Before any testing is performed, consider any factors that may be causative such as heat, stress or over exertion and eliminate them from your pet's environment. If your pet is still panting despite removing the possible cause, and/or signs are long standing or progressive, it is important to seek veterinary care. A complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry analysis, and urinalysis are an important part of any baseline work up. Changes may suggest conditions that cause panting such as anemia, infection and diabetes mellitus.
Chest and abdominal radiographs (X-rays) should be performed on these patients. It is important to include the area of the neck in some cases so as not to miss a foreign body or tumor in the upper respiratory tract.
An arterial blood gas may be performed to assess the patient's acid-base status.
Echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) and chest cavity ultrasound may be of benefit in appropriate cases.
Abdominal ultrasound may be of benefit, as it evaluates the size of organs, and will detect the presence of fluid or masses.
Endocrine testing (ACTH stimulation test, thyroid panel) may be of benefit in ruling out hyperadrenocorticism and hypothyroidism, respectively.
An ARAT (acetylcholine receptor antibody titer) should be considered to evaluate for myasthenia gravis, especially if there is concurrent weakness.
Thoracocentesis (withdrawal of fluid, air, or tissue from the chest) and fluid analysis or cytology may be diagnostic in some cases.
More advanced diagnostics to include a transtracheal wash, bronchoalveolar lavage, bronchoscopy, computed tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), bronchoscopy and pulmonary scintigraphy, may be indicated in some patients.
Ideally, an underlying cause should be identified and corrected if possible.
If there is an obvious environmental cause, eliminate it if possible.
Symptomatic therapy should be instituted while attempting to identify an underlying cause.
Oxygen therapy and strict rest are of benefit to many of these individuals, especially if they are becoming distressed.
Antibiotic or anti-inflammatory therapy may be of benefit in animals with infectious or inflammatory disorders.
Fluid therapy is indicated in animals that are dehydrated or have concurrent systemic diseases.
Administer all prescribed medications and return for follow up evaluation as directed by your veterinarian. Keep your pet in a cool, stress free environment, and do not overexert your pet.