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Why do Dogs Pant?

Sonia Nair May 10, 2019
Panting dogs is a common sight, and it is their own way of beating the heat. Here is a brief overview about this behavior in canines.
What will you do when you feel hot? You may drink lots of water, take off your heavy clothes, and wear light ones instead. You will do everything you can, to beat the heat. The natural mechanism that helps you to fight the heat is your ability to sweat.
Sweating produces moisture on the surface of the skin, and the skin cools as this moisture evaporates. This is the mechanism that helps humans to lose excess heat from their body.
Such a mechanism does not exist in the body of a dog. Panting, which is a common feature in dogs, is their technique of beating the heat.

Sweating in Dogs

As mentioned earlier, dogs do not sweat, like humans do. Unlike humans, dogs have very few sweat glands, and most of these glands are located along the base of their feet. Imagine the amount of sweat which can be released through these few sweat glands? It is almost impossible for them to sweat through their fur.
The little amount of sweat released, actually results in generating more body heat. This could be the reason behind the death of dogs inside hot cars. In such cases, the body of the dog produces some sweat, which generates more body heat. The animal releases this body heat, which eventually heats up the whole confined space, thereby leading to its death.
Owners of pet dogs must avoid such circumstances, which can be detrimental for their dog's health. In short, as in case of humans, dogs do not have an amazing body mechanism to combat excess body heat. Then, how do they manage to beat the heat? Dogs lose the excess body heat by panting, as these animals really cannot tolerate high temperatures.

Panting in Dogs

You may not come across a heavily sweating dog even once in your entire life. This is because these animals don't sweat like humans. But, a panting dog is a common sight, as even a resting dog may sometimes pant. Actually, panting is the technique they use, to beat the heat and cool their body.
Panting is very easy for dogs, as it needs very little energy, and does not make the animals feel hotter. This is because of the elasticity of the lungs and air passages.
Panting helps dogs to regulate their body temperature. The normal body temperature of dogs is between 101 to 102°F (38 to 39°C). A slight increase (of around five degrees) in this temperature level may lead to heat stroke.
Usually, dogs pant with their tongues hanging out, and this posture helps them release excess body heat. Apart from cooling the mouth and the tongue, this posture also helps these animals to cool the blood vessels of the head.
This process protects their brain from over heating, and also provides circulation of cooler blood to other body parts. The tongue plays an important role in this process, as the surface area of the tongue facilitates evaporation, which in turn helps the dogs to cool off. This explains why dogs pant with their tongues lolling.
Panting of dogs is normal; especially during hot climates, or after heavy exercise and running. However, heavy panting without any reason, could be a symptom of heatstroke; which may also cause a dry mouth and nose, abnormal breathing and heart rate, seizures, pale or dark gums, etc.
In such cases, immediate medical attention is needed. You can make the dog feel cool, by giving cool water to drink, and by applying ice packs behind the legs. Make sure that you are not covering the dog, as it can trap the heat and cause more trouble.
In short, panting is very much normal, but any abnormal symptom should be monitored, as heavy panting could be an indication of other health problems.