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Dog is panting a lot.

Species: Dog
Breed: Cicker Spaniel
Age: 11-15 years
My dog Sam has been panting alot for the past year. Recently he is doing this more and more and walks around while doing it aimlessly from room to room. last night was the worst where he walked around panting most of the night. He gets plenty of water.

He has severe arthritis in his back legs where it takes him a bit of time just to sit down. He falls over sometimes when trying to make a step. His appetite is good as he never misses a meal. He sleeps most of the day and most of the evening except last night with the constant walking around and panting.

I am concerned if the panting is indicative of being in constant pain. Any suggestions ideas what this could mean?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm sorry to hear that Sam is feeling uncomfortable. There are several possible reasons for an older dog to pant.

Arthritis pain is certainly a possible cause. Is Sam on any medications for arthritis? If not, it would be wonderful to talk to your vet about an arthritis medication such as Metacam, Rimadyl, Deramax or Previcox. I've had cases where dogs were almost totally crippled with pain and they became like puppies again with medication. (But it's not always this dramatic.)

Another possibility is something called cushing's disease. Cushing's is a complicated disease that affects a dog's adrenal glands. It causes the dog to be quite thirsty and urinate large amounts. The dog would also be very hungry as well. The symptoms of cushing's disease come on very gradually and it is often hard for owners to recognize it. Panting at night time (or any time) is a symptom as well.

While cushing's disease can be treated, it is difficult and expensive to treat.

Is Sam coughing at all? A heart condition could cause panting but would have coughing as well.

It would be great to talk to your vet about some solutions, especially trying a pain medication to see if that helps!


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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. AskAVetQuestion.com and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Sam does not cough but he does urinate alot and is always hungry. It sounds like the cushing's disease. My question is if it is humane to try and treat this disease considering he has arthritis in his rear legs and the removal of the excess cortisol could make the arthritis worse?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Cushing's disease is always a difficult thing to deal with. What you are describing is correct - if he has cushing's and we treat it, then his arthritis could get significantly worse.

If you take the financial aspect out of the situation then I would say to go ahead and test for cushing's and if he has it to treat it. The treatment is not hard on him...and we could also have him on arthritis medicine at the same time. However, the costs are what add up. He would need a number of different repeated tests and these usually run around the $200 mark each time.

If you have insurance on him, or if finances aren't a big issue then I would recommend having your vet test him for cushings.

But, if you decide not to treat him, then here are some factors that I look at when deciding that "enough is enough" and considering if it is time for euthanasia:

1. Is he enjoying life more often than not?
2. Are you enjoying having him?
3. Is he still eating ok?

What I do find though is that in most cases when it comes to quality of life issues my clients just wake up one day and "know" that it is time for euthanasia.

But...before we go there, I'd still recommend the arthritis medications.

Just so you know, I'll be heading offline shortly. If you have more concerns, I'll answer them when I am back online later today.

Dr. Marie.



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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.