Why do dogs pant?

dog

The dog in this photo is Teddy. He lives with my parents. Teddy is a kind of dog called a Bichon Frise (pronounced: bee-shawn-free-say). He’s small with curly white fur and a loud bark!

Teddy likes to run around, chasing a ball or playing with his favourite toy. He also likes to chase away any birds that land in my parents’ garden. And when he’s finished chasing the birds, he sits down for a good pant.

Panting is a kind of quick breathing. But why does Teddy pant? What is panting for? Let’s find out…

Humans pant when they have been exercising hard because panting is a good way to get lots of extra oxygen into your body. When you have been exercising, your muscles use up lots of energy through a chemical process called ‘respiration’. This process needs oxygen from the air we breathe and glucose (a kind of sugar) from foods we eat:

oxygen + glucose → carbon dioxide + water + energy

Check out my earlier blog posts about why does exercise hurt? and how does food give me energy?.

But what about Teddy? He doesn’t just pant when he has been exercising – he pants at other times too. So, what is his body panting for?

Well, the main reason that dogs pant is to cool their bodies down when the weather is hot or when they have been running around. Panting is a way for dogs to get rid of heat from their bodies because they can’t sweat it all away like you and I do.

But as well as being a way of cooling down, panting can also tell you how a dog is feeling. That’s because dogs also pant when they are excited or when they are poorly or scared. So if you have a dog and it is panting but you’re not sure why, you might want to call your vet to find out if they can help.

Finally, did you know that panting isn’t just something that dogs and humans do? All mammals pant. And some birds and reptiles do it too! You can find out more about panting here.

 

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