My dog Dexter, is a 3-year-old, 110 pound yellow Lab. I don’t think he’s overweight but he could probably afford to lose a few pounds. (He’s just a really big boy.) He gets exercise almost every day whether it’s playtime with other dogs, going to the dog beach or going on walks. But I’ve noticed that he gets what I call “huffy puffy” all the time. When he exercises, he will start breathing fast and heavily but it will last for at least an hour. And sometimes he will get “huffy puffy” out of nowhere, like randomly in the middle of the night or when he’s just laying next to me and we’re watching T.V. Is this normal or could it be a sign that he’s overweight or has some condition?
I am assuming when you say “huffy puffy” you mean that he is panting a lot. Dogs cannot sweat so they pant to help cool themselves off. If he does this when he is exercising it’s pretty normal and to be expected. For it to continue for over an hour may be abnormal unless it is very warm outside. Dogs that are overweight essentially carry extra padding around and tend to get hotter. They need to cool themselves more than normal so it would be expected that they would pant more than a leaner dog. However, panting when it is cool and when he is relaxed could be an indication of a problem. There are some conditions that predispose dogs to pant excessively, such as Cushing’s disease. This disease also predisposes dogs to gaining excessive amounts of weight. There is also a disease that is relatively common in Labrador Retrievers called laryngeal paralysis, which causes the opening to the airway to be partially open, making it difficult for them to catch their breath when exercising and often causing them to become overheated. In addition to panting, they are usually very noisy breathers as a result of this narrowing.
Although he may be a big boy, 110 pounds is a very large size for a Labrador Retriever. Most Labradors are at an ideal weight between 70 to 90 pounds; however, the number on the scale is not the primary determinant of appropriate size. In general, you should be able to see a significant narrowing of the waist and should be able to easily feel the ribcage. Overweight and obese dogs usually do not have much of a waist and there is a significant layer of fat between the skin and the ribs making the ribs difficult to feel. Speak to your veterinarian about his weight to find out if he is in an appropriate range for his body size.