All dog parents are familiar with panting and have come to expect it on a warm day or after a rowdy game of fetch. But if your dog is panting excessively after waking, you may wonder if this is still considered normal. As a veterinarian, I frequently get asked questions such as this. Let’s explore some possible reasons a dog may pant after waking up and how you can best help your dog.
A quick overview to panting
Panting is a rapid (200-400 breaths per minute), shallow, open-mouth breathing pattern primarily used to regulate body temperature. Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat through their skin. Instead, they release heat mainly through panting, by evaporating moisture from their tongue and mouth to help lower their body temperature. Dogs also pant in response to various emotional and physical states. Sometimes, panting can be a sign of a medical issue – conditions such as pain, illness, and certain medications can also cause panting.
Should I be worried if my dog pants in the morning just after waking up?
Panting is a natural and typical behavior for dogs, but excessive or unexpected panting can be an indication of underlying issues. This includes panting after waking up, especially if this is a new and consistent behavior for your dog.
If the panting is accompanied by other clinical signs, that could also be a red flag. It’s always advisable to monitor any changes in a pet’s panting patterns and consult with a veterinarian if there are concerns.
Top reasons that cause a dog to pant when waking up
1. Anxiety or Stress
Dogs pant when they are excited, anxious, or stressed. This could result from a variety of factors, such as a change in environment, past traumas, or even exciting or scary dreams at night. The stress of these dreams can result in panting when waking up. In addition to panting, you may notice other signs such as shaking, hiding, whining, pacing, or clingy behavior.
Home remedies such as gentle touch (petting or massage), calming treats or wraps, and pheromone sprays such as Adaptil may be beneficial. If you are able to identify a root cause, working with a trainer on desensitization using positive reinforcement techniques can be helpful. In some cases, anti-anxiety medications may also be beneficial. It is also important to rule out medical causes before assuming that panting is due to stress or anxiety. Learn more about anxiety in older dogs and natural remedies for dog anxiety.
2. Overheating or High Ambient Temperature
A dog may be panting when waking up if their room is too warm, or if their body temperature is elevated. You may notice signs of thirst or that your dog is seeking out cool areas as well. A temperature over 103 F in a dog indicates a fever. Febrile dogs may show symptoms of lethargy, decreased appetite, and clinical signs associated with the underlying medical condition.
If you think your dog is panting due to elevated temperature, try providing them a cool place to rest with plenty of fresh water. If you feel comfortable, you can take your dog’s temperature rectally. If they have a fever they will need to see the vet for a proper workup and treatments.
3. Pain or Discomfort
A dog panting when waking up may do so because of pain experienced at night or early in the morning. Panting can indeed be a sign of pain in dogs. Pain can result from various issues, such as arthritis, injuries, or surgical recovery. Additional signs that your dog may be in pain include altered behavior such as self-isolation or aggression, vocalizations like whining or yelping, and changes in eating and drinking habits. Physical symptoms may include restlessness, limping, difficulty rising or lying down, changes in posture, squinting the eyes, and increased respiratory rate. Dogs may also excessively groom a painful area. Some may even display reactive behavior, like snapping when a painful area is touched.
4. Medical Conditions
Medical conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disorders, neurological conditions, or hormonal imbalances such as Cushing’s Disease, may lead to increased panting. Such conditions can cause consistent panting or panting associated with certain triggers, such as waking. Other clinical signs will vary based on the underlying condition. Diagnosis and treatment should be guided by a veterinary professional to ensure proper care.
Certain medications can cause panting as a side effect. Some breeds, especially brachycephalic dogs with short noses, are also more prone to panting than others.
What can be done at home to help
If your dog exhibits panting after waking up, you can consider these steps.
- Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Ensure they have a cool, soft, shady place to rest.
- Regular Vet Check-ups: Schedule routine check-ups to rule out underlying health issues, especially if your dog is a senior.
- Monitoring Diet and Exercise: Ensure your dog has a balanced diet and regular exercise and that they are at a healthy body weight.
- Medication and Treatments: If your vet prescribes medications or recommends treatments, adhere to them strictly.
There are no home remedies for excessive panting, and the only way to determine the cause (and therefore appropriate treatments) is to see your vet for a thorough exam and workup.
When to see your veterinarian
Panting after waking can sometimes be a typical response, particularly if dogs have been dreaming or sleeping in a warm environment. However, when this panting persists notably after a period of rest or is paired with other concerning symptoms, it may indicate a more serious issue. As a pet owner, trust your instincts—you’re most attuned to when your dog’s behavior seems off. When in doubt, always consult with your veterinarian for the safety and well-being of your pet.
How a veterinarian can help
When concerned about your dog’s panting after waking, a visit to the veterinarian will involve a comprehensive evaluation to diagnose the underlying issue. Here’s what you can expect:
- Physical Examination ($50-100 depending on location and specific clinic): This is the starting point of any vet visit. Your vet will check your dog’s overall health, listen to the heart and lungs, and palpate the abdomen.
- Blood Work ($100-400): Bloodwork can provide insights into your dog’s overall health and major organ function. Additionally, specific tests for conditions such as Cushing’s Disease may be recommended.
- X-rays ($100-400) or ultrasound ($300-500): Imaging can be helpful in evaluating for heart or lung disease, and getting an overview of the abdominal organs, presence of masses, etc.
Possible Treatments and Prognosis
Recommended treatments and prognosis will depend on the underlying cause of the panting. If the diagnosis points to a condition such as Cushing’s Disease, arthritis, or heart disease, your veterinarian will prescribe medications for long-term use. If your dog has a fever or infection, they may require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and antibiotics. In some cases, for example, brachycephalic airway syndrome, surgery may be recommended.