When a dog won't lie down and is panting, it triggers all sorts of worrisome thoughts in their owners. If alarm bells are going off in your head, you are right to be concerned.
Dogs who are struggling to lie down and are panting are likely in some kind of distress. Finding out what may be going on is ultimate the job of a veterinarian considering that these signs can be indicative of some serious problems.
Let's sort through some of the most common issues that can cause these signs. After working for a vet hospital and emergency center for some time, I have found some common trends.
Please have your dog though see your vet at soon as you can so to prevent suffering or progression to something potentially dangerous.
If your dog shows other accompanying signs, mention them to your vet as they can help him/her vet more easily pinpoint the problem.
A Sign of Respiratory Problems
If your dog is having problems lying down, this can be indicative of some type of respiratory problem.
In other words, the dog may have trouble getting oxygen and lying down is a position that makes this even more difficult. The dog may therefore refuse to lie down as it makes him or her feel worse.
Panting can also be a sign of a dog who is having difficulty breathing and the presence of a cough makes respiratory distress higher up the list of possible causes of dogs struggling to lie down and panting.
Possible causes of respiratory problems in dogs include heart problems, lung infection and tracheal collapse.
If your dog is panting and seems restless, it's a good idea to check your dog's gums. If they are very pale or slightly blue, then this may indicate she is struggling to breathe, and if that's the case, this warrants to get to a vet as soon as possible.
Chest-rays in dogs with these signs are often warranted so to gain a better insight into what may be going on.
A Sign of Pain
Dogs may also pant and refuse to lie down in response to some type of pain. One possible cause of these signs is a dog suffering from neck pain.
For instance, when a dog has a pinched nerve in the neck, they develop signs of strong pain.
With such pain, affected dogs often have trouble lying down and sleeping so they are often seen pacing around, laying down and getting up and even whimpering when they put their head down to sleep.
Affected dogs may also look at you with the corner of their eyes instead of turning their head. Eating and drinking may be painful and some dogs may also have trouble walking and may limp on their front leg as pain from the neck shoots down that leg.
Other sources of pain may be the back or severe arthritis of the dog's joints.
Please note: While it may be tempting to treat the dog's pain at home using aspirin, it's not recommended doing so. Based on the dog's level of pain and injury, a veterinarian may wish to prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or even a steroid to reduce the pain and inflammation.
If pet owners give aspirin before the appointment, the vet will have to wait up to 7 to 10 days until it's out of the system before being able to safely prescribe these drugs. This is called the "wash-out period" and it's meant to avoid the potentially life-threatening overlap effect of the two medications.
A Sign of Abdominal Problems
Sometimes, a dog who is panting and has trouble lying down may be suffering from some type of abdominal problem. The problem may stem from eating something unusual or there may be some underlying problem impacting some internal organ.
Abdominal cramping can cause a dog to have an increased heart rate and respiratory rate leading to panting.
On top of this, when a dog has some sort of abdominal pain, it's reasonable for him to be reluctant to lie down on his abdomen if it is painful.
Affected dogs may also exhibit drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and decreased appetite.
The list of possible causes for abdominal pain in dogs may be long, including gastroenteritis, hepatitis, pancreatitis, nephritis etc.
Bloat is a condition that is a medical emergency and can cause abdominal pain, retching, a bloated belly and even death if left untreated as the dog's bloated belly may flip on itself.
A Sign of Heart Problems
As mentioned previously, heart problems in dogs may manifest with problems breathing, especially in the later stages.
Medically known as dyspnea, labored breathing in dogs can occur both when the dog is active or when the dog is at rest.
As breathing becomes difficult, dogs may engage in open-mouth breathing and they may be reluctant to lie down. These dogs may be wanting to keep their head high so to keep their air passages open.
These dogs can be helped by propping a pillow or two so that they can sleep with the head raised up enough to be comfortable.
If excess fluids in the abdomen are causing trouble breathing, then excess fluids may need to be removed through a procedure known as abdominocentesis. Afterward, diuretics should be administered.
A Sign of Anxiety
On a much lighter note, sometimes dogs may pant and act restless when they are anxious. The panting and reluctance to lie down may stem from emotional arousal and the overall inability to relax.
A dog may be fearful of distant noises, or may be overly excited about the smell of wild animals in the yard or critters living in an attic or under the deck.
The dog will often pace back and forth and whine in response to these triggers or may hide, shake or try to escape if frightened by noises.
An older dog may also be restless and panting if suffering from cognitive decline. It's called "Canine Cognitive Dysfunction" and it's similar Alzheimer's disease seen in humans.
Affected dogs may have their night and day routines reversed, meaning that they may sleep more during the day and become restless and unable to sleep at night.
The Bottom Line
A dog reluctant to lie down and panting can be symptom of distress, and they are overall quite vague signs that aren't really specific for any one particular disorder (pathognomonic).
It therefore can be a challenge pinpointing the exact underlying cause. Pain or discomfort are often common triggers, but it may be difficult knowing exactly where the dog is hurting and where the pain is exactly originating from.
The pain may stem from the neck, the back or the joints, and sometimes if may be originating internally from organs in the abdomen.
Sometimes, metabolic disorders may trigger changes in the dog's bloodstream which can cause dogs to behave oddly.
As dogs age, they can also undergo behavior changes which can be alarming and lead to restlessness.
If your dog is panting and unable to lie down, your best bet is to have your dog see the vet sooner than later. As mentioned, sometimes these signs may be symptoms of potentially life-threatening disorders.
A thorough physical exam and blood work may be needed to find the underlying source of the restlessness.