Why Do Dogs Pant?

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

There are a ton of different reasons why your dog may be panting. Want to find out why? It may have to do with temperature, cancer, pain, or one of many other possibilities.

Why Do Dogs Pant?

Nothing beats taking a car ride with your dog, only to have his slobber fly all over you as he pants. But why do dogs pant? Excitement, such as from an awesome car ride, is only one reason. You've probably also heard that dogs sweat through panting and that's how they keep cool, right? Actually, part of that statement is true and part of it is very much false.

Let's find out why dogs pant.

Do Dogs Sweat Through Panting?

One of the reasons why dogs pant is thermoregulation, or the maintenance of constant internal body temperature. People thermoregulate on a hot day or when exercising, in part, through sweating. However, panting in dogs is not equivalent to sweating in people. Dogs do sweat a little bit, but not through panting. That slobber coming out of their mouths when they pant is saliva, not sweat.

To understand why dogs pant, we need to get into a few simple details. People and dogs actually have two major types of sweat glands. They are:

  • Eccrine glands, also called atrichial or merocrine glands, which are found throughout the vast majority of the skin of the human body. These are the glands that are responsible for sweat coming out of, say, the skin on your arms, torso, legs, back, and so on. In dogs, eccrine glands are found largely on their paw pads. These types of glands, like in humans, may help dogs to thermoregulate. However, such 'true' human-like sweating in dogs is limited and the role it plays in thermoregulation, compared to panting, is minimal.
  • Apocrine glands, also called epitrichial glands, which are the 'stinky' sweat glands found in places like your armpits and groin area. The sweat itself isn't stinky as much as the odors bacteria produce when they break this sweat down. This type of gland is found on the haired portions of a dog's body. Evidence largely supports the fact that these glands play no role in thermoregulation in dogs and they may serve to secrete pheromones and protective biochemicals instead. Such secretions are almost never noticeable. If a dog 'sweats' profusely from such glands, such that their coat becomes wet, it may signal one of various medical conditions that need to be diagnosed by a veterinarian.

The takeaway is that dogs sweating via panting is a myth. Dogs thermoregulate through panting but they do not sweat through panting. In fact, compared to humans, dogs essentially do not sweat at all, even when they're hot.

Other Reasons Why Dogs Pant

Besides thermoregulation, dogs can pant for a wide variety of reasons. These include:

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