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Why is my dog always panting?

My dog is always panting! He has water, most of the time he is inside, but he is always panting. Can you give me some insight on what to do? Thanks, E.F.

Dear E.F.,

Panting can be very normal for some animals, especially if overweight or intolerant of warm temperatures. If the panting is truly excessive, it may be an indication of a medical problem. The most common cause of excessive panting in dogs is pain. Unlike humans, dogs will hide their pain and can suppress it without crying out unless it is a sharp, sudden pain. Back problems, hip and joint problems are very common in dogs as in people. Radiographs and a thorough physical exam as well as a complete history from you will be necessary to diagnose these problems. 

Fortunately, we have a wide variety of options to manage pain and treat arthritis in dogs so the long term outlook is usually very good. Another cause of excessive panting in dogs is a common disorder in older dog’s called Cushing’s disease. This is a disease that causes overproduction of the body’s natural steroids and can cause a variety of symptoms including excessive hunger and thirst, poor haircoat, panting, and a pot-bellied appearance. Blood tests will be necessary to diagnose this problem. Lung and heart problems can also cause excessive panting and would require an exam and radiographs to diagnose. It sounds like a trip to your veterinarian for a thorough exam and testing is in order for your dog.
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