Why panting dogs don’t hyperventilate

Clay Thompson has the week off. This first ran on February 14, 2003.

A minute ago the phone rang and I answered it and identified myself. This guy said, “Oh, I didn’t think you’d answer. I’ll call you back if you’re not there.”

You guys.

Today’s question:

When my dog ​​is afraid of a storm or is otherwise upset, he gasps hard. If a person gasped that hard, they would be hyperventilating. Why don’t dogs hyperventilate when they’re panting?

If the letter writer had taken the trouble to read Knut Schmidt-Nielsen’s exciting, action-packed animal physiology, adaptation and environment, he would not have had to ask me about it.

In short, dogs can gasp better than us. They are gasping experts. Any ordinary old dog could take off your pants or me. They usually gasp to cool off.

When you hyperventilate, your gases become unbalanced and you run out of carbon dioxide. You get alkalotic, which can be worth a million points in Scrabble if you could set it up.

Instead, if a dog gasps – so could cats; I’m not sure – it breathes out of the windpipe and bronchi, an area known as the “dead space” where there is no air exchange.

In other words, they move up and down that column of air without using their full lung capacity. So they don’t lack carbon dioxide and they don’t hyperventilate.

It’s all neat, don’t you think? It’s nice how these things work.

Contact Clay Thompson at [email protected] or 602-444-8612.

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