Causes of Excessive Dog Panting

by Ginny Fulton
(Waco, TX USA)

We have a large breed (Lab and Chow) dog. After we moved last year he began to pant all the time. We have had him to the vet several times. They have done blood work, packed his ears with an antibiotic 2 times, did a chest x-ray. He has been on antibiotics, anti-inflamatory medication, and last was a steroid medicine.

NOTHING has seemed to help. He doesn't pant when he sleeps, and there have been a few times he won't pant during the day. He is eating fine, and drinking fine. I am at a loss as to what steps we should take next.

Vet Suggestions regarding Excessive Dog Panting

Hi Ginny,

You didn’t mention how old your dog is, but we do sometimes see dogs start to pant more as they age. There can be MANY causes, and it is sometimes not easy to get to the bottom of the problem.

Obesity can cause panting, so if your dog is overweight, I’d start there. So can fear and anxiety… have you noticed any other behavioral changes? Of course heart and lung disease are possibilities. Your dog has had a chest x-ray; I assume it was normal. An EKG could be helpful in more fully evaluating cardiac function, and perhaps a blood pressure check to rule out hypertension.

Laryngeal paralysis will cause dogs to pant. Have you noticed a change in the sound of your dog’s bark or an increase in breathing sounds when he’s not panting?

Elevated environmental temperatures are another possibility. You mentioned that you moved, and a Chow/Lab cross is probably pretty furry. Could the answer be as simple as he is spending more time in a warm environment (either indoors or out)?

Finally, hormonal changes can cause panting in dogs. Hyperthyroidism is pretty rare and should be associated with weight loss and other symptoms, but Cushing’s disease is pretty common. Has your dog been tested for that? You mentioned that your dog has been on some steroids, these can actually cause panting and complicate testing for Cushing’s, so unless there is a very good reason for him to be on steroid (systemic or topical), I’d take him off of those.

Good luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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