It’s HOT in here!
The short answer to why dogs pant is: To circulate sufficient air through the body to cool off. Humans have sweat glands (small, tubular structures located just under the entire surface of our skin with the highest concentration on the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet) through which we cool off but dogs have sweat glands only in the pads of their feet. In order to cool off, our pups need to circulate lots of air through their bodies or, in dire circumstances, plunge themselves into cool water. Also note that because our pups do cool off through their pads, it is critical NOT to walk them on scorching hot pavement or sand. If you cannot walk barefoot comfortably on the surface, it will be even less comfortable for your pup and could cause them serious injury.
Fur Coat Anyone??
Let’s not forget that except for Chinese Crested, Peruvian Inca Orchid dogs (Yes, there is such a breed!), American Hairless Terriers and Xoloitzcuintli dogs (a.k.a. “Xolo” or “Mexican Hairless Dog”) our canine companions are constantly wearing a fur coat of varying thickness and length. Many dogs have both an undercoat (which can serve to cool AND heat our pups) and an overcoat and shed both on a regular basis. Some breeds do not shed, including Poodles, Afghan Hounds, Bichon Frise, Giant Schnauzers, Irish Water Spaniels, Lagotto Romagnolos, Maltese, Portuguese and Spanish Water Dogs and Soft Coated Wheaton Terriers. So the bottom line is that when it’s hot out, our pups have to provide their own internal air conditioning by panting to pull in large quantities of air to cool their bodies from the inside out.
When Panting is NOT about cooling off
Sometimes, your pup will pant even when he is not trying to cool down. If he is just excited and wants to play and is getting himself worked up into a happy lather, no worries. However, if he is panting and showing signs of physical distress, he may have ingested poison, be having an allergic reaction to something or experiencing heat stroke. If you think any of these are causing the panting, take him immediately to your nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
If you dog is experiencing heart or pulmonary issues and consequently not getting enough oxygen into his system, he may start to pant. Again, if this is the case, consult with your veterinarian sooner rather than later.
Lastly, your pup may start to pant because he is feeling anxious. Onpets has some tips for you to help you pup deal with separation anxiety and get him back to his cool, calm and non-panting self.
Pay attention to any variation from your dog’s normal behavior, including continued heavy panting or panting in situations which do not seem to warrant the need to cool off.
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