Q: Our 11-year-old labrador retriever is in good health overall, but over the last few months has started breathing heavily. It is most noticeable while she is at rest and it does not seem to stop her from running or playing like a puppy. At first we thought it was due to the hot summer weather, but even when the air conditioner is set at 68 degrees, her panting continues. Is this a normal part of aging or is it something we should be concerned about?
A: This is an interesting topic because we do see a lot of older, especially larger-breed dogs that seem to breathe either more heavily or more frequently, even when at rest. There is no simple answer to know whether this is due to age without having an exam and possibly X-rays done, so that is where I would normally start. Older dogs do tend to have some loss of elasticity of their lungs, meaning that the lungs will be more rigid. This can definitely cause a labored type of breathing. The chest X-rays will hopefully rule in or out most of the direct lung and/or heart issues that could be plaguing her.
If exam and chest X-rays do not reveal anything specific, she may need to have some other diagnostic tests done, including blood work. This can check for other organ or hormonal problems that also may lead to breathing issues. If nothing is revealed on these additional diagnostics, I would probably recommend to just monitor her as she seems to be very energetic and playful for an 11-year-old dog.