I created an account just so I could post this. I haven’t found this anywhere else, so I felt it was important to share, and this is the dog forum I come to most to read.
About six months ago, my Chihuahua began yawning more frequently than normal. I really didn’t think much of it, especially because he seemed to be using it as his new signal for wanting to go outside — he has seizures and sometimes suddenly changes how he communicates things right after a big one.
I wish I could say that’s all it was, but he soon started having other symptoms as well. He developed anxiety, which he’s never had in his life, not even when he was doing public access as my service dog before his seizures began. He got weird about his food, asking for it and then not wanting to eat it. He had a couple accidents in the house because he didn’t want to get up to go outside. He stopped wanting to play or do as much in general, although he still have small burts of energy, running around with the other dog in the house, and then he would stop suddenly and act like he was in pain.
Again, he has seizures, so I thought that was the explanation, especially since his three trips (two emergency, one regular) to the vet didn’t really showing anything. We changed his food since that’s caused problems with him in the past. We added a neuropathic painkiller, gabapentin, because the vet thought he was having pain due to seizures. We added distilled aloe Vera alongside his water, which he drank with enthusiasm. We restarted his antacid on the theory that he was having stomach upset, causing him to refuse his food. While I can’t say that these didn’t help at all, they didn’t help the yawning or his energy levels.
About two months ago, he started snoring worse than normal and shortly after that, he added randomly opening his mouth like he was going to yawn and then not actually yawning. A few days ago, he started having bouts of profuse panting. This is a dog that has never really panted, even in the middle of summer when we lived in the Deep South. He might pant for two or three breaths, drink some water, and then go back to whatever he was doing. This was not that. This was a raspy pant that didn’t get better after he drank or even sat doing nothing for a few minutes. He lips were pulled back, and it looked like he was in distress. The first time it happened, I thought it was anxiety because I had left him with my mother for a few minutes while I went into the store. This has never caused significant anxiety before, but my mother sometimes teases him about my leaving him. Two days ago, however, he didn’t stop panting when I came back, and he continued for at least half an hour more. He was not overheating but he did pace around and not want to lie down. We were getting ready to take him to the emergency vet when he finally stopped, and I took him to his vet first thing in the morning.
My vet immediately suspected heart problems. She did some bloodwork and an X-ray, and she found fluid in his lungs. We talked at length about his symptoms and I found out that him standing/lying in funny positions was probably the first sign of a problem. I also learned that his yawning was an indicator of heart problems. Nowhere in all my googling had ever mentioned that yawning could be anything other than a behavioral or stomach problem. For my Chi, it was a sign that he wasn’t getting enough oxygen and that his heart was beginning to press on his esophagus.
Right now, my little guy’s prognosis isn’t the worst, but it could’ve been a lot better if we had caught it earlier. My Chi is not very old either, only four years old, which I hadn’t realized something like this could affect such a young dog. So if your dog is suddenly yawning more than normal, take him/her into the vet and get his/her heart checked; or at the very least, be on the outlook for more signs that could be because of heart failure.
Thanks for sharing your experience! Good for you for reading your dog’s behavior and knowing something isn’t right. Glad you got a prognosis and look forward to more comfort and recovery for your little one.
Thanks for posting. Had not heard of excessive yawning in connection with heart failure.
An excellent dog trainer also explained at a seminar I went to that excessive panting and yawning can be signs of anxiety and fear. Those behaviors, which seem normal to most people who aren’t paying attention to context, can be a precursor to a bite.
I want to say thanks too for this info, very good to know.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.