes of excessive panting, you can take steps to ensure your dog stays cool, comfortable, and healthy.

This AnimalWised article will help you understand the various reasons why senior dogs might pant excessively. We'll explore common causes like age-related changes, overheating, and medical conditions. We'll also provide tips on what to watch for and when to seek veterinary attention.

You may also be interested in: My Cat Is Panting Like a Dog
  1. Why do dogs dogs pant?
  2. Obesity
  3. Heart problems
  4. Respiratory problems
  5. Stress
  6. Pain
  7. Heatstroke
  8. Cushing's syndrome
  9. Diabetic cetoacidosis
  10. Poisoning
See more >>

Why do dogs dogs pant?

Dogs pant, which is rapid, open-mouthed breathing, to regulate their body temperature. Unlike humans who sweat, dogs cool themselves down by evaporating moisture from their tongue and respiratory tract. This is why you'll see your dog pant after:

  • Physical activity raises their body temperature, prompting panting to cool them down.
  • To combat the heat, panting becomes their primary cooling mechanism.
  • Emotional responses like fear or nervousness can also trigger panting.

Certain breeds, like Pugs or Bulldogs, have shorter snouts (brachycephalic). Their anatomical structure can make breathing more difficult, leading to more frequent panting even at rest.

What to do

In these cases of normal, physiological panting, there's usually no need to do anything. The dog will typically return to normal breathing within a few minutes. However, if the panting does not subside, is very exaggerated, or is accompanied by other clinical signs, you should consult a veterinarian. Persistent or severe panting could indicate an underlying health issue that requires medical attention.

Want to learn more about how dogs regulate their temperature? Our other article offers a broader look at their cooling mechanisms.


Overweight dogs are a common sight, and unfortunately, aging can exacerbate this issue. Decreased activity levels and a slower metabolism make senior pups more susceptible to weight gain, especially if their food intake remains unchanged or treat portions become more generous.

But weight gain isn't just about aesthetics. Obesity can lead to serious health problems, including difficulty breathing. This, in turn, can cause older dogs to pant more frequently, impacting their quality of life.

If you notice your senior dog panting more often, a trip to the vet is crucial, especially if they're over 7-8 years old and due for their annual checkup. This visit helps rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing the panting.

What to do?

If your veterinarian determines the panting is related to excess weight, they'll likely recommend a weight loss plan with dietary adjustments. This plan should always be supervised by a vet to ensure your dog reaches and maintains a healthy weight for their age and breed.

If weight management is a concern, our recommended article, homemade recipes for obese or overweight dogs, provides healthy and tasty homemade food options to keep your senior pup spry.

Heart problems

Panting is a common sight in older dogs, but sometimes it can be a sign of a more serious problem like heart disease. Heart failure, a condition where the heart struggles to pump blood efficiently, can affect a dog's breathing and lead to excessive panting.

This is why it is important to be on the lookout for additional symptoms that might indicate a heart problem, these include:

  • A cough that occurs even when your dog is resting can be a red flag.

  • Reduced energy levels and difficulty keeping up during walks or playtime could point to underlying issues.

What to do?

If you notice your senior dog panting more than usual, especially when accompanied by other symptoms, a visit to the vet is crucial. During the examination, your veterinarian will likely perform diagnostic tests like chest x-rays, blood tests, ultrasounds, or electrocardiograms to pinpoint the cause of the panting.

Based on the diagnosis, your veterinarian will develop a personalized treatment plan. This might include a specialized diet to support heart health and medications to improve heart function. Early detection and treatment are key to managing heart disease and improving your dog's quality of life.

Why is My Senior Dog Panting? - Heart problems

Respiratory problems

While panting is common in older dogs, excessive panting can indicate an underlying respiratory issue like pneumonia. This infection, more frequent in seniors with weaker immune systems, can significantly impact their breathing.

Panting isn't the only clue. Be aware of these additional symptoms that might suggest pneumonia:

  • A persistent cough, especially one that produces mucus, can be a sign of infection.

  • A fever can accompany respiratory infections.

  • Reduced energy levels and labored breathing are cause for concern.

What to do?

If your senior dog is panting excessively, particularly when combined with other symptoms, don't hesitate to visit the veterinarian. The vet will likely perform tests like chest x-rays or blood tests to diagnose the cause of the panting.

Treatment depends on the underlying issue. For pneumonia, antibiotics are typically prescribed for several weeks to combat the infection.

It's crucial to address panting in older dogs and not dismiss it as a normal part of aging. Respiratory issues can worsen if left untreated. Early diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve your dog's quality of life.

If you're worried about a respiratory issue, our recommended article, respiratory infections in dogs, provides information on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.


While generally less prone to stress than cats, dogs are creatures of habit who can be fazed by disruptions. Events like vet visits, loud noises, or unfamiliar people can trigger anxiety, and one way they express this is through panting. This can be especially true for older dogs, who may be more sensitive to changes.

Before attributing panting to stress, a trip to the vet is essential. They can rule out any underlying medical conditions discussed earlier that might be causing the panting. Once health issues are addressed, if the panting persists, stress becomes a possible culprit.

What to do?

The key to managing stress-induced panting is to identify what's causing the anxiety. Does your dog pant only at the vet's office? During walks in busy areas? Pay close attention to the situations that precede the panting.

Once you know the triggers, try to minimize your dog's exposure to them whenever possible. For unavoidable stressors, consult with an animal behaviorist or a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior. They can create a personalized plan to manage your dog's anxiety. This might involve establishing a predictable routine, providing a safe haven during stressful situations, and using positive reinforcement techniques to help your dog cope effectively.

If stress might be playing a role, our recommended article, 10 signs that your dog is stressed, which offers helpful tips to create a calmer atmosphere for your senior companion.


Panting in older dogs isn't always a sign of aging. Sometimes, it can be a symptom of underlying pain. One common culprit is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that can cause significant discomfort in senior pups. However, various other conditions can also trigger pain.

To understand the cause of panting, observe your dog for other signs of pain:

  • Movement issues
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Loss of appetite

What to do?

Since treatment depends on the source of the pain, a visit to the veterinarian is crucial. Through a comprehensive examination, your vet will pinpoint the cause and recommend a suitable treatment plan. This might involve pain medication, dietary changes to manage weight and inflammation, or other therapies tailored to your dog's specific needs.


Panting is common in older dogs, but sometimes it can be a sign of a life-threatening emergency: heatstroke. This condition occurs when a dog's body temperature rises to dangerous levels due to excessive heat exposure. Senior dogs, with less efficient cooling mechanisms, are particularly at risk.

While panting is a key sign of heatstroke, be alert for other symptoms:

  • Elevated body temperature
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

What to do?

Heatstroke is a veterinary emergency. If you suspect your dog is overheating, prioritize cooling them down while seeking immediate veterinary attention. Here's what you can do:

  1. Get your dog out of direct sunlight and into a cool area.

  2. Cover them with cool, damp towels or offer cool (not cold) water to drink.

  3. Avoid using ice baths, as they can cause shivering, which can actually raise body temperature.

Never leave your dog unattended in a hot car, even with the windows cracked. Also, always provide access to shade and water during walks, and avoid strenuous exercise during peak sun hours.

Why is My Senior Dog Panting? - Heatstroke

Cushing's syndrome

While panting is a common occurrence in older dogs, it can sometimes signal an underlying medical condition like Cushing's syndrome. This hormonal disorder occurs most frequently in middle-aged and senior pups when their adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of cortisol. This can happen due to tumors in the adrenal glands themselves or as a side effect of long-term corticosteroid use for other health problems.

Panting is a symptom of Cushing's syndrome, but there are other signs you should be aware of:

  • Hair loss
  • Excessive drinking and urination
  • Distended abdomen

What to do?

If you suspect Cushing's syndrome, a trip to the veterinarian is essential. Through diagnostic tests, your vet can confirm the diagnosis and determine the underlying cause. Treatment for Cushing's syndrome varies depending on the root cause. It often involves medication to regulate cortisol production. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove a tumor in the adrenal gland. Regardless of the specific treatment plan, following your veterinarian's recommendations is crucial for effectively managing this condition.

Diabetic cetoacidosis

Panting is a common sight in older dogs, but in some cases, it can be a sign of a serious complication from diabetes: diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

This life-threatening condition occurs when a dog's body struggles to use glucose (sugar) for energy, leading to dangerously high blood sugar levels. DKA is more frequent in senior dogs whose diabetes may be poorly managed.

While panting is one symptom of DKA, be on the lookout for these additional signs that might indicate trouble:

  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Fruity-smelling breath

What to do?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a veterinary emergency. If you suspect your dog might be experiencing DKA, don't wait, seek immediate veterinary attention.

The veterinarian will stabilize your dog's condition through measures like fluid therapy and insulin administration. Once stabilized, ongoing management of their diabetes is crucial. This typically involves a combination of medication, a specific diet, and regular exercise to help keep their blood sugar levels under control.


Elderly dogs can still be curious about their surroundings, and unfortunately, this can lead to trouble. They might ingest things they shouldn't, such as medications, household cleaners, or even certain plants which can be toxic to them. If your senior dog starts panting excessively and shows additional symptoms like:

  • Drooling
  • Incoordination
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

If you notice any of these signs in combination with panting, it's crucial to act quickly.

What to do?

Time is of the essence in cases of suspected poisoning. Take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. If possible, bring the substance they might have ingested (or a photo/label of the product).

The veterinarian will determine the best course of action based on the suspected toxin and your dog's condition. Treatment might include inducing vomiting (stomach lavage), administering activated charcoal to absorb the toxin, or other interventions. The prognosis depends on several factors, including the type of toxin ingested, the amount consumed, and how quickly treatment begins.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why is My Senior Dog Panting?, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

  • Carlson and Giffin (2002): Practical manual of canine veterinary medicine . Madrid: Editorial el Drac.
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Why is My Senior Dog Panting?