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You may be used to seeing your dog pant in warm weather, but do dogs sweat? Contrary to popular belief, dogs do sweat, but this is only a small part of their cool-down process.
How Do Dogs Sweat?
Dogs only produce sweat in certain parts of their bodies. Dogs have two types of sweat glands:
- Merocrine glands
- Apocrine glands
Merocrine sweat glands function similarly to human sweat glands. Located in your dog’s paw pads, these glands activate when your pet is hot to cool them down. This is why you might notice damp paw prints on the ground during particularly hot days.
Most dogs are covered in fur, so if sweat glands were located on their bodies, the sweat would fail to evaporate. Cooling takes place when sweat evaporates. That’s why it is much more efficient for dogs to have sweat glands in their paw pads, where there is little fur.
Apocrine sweat glands are different from merocrine glands. While veterinarians consider apocrine glands to be sweat glands, their main purpose is to release pheromones, not cool your dog off. These glands are located all over every dog’s body, and they help a dog identify other dogs by scent.
What’s the Point of Panting?
Sweat plays a very small role in cooling down your dog. Dogs rely on panting to control most of their temperature regulation. When dogs pant, moisture from their tongues, nasal passages, and the lining of their lungs evaporates, cooling them down as air passes over the moist tissue.
They also rely on vasodilation, which is the expansion of blood vessels (especially in their ears and face), to cool down. When the blood vessels expand, they bring the hot blood closer to the surface of the skin, which allows it to cool down before returning to the heart and helps regulate an animal’s internal body temperature.
Does Fur Make Dogs Hot?
“Your dog’s coat actually acts as an insulator. A dog’s coat captures air to keep out the cold and hold heat in during winter, and to keep your dog cooler in hot weather,” explains Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the AKC.
“This is why you should not shave a double-coated breed. The inner coat, which is shed regularly, is also the dog’s insulating coat. Shaving that coat to reduce shedding or supposedly to keep the dog cool also eliminates that insulating layer of fur and makes the dog susceptible to heatstroke and can result in improper hair growth and the possibility of follicle damage.”
Heatstroke in Dogs
Unfortunately, panting, vasodilation, and limited sweating are not as effective in cooling dogs down as sweating is for humans. This poses risks, ranging from heat stress and heat exhaustion to heatstroke, for dogs.
Heatstroke is a serious concern for all dogs, but Dr. Klein warns that it is especially dire for brachycephalic breeds that have short noses and flat faces, such as Pugs, Boxers, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and French Bulldogs. Due to their unique anatomy, these breeds are not able to cool themselves as efficiently because of inefficient breathing and panting. Dogs that have had heatstroke before, obese dogs, and those with dark coats are also at higher risk for heatstroke.
Heatstroke occurs when a dog’s body temperature rises and they overheat. If left untreated for too long, it can be fatal. Every dog owner should be aware of these signs of heat stress and heatstroke:
- Heavy, frantic panting
- Body temperature over 41° Celsius (105.8° Fahrenheit) and your dog feels warm to the touch
- Excessive drooling
- Bright red gums
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
- Muscle tremors
- Lack of coordination (ataxia)
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from heatstroke or heat stress, remove them from the heat and call your veterinarian immediately. You will need to take them to an animal hospital, but in the meantime, you can run cool water on them from a hose or in the bathtub or put a soaked towel on their body. Always keep their head elevated and out of the water. Also, you can give your dog some cool water to drink.
Keeping Your Dog Cool
We might not be able to make our dogs sweat, but we can help them regulate their body temperature by controlling their environment. If your dog is spending time outdoors, make sure they have has access to shade and plenty of clean water at all times. Also, keep an eye on the temperature inside your house to ensure that it’s cool enough for your pets. Never leave your dog unattended in a car, even for a few minutes, as temperatures inside a vehicle can quickly climb to dangerous levels.
Don’t exercise your dog when it’s too hot outside. Instead, do it very early in the morning or wait until the end of the day. If you’ve been out playing fetch, carry the ball back home for your pup, so they’ll be better able to pant well and cool themself off. You can also purchase a cooling vest to keep your dog comfortable for longer.
By learning how dogs regulate their body temperature, you can help keep them stay cool, safe, and healthy year-round.