Owning a dog shares many similarities with having children. Although for the vast majority of the time your life will be enhanced with the joy the little mammal brings – occasionally there will be moments when you are fraught with worry due to something potentially being not quite right.
Dogs can become ill quite quickly and it is up to us to spot the signs so we can act upon them quickly and get them back to their former selves.
The problem we’re discussing today is actually quite common but there is little information online so I thought it would be a good idea to clear this up.
A Siberian Husky will pant to cool down when it has overheated, usually after exercising on a hot day. A Husky shouldn’t pant so much in cold weather. Dogs only sweat through their paw pads which is how they expel extra heat, along with panting.
Excessive panting can be a sign of something more worrying such as heatstroke or poisoning. We list all the possible reasons below.
The Siberian Husky
First, let’s take a look at the Husky and identify the physical properties of this dog and its personality that could potentially be
The Husky Coat
Firstly, the most obvious feature is her coat. This is different from most other dog breeds as it is quite a bit thicker and obviously meant to help keep them warm during those harsh Northern winters.
The Winter season in Siberia can see temperatures drop down to almost -60 °C (which is −76 °F), pretty nippy right? Their coat consists of a couple of layers, an undercoat and a longer topcoat which has shorter hairs and can reflect some of the heat generated by the sun during the summer.
Although, bear in mind that the Siberian summer can still be colder than an average American winter!
All Huskies will shed their undercoats and usually these will blow (this is when the undercoat comes out in clumps) a couple of times a year although for some this only occurs once a year.
That doesn’t mean though that throughout the rest of the year you won’t need to get your vacuum cleaner out! The Husky will shed all year round and (as you probably know if you’re an owner) you can easily vacuum up those hairs every single day.
It is recommended that owners groom their Husky at least once a week but when they are blowing this should be at least daily!
The Husky Personality
The Siberian Husky has a lot of energy and usually, it is us poor, inefficient humans that will run out of stamina before them when we take them out for a walk or run.
As long as they had enough food or water they would probably stay out all day! However, during exercise their bodies will increase in temperature and whereas we perspire which enables us to remove some of that heat, canines don’t have this ability.
Well, they do but they can only sweat on areas that aren’t covered with fur and, of course, the Siberian Husky has quite a lot of this!
Next, let’s think about where they originally were found and used – in the harsh environment of Siberia by the Chukchi people. This population required their energetic, resilient qualities and relied on them.
They were then brought to Alaska in the early part of the 20th Century to take part in sled-dog racing. Alaska isn’t exactly the Caribbean either!
It is in these locations that the breed thrive, able to exert lots of energy and use the natural environmental conditions to help them to keep cool.
These days, of course, they are a pet in many homes throughout the world and these homes are in all kinds of climates – but 99% of these climates won’t be the same as where they originated from, they will be vastly warmer.
So, the breed naturally has all this energy but is less able to dissipate the heat.
Why Do Dogs Pant Typically?
There are a few reasons why dogs will pant typically, let’s take a look at some examples:
- To lose heat. The first reason is also the most common and the most obvious. Dogs will pant to help it regulate its temperature. Getting cooler air circulating through its body (as it is breathing more rapidly through its mouth and nose). This works because with the tongue hanging out, air will traverse the length of its tongue and this in-turn causes saliva to evaporate which will cool down the tongue and enable cooler air to enter its body.
- Heatstroke. It is possible that if the dog is overworked and overheated it will not be able to reduce its temperature significantly and bring it back into the safe-zone. Whilst this is happening though, it may be running with you and perhaps getting a positive reaction from you. It will want to maintain that reaction and will be reluctant to stop. In fact, it may not stop until it finally collapses. So, panting should also be seen as a warning sign that they are over-heating. If you notice that your dog, once the exercise has stopped, continues to pant for some time it may be a sign that it is suffering from heatstroke. If this is the case it should be provided with water and taken to a cooler location (out of direct sunlight) immediately.
- Fear. If an event has occurred that has startled your Husky. For instance, some are particularly scared of fireworks or loud noises. Maybe a heavy storm has gone over or a low-flying jet. It could also be if the normal suddenly becomes abnormal. What I mean by this is if you start reacting differently and panicking about something then they may pick up on this. You may notice they take themselves off to somewhere they feel safe. The Siberian Husky is quite an independent dog and although its love for you is obvious, it is less likely to be affected by your personality or mood-swings than other breeds.
- Heart-Related. Less likely than the above, your dog panting could be a sign that they have a heart problem or some other issue like pneumonia.
- Allergic reaction or poisoning. Less likely still is when your dog may be unwell. This may be noticed when there is no obvious reason why they may be panting. For instance, if they haven’t been out getting exercise or seem particularly lazy and lethargic, perhaps combined with being sick this could be an indication that they have eaten something they shouldn’t have and possibly been poisoned. Alternatively, it could be an allergic reaction and they are struggling to breathe.
What Should We Do If We See The Husky Panting?
Don’t ignore it. Although it is most likely nothing to be worried about as all dogs will pant, especially those that are more active like the Husky.
Use your common sense and if it is a particularly hot day then their internal temperature will rise quicker than on a cold day obviously. If out on a run with them, or a long walk, take regular breaks and be particularly careful if in direct sunlight.
Find some shade and make sure you take some water for them and provide them with this during each break, not forgetting to take some yourself!
If you notice the behavior when they haven’t been exercising, this is the time to be extra vigilant. If you think it could be related to the temperature of your home, find them somewhere cool to go and ensure they aren’t in direct sunlight.
If you don’t have an air-conditioned house then consider getting an electric fan for them.
If you don’t believe it is temperature related at all then look for other signs of a problem. Are they as active as usual? Have they eaten at all recently or had a drink?
Are they able to walk normally or are they being unusually lazy? Have they been sick? If any of these things occur then this is the time to seek professional help.
One bit of advice I will give here is to take a video of how they are acting and if they are sick, then take a photo of it. I know it might not look very nice but there’s a good reason for this.
When you call your vet, describe the symptoms and ask if you can send them any photos. These may help your vet with the diagnosis and they may be able to more accurately (and more efficiently) help you deal with the problem.
Taking your Husky to the vets can be a stressful experience (for everyone) so if you can get as much information and help prior to going then you may be able to avoid it totally.
The very worst thing you can do though is to ignore the symptoms though – don’t assume it’ll just get better in a few days and always be safe, rather than sorry!
Why is my Siberian Husky breathing fast? It is most likely due to being overheated but you should not ignore the other possibilities of course. If you take just one thing out of this article then it should be to make sure you are vigilant.
Never assume everything will just be okay, although in reality it probably will be. If they are eating and drinking and acting as crazy as ever then it is most likely that your Husky will be just fine.
One last thing, if you’re interested in whether the Siberian Husky can live in hot weather, do check out the article right here (opens in a new window).
Also, if you’d like more information on the Siberian Husky then do check out my Complete Guide here.