Why Do Dogs Pant?


Who doesn’t just love to play fetch with their dog?  I know I do!  I love to throw my dog’s ball as far as possible and watch her bound through the fields to get it as quickly as she can, and then race back to plop it in my hand, tongue out of her mouth and panting just like a….dog!  So why do dogs pant?  Why do they always have their tongues hanging out, drooling, with such a silly expression going on?  Well sometimes, they are just simply out of breath, but dogs also pant for many more reasons than just to breathe.

Why do dogs pant?Panting is a dog’s primary way of regulating their internal body temperature.  You may have heard this one before, as it is one of the most well known reasons dogs pant.  Dogs do not have a lot of sweat glands, so they essentially sweat out of their mouths.  A dogs normal body temperature is rather higher than humans, at an average of 101-102 degrees, and a mere change of just 3 degrees can mean heatstroke for the dog, so temperature regulation is very important for them.  Dogs pant to cool themselves off and regulate their body to this temperature all the time.  So when you play fetch with your dog, they are panting more to keep their body temperature in check than to get oxygen.  Just like we sweat to keep our bodies cool, dogs pant to keep theirs cool.

Panting works by releasing heat and moisture from a dog’s system.  Being that the only place a dog actually has sweat glands is on its food pads, they really cannot practically sweat their heat out like we do when they are hot.  When they open their mouth and stick out their tongue, it actually grows.  This is to provide more surface area so the dog can release more heat from its tongue.  You can actually notice that a dog’s breath from its mouth is much warmer and more moist than the breath from its nose.  This is because water traps the heat from the body, and dogs use the water to carry heat out of its body, literally pushing the heat out of its body through its tongue.  Although they are not very efficient at releasing heat, at least not as efficient as a human body, you will notice that only one of you needs to put on a winter coat when you go for a walk in January!

So if your dog is panting off some heat, this is a good thing.  Sometimes, though, a dog can get excessively over heated, and because of their limited ways of cooling off, if they become too hot it can be very hard for them to cool off.  If this happens, your dog will start excessively panting, and will try to seek out a cool area or breeze.  You can help them out by putting them in front of a fan with a nice breeze, or giving them some cool water to drink and play in.  Or give them an ice cube, dogs love to lick a nice cold ice cube like a popsicle!  Despite their disadvantage, dogs are pretty good at moderating their own temperature , and with a little help from you, they will be absolutely fine even on the hottest days.