Why is My Dog Panting and Restless? 15 Possible Causes

It can be scary to sit there and watch your dog panting and restless, especially when it starts suddenly and you have no idea why. Heavy panting is common when it’s hot outside and your dog has been running around…but what if they aren’t overheated and haven’t been exercising? Something more serious could be going on.

Let’s start off by getting this disclaimer out of the way. It’s always best to play it safe when it comes to your dogs health. If your dog starts panting and is restless out of nowhere, take them to the vet ASAP. It could be nothing, but it could also be something serious such as bloat or poisoning.

Common Reasons Your Dog May Be Restless and Panting

There are numerous reasons your dog might be panting and restless. Below we have provided a bullet list of the most common causes.

  • Overheating
  • Heatstroke
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Injury
  • Bloat
  • Poison
  • Insect Bite
  • Snake Bite
  • Heart Disease
  • Arthritis 
  • Medication
  • Obesity
  • Laryngeal Paralysis
  • Cushing’s Disease

There could be many more reasons than the ones listed above. Again, if you’re unsure what’s going on, play it safe and take your dog to the vet.

But That List Doesn’t Help, Does it?

I know what you’re probably thinking… “that list doesn’t really help!”. I get it, a giant list of potential causes doesn’t help you diagnose. That’s why later in this article, I will go over each of those causes in detail and help you attempt to self diagnose the cause.

Keep in mind that when it comes to your dog’s health, it’s always a good idea to see the vet instead of trying to self diagnose.

Before we go into the details of each potential cause, let’s talk about one thing…

Normal Vs. Abnormal Panting

This dog is panting but is not restless. This is an example of normal panting

It’s normal for dogs to be somewhat restless and pant when they are exhausted. Panting for dogs is the same as sweating for us. Sweating helps cool us down, panting helps cool a dog down.

However, when your dog starts panting for seemingly no reason, this is abnormal and requires attention.

Here are some things to look for when it comes to abnormal panting

  • The panting is more forced than usual
  • It’s at a faster rate and your dog won’t relax
  • Your dog isn’t hot and hasn’t been running around

If any of those apply, your dog is experiencing abnormal panting…so what should you do?

What Can I Do?

The very first thing you should do is call your vet and get their advice. If they say to come in, then make sure you go in immediately.

Once you give your vet a call, the next thing you’ll want to do is give your dog a cold bath either inside or in a shaded area outside.

The reason for this is because we want to rule out overheating. If it is overheating, then this will fix the issue ASAP. If it doesn’t fix the problem, then you can let your vet know you tried cooling them off and it didn’t work.

Main Causes

Below we are going to talk about some of the most common reasons dogs might be heavily panting and restless. These are listed in order from most to least common.

Overheating/Heatstroke

A dog has a much higher body temperature than you do. The normal temperature for the average human is 98.6. The normal temperature for a dog is 99.5-102.5. This means that dogs have a higher chance of overheating or having a heatstroke than you do.

If you suspect your dog is overheating, following the steps under “What to do” to cool them off. Once they have cooled off, get them to the vet ASAP.

Anxiety/Fear

We don’t realize how emotional some dogs can be! Dogs experience fear and anxiety just like we do. Remember the last time you were stressed? You probably sweat much easier, and you would pace back and forth. This is the same thing dogs do.

Has anything happened that might have caused fear and anxiety? If so, that’s likely what’s going on. To help calm them down. Pet them gently and talk very softly to them.

Injury

We will compare dogs to humans again with this example. When humans get hurt, our heart rate goes up, and tears begin to develop in our eyes, even if we don’t actually cry.  Dogs can’t cry like humans, so their natural response is heavy panting. With some injuries, your dog will lay down and not move. With other injuries, they will become restless and continuously move around.

Bloat

This is extremely serious. If you suspect your dog may have bloat you need to take them to the vet immediately.

Some signs of bloat include a swollen and hard abdominal, excessive salivating, retching (like coughing), biting his sides, and restlessness along with abnormal panting.

Poison

This is what most dog owners are afraid of when they see their dog restless and panting. Dogs have a way of getting into things they shouldn’t. I once had a dog eat a bunch of rat poison. Thankfully I caught her right away, and the vet was able to take care of the issue before anything serious happened.

Not only do dogs get into things they shouldn’t, but sometimes us humans will feed them food that’s poisonous to your dog. For example, most people know chocolate can poison your dog, but did you know macadamia nuts are actually worse than chocolate?

If you suspect your dog might be suffering from poisoning, get them into the vet immediately.

Insect Bite

This one is tough to diagnose because it’s hard to notice an insect bite on your dog…but an insect (or even snake) bite could be the reason for their abnormal behavior. You never know what insects your dog is allergic to until they get bit or stung. A lot of dogs are allergic to bees, so if your pup was out chasing around a bee, they might be having an allergic reaction.

Medication

If your dog has recently been prescribed a new medication, this is likely the cause of their abnormal panting and restlessness. Medications like prednisone are known to speed up the heart rate, which would be what’s causing the symptoms. Be sure to talk to your vet if medication is the issue.

Disease Related Causes

Some diseases can cause abnormal panting and restlessness to occur. Below are the most common.

Obesity

This should come as no surprise. When dogs are obese, they have more weight to move around, which means they will naturally pant more.

Heart Disease

One of this most significant concerns with heart disease in dogs is the lack of oxygen getting into the system. When a dog lacks oxygen, they will begin to pant to try to take in more oxygen with each breath

Arthritis

This goes back to dogs panting when they are in pain. Arthritis, especially in the hips, is excruciating for your pup. If your dog has arthritis, try supplementing with glutamine.

Laryngeal Paralysis and Cushing’s Disease

These are two very severe diseases that require immediate medical attention. We won’t be going into much detail about the conditions here because they are impossible to self diagnose.

Should You Visit The Vet?

This dog was panting and couldn't settle down, so they brought him to the vet

Taking your dog to the vet when you aren’t sure what’s going on is never a bad idea. However, if your dog has spent a long time outside or was running around getting some exercise, you may choose to wait before taking your dog to the vet. While waiting, make sure you follow the steps above and keep them cool. If 20-30 minutes go by and they’re still panting, you’d be smart to get them medical attention. Again, that doesn’t mean something is wrong, but better safe than sorry!

However, if one of the following is true, take your dog to the vet ASAP.

  • Tongue is discolored
  • Clearly in pain
  • Panting started suddenly

Conclusion

Don’t take this situation lightly. The only time it’s normal for dogs to pant and act restless is when they are hot or have been running around. If neither of those are the case, make sure you call your vet and explain the situation.

Recommended For You