Knowing how our dogs differ from us physiologically helps us to keep them safe as well as happy and healthy. It may sound odd, but by simply knowing whether dogs sweat or not, is a way that we can make better choices for their general well being from the outset. We all will have seen our dogs pant on a hot day, or after a long energetic walk. But have we seen them sweat to help them cool down? And can they therefore perspire to help keep themselves cool?
The short answer is yes, contrary to popular belief, dogs do sweat. Though it is only a tiny fraction of what their bodies do to help keep themselves cool under all that fur. In this guide to ‘do dogs sweat’ we look at how they sweat along with their other cooling processes so that when the temperature gauge hits an all time Summer high, as owners, we can further help them get comfortable and out of danger of overheating.
How Do Dogs Sweat?
Dogs sweat very differently to humans who can perspire from most parts of their body. In comparison, dogs can actually only produce sweat in particular areas of their four legged bodies. They also have two types of sweat glands, like us, though they differ greatly. A dog’s sweat glands are called the merocrine glands and the apocrine glands.
- Merocrine Glands
While these glands work in a similar way to ours to produce perspiration, they are located on the bottom of a dog’s feet, on the paw pads whereas soles of our feet and the palms of our hands are rare places that we find it very difficult to sweat owing to a distinct lack of sweat glands there.
For a dog, it’s an important part of his body to keep cool as it is one of the few parts that is not covered in fur to help keep him warm. Therefore, by keeping this part of his body cool, or using it as a huge surface area to radiate heat from, he is able to cool down that bit more efficiently. You may have noticed that your dog leaves behind paw prints on hot days where he has not gone close to a puddle or any other type of water. It is because he is secreting perspiration from his paws.
- Apocrine Glands
These glands are dissimilar to merocrine glands in a number of ways. While they are designated as sweat glands, their primary role in a dog’s body is to release pheromones or a type of scent. It is the primary way that dogs actually recognise people and other dogs. The glands themselves do very little to help keep your dog cool in warmer temperatures.
Other Ways A Dog Keeps Cool:
So given that a dog can only perspire from his paws, how else does he manage to keep cool?
Panting is the primary way that dogs help regulate their body temperature. The reason it is the best way for them to cool down is that by exposing their tongue to cooler air than inside their mouths, they are not only increasing their surface area to allow a greater amount of flesh to be exposed and radiate heat from, moisture also evaporates from their tongues, much like sweat does from human skin. The process of this helps cool off your dog as their tongues are cooler but also the process sees moisture evaporate from the lining of their lungs. This lowers their temperature as the air moves over moist tissue.
This complicated term is hard for us to see in our dogs, much like their minimal sweating. However, it refers to when their blood vessels dilate, or get bigger. This means that the blood pumping around their bodies is able to get closer to their body’s surface and so it is able to radiate heat more easily thus cooling them off. You may have noticed that your dog’s ears and face get especially warm during hotter months, and this is because these are the key areas where the blood vessels expand and get very close to their body’s surface. It is a very helpful way of regulating their internal body temperature.
Do Dogs Sweat? Other Considerations
While these are key ways that dogs cool themselves down, there are a number of other things that we, as their owners, can bear in mind to help them keep cool on hot days or when they have exerted that too much energy on a walk which has made them incredibly warm.
- Their Fur
Without doubt, a dog’s fur is a fantastic coat that will keep your dog nice and warm in even the coldest of weather. It is a wonderful form of insulation, but it does make it very hard for your dog to cool down in hot weather for obvious reasons. It is akin to a thermos of coffee cooling in a freezer. It will eventually get cold, but it can take a very long time to do so. And throughout that time, your dog is very uncomfortable. This is something to bear in mind if you are thinking about buying a dog and live in hot climates. Those with shorter, finer coats will be able to adapt far easier than those with thick thick fur.
- Heat Stroke
The reason it is key to know that dogs can have difficulty cooling down is that heat stroke in dogs can be fatal if it is not identified early enough – so prevention in the first instance is essential. Sometimes their sweat glands, their panting ways and the blood rushing to the surface of their skin are just not enough if they have got that bit too hot and cannot find a place to sit and rest in the cool afterwards. In addition to heat stroke, dogs can also suffer from heat stress and heat exhaustion which are the forerunners to heat stroke. All should be avoided.
Heat stroke is especially serious when it develops in dogs that suffer from breathing difficulties. These difficulties are commonly found in flat faced dogs like Pugs and Boxers or even bigger dogs like French Bulldogs. They have less surface area than other dogs do with longer snouts which leads them to being more susceptible to heat stroke.
Regardless of dog breed, owners should be on the lookout for the following symptoms of heat stress so that it does not develop into full blown heat stroke:
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
- Heavy panting
- Muscle tremors
- Lack of coordination
- Red gums
- Body temperature over 41° Celsius
- Excessive drooling
If you are the slightest bit concerned that your dog may be suffering from heat stress, it is best not to risk seeing if he or she gets better. Contact your vet or veterinary clinic straight away for their advice or a consultation.
Ways to Help Keep Your Dog Cool
To avoid being in a situation where your dog may suffer and develop heat stress, there are a number of things that owners can do to help regulate their body temperatures to keep them safe. Some are obvious, but it pays to use them all in conjunction with one another to help your dog’s well being during very hot weather.
The main thing we can do is to control the environment we put them in from the outset. If it is very hot, ask yourself whether it is wise to take your dog out for a walk that day. Remember that dogs don’t die immediately from missing a walk here and there. They can die from developing heat stroke. If you do take them out for a walk, do so very early in the morning or when the sun has gone down so the outside temperature is at its coolest.
Secondly, make sure that they always have a cool place in your home to relax and lie down in. Dog cooling mats are a great idea for people who live in temperatures that stay high all year round. The best dog cooling pads draw heat away from a dog’s body so they can cool down more quickly. Additionally, while indoors as well as outside, make sure your dog has constant access to clean water. It may be tempting to feed your dogs ice cold water, but dogs should never be fed ice itself as it can cause their insides to cool down too much too quickly.
While bearing in mind environmental factors, ensure that you never ever leave your dog inside a car on its own. The temperature inside a car, especially on a hot day, can rise far more quickly than we realise once we have got out, closed the windows or turned off the AC. With a limited selection of cooling methods available to them, leaving your dog inside a car can be stressful for them and exceedingly dangerous.
The Bottom Line
By learning what dogs do to help keep them cool, we, as their owners, can support them during warmer weather which can be very uncomfortable even for those dogs that have short haired fur coats. It is also imperative that we know the signs of heat stress as, though dogs do sweat, they are not efficient enough at it for it always to stop heat stress developing into heat stroke.