Pant. Pant. Pant. Have you seen your dog panting on a hot summer day? Or after he’s been running? Dogs pant to cool themselves. When dogs get hot and their body temperature rises, they can’t sweat through the pores in their skin like people do, or like some other animals (horses, for example). Instead, they have to rely on taking in cooler air through their mouths and letting it circulate through their lungs and body to cool themselves down.
Dogs do sweat through the pads on their paws but this is a very small surface area. It won’t cool your dog down very much when he’s hot.
If your dog is hot he may also try to cool himself down by walking or standing in some water. If you have a pool, a kiddie pool, or sprinklers, you may find your dog cooling himself in the water. Or, if you live near a stream, lake, or beach, your dog may wade in. This is perfectly normal and it won’t hurt your dog. Just make sure your dog knows how to swim if you have a pool or you live near a body of water so your dog will be safe if he decides to cool himself this way. Contrary to what many people think, dogs are not necessarily born knowing how to swim. They often need to be taught. If you have a pool, make sure you teach your dog how to get out of the pool on his own.
Many dogs will also look for something cool to drink when they are hot. This is fine as long as your dog doesn’t drink something that is ice cold. If your dog is very hot or if he’s been exercising a lot, you should avoid letting him drink icy water. The shock of the icy water can make him sick. Instead, let him drink cool water, minus the ice.
Some dogs will also pant when they are feeling sick or unwell. If your dog is panting and the weather is not hot, and he hasn’t been exerting himself, you should check his heart rate. If his heart is beating fast, he could have a heart problem. Respiratory problems and Cushing’s disease can also cause dogs to pant. If your dog has these symptoms you should see your vet. Dogs can also pant if they are injured or in pain. Your dog might have hurt himself while playing, for example, and didn’t show any sign of it, but he is in enough pain that it is causing him to pant.
Dogs can also pant when they are feeling stressed or fearful. For example, many dogs are scared of fireworks or thunderstorms. This can cause them to feel anxious and pant. You can work on ways to reduce your dog’s anxiety in these situations. Talk to your veterinarian or a canine behaviorist if necessary.
There is usually a specific reason for a dog to pant, whether it’s from heat or exertion, or because your dog is sick or in pain, or because he is feeling anxious. When you see your dog panting you should determine why he’s doing it. It’s usually nothing to worry about but it’s a good idea to make sure there is nothing wrong.