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Why do dogs pant?

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POSTED July 16, 2017 6:22 p.m.

DEAR DIDI:  Why do dogs pant? -13 year old boy from Manteca


DEAR YOUNG MAN: There are a few reasons why a dog may pant.  The most common one is because he is hot.  A dog’s average body temperature is around 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Humans sweat through our skin but dogs have fur so that method doesn’t work for them. Instead they sweat through the pads of their feet, the pad of their nose and by panting. It is perfectly normal for your dog to pant heavily if he has been outside playing fetch with you or exercising in other ways.  If your dog has not been outside exercising, is indoors in the air conditioning, and panting heavily, there could be other reasons for the behavior.

Overweight or obese dogs may pant more frequently.

   A dog that is nervous or anxious about something will likely be panting despite cool temperatures in the room or outside.  Also, panting can be a sign that a dog is in pain.  If your dog is running around with you playing, wagging his tail and panting, I wouldn’t worry.  If your dog is pacing around the room and can’t get comfortable while panting a lot, I would consider taking him to his doctor to be checked out.  Dogs, like humans, can overheat.  If they are exercising in this heat too much and not drinking enough they can become ill quickly.  Outside dogs must have access to shade and cool water at all times as a bare minimum of care.  The temperature of outdoor sidewalk pavement is usually 20-30 degrees hotter than the air temperature.  Check the pads of your dog’s feet for heat blisters after walks as a possible source of pain.

Darker colored dogs get hotter faster but light colored dogs can also be more sensitive to sunburns and skin cancers.  Abnormal panting will be louder and harsher than normal.  He may seem unable to catch his breath and his chest may expand and contract more forcefully than during normal panting.  Brachycephalic breeds (smash nosed dogs) are at a much higher risk of overheating and should not be left outdoors in summer.  Most panting is perfectly normal, but it is always a good idea to be aware of what your dog’s normal panting sounds like so that you can tell when something might be wrong.  - Submit questions at

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