As the temperatures steadily climb this summer, it's important to keep ourselves and our dogs cool. Humans sweat to help keep cool but do dogs sweat?
Do Dogs Sweat?
Dogs sweat but not in the same way humans do. While sweat glands are designed to aid with cooling in humans, heat release doesn’t occur the same way in dogs. Dogs do have some sweat glands, but they are much fewer than in humans and their skin is covered in fur, so this minimizes the amount of cooling the sweat can provide.
The two glands in which dogs can produce sweat are merocrine and apocrine glands.
The merocrine glands are located in the pads of your dog’s paws. When your dog becomes too warm, they will produce sweat. Apocrine glands are used as a form of social interaction. While they are technically sweat glands, they do not produce sweat. They are located all over their body, the spots exude pheromones that our pets use to identify each other. Instead of using them for cooling, your dog makes friends.
Because this surface area is so small, dogs have other methods of built-in temperature regulation, making their “sweat” secondary to their primary means of self-cooling.
How Do Dogs Cool Off?
Since sweating is not a dog’s primary source of regulating their temperature and keeping cool, what is? Panting is the primary method, while vasodilation is the second most important in your dog keeping cool.
Panting is moderate to rapid open-mouthed breathing usually paired with a big lolling tongue. Panting helps your dog cool down. When they pant, they quickly exchange hot air from their lungs with cool external air, which speeds the evaporation of water from their tongue, inside their mouth, and upper respiratory tract. As this water evaporates, it helps to regulate their body temperature consequently cooling them down.
Vasodilation means the expansion, or dilation, or blood vessels. When your dog becomes hot, vasodilation helps to cool them down. Their blood vessels mostly in their face and ears will expand and bring warm blood directly to the surface of the skin, allowing the blood to cool before returning back to the heart.
Heat Stroke in Dogs
Despite your dog’s natural cooling processes, dogs are still prone to getting overheated and suffering from heat strokes. Heat stroke, also called hyperthermia, occurs when our dogs body temperature rises about a healthy range and they are unable to regulate their own body heat. This condition can range from mild heat exhaustion to severe, where your dog can lose consciousness, experience organ failure, and die.
Dog caregivers should pay close attention to the weather and their dogs prior to going for a run, walk, or spending time outside. The most common cause of heatstroke is leaving a dog in a car without inadequate ventilation, within a few minutes, a dog’s temperature can elevate to dangerous heights. Other common causes are being left outside with access to shade or water, being exposed to a hair dryer for an extended period of time, and excessive play or exercise during hot temperatures.
- Signs of your dog over heating include
- Excessive panting
- Redness on the gums, muzzle, and ears
- Excessive drooling
- Body is warm to touch
- Tremors or shaking
- Loss of coordination
- Elevated temperature (If a dog’s temperature exceeds 103 degrees Fahrenheit, this is considered abnormal. Body temperatures about 106 degrees are considered heat stroke.)
If you see any of the above, get your dog somewhere cool, provide your dog with water, and contact your veterinarian.
Brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs (flat faced dogs who have a restricted airway) are at a greater risk of heat stroke and can experience heatstroke even in moderately elevated temperatures.
Protecting Your Dog From The Heat
Because dogs do not sweat like humans do, it is important for dog caregivers to be proactive about keeping their dogs cool and comfortable. Here are some tips on how to prevent heat stroke.
- Have a cool, well- ventilated space for your dog. Good ventilation is critical because dogs lose heat by panting which relies on good airflow.
- Your dog should always have access to fresh clean drinking water
- Avoid walking and other outdoor activity with your dog during peak temperature hours. Walk your dog early in the morning or after dusk to avoid the hottest hours of the day. Bring water with you on long walks and take breaks in shaded areas if needed.
- Know your dog’s medical history and the symptoms of overheating. Dogs with an increased risk of developing heat stroke include older dogs, dogs suffering from obesity or heart conditions, brachycephalic breeds, large breeds and breeds with extremely thick hair coats.
- If using muzzles, use basket muzzles that allow dogs to pant. Nylon muzzles prevent dogs from panting and can lead to overheating. Dogs pant to cool down but also in times of fear and stress and not allowing them to pant can increase fear and stress. Basket muzzles allow your dog to pant and drink when properly fitted. Training the dogs to enjoy wearing the muzzle is recommended if you use a muzzle.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a park car. On a humid and/or hot day, leaving the windows partially rolled down will not help. It has been researched that even at 72 degrees outside, a cars internal temperature can rocket to 116 degrees within an hour
- Give your dog frozen dog treats including dog ice cream or frozen dog popsicles.
As you and your canine companion begin to enjoy the warm weather, don’t forget the importance of a cool drink of water and a break in the air conditioning. Even after your pet is accustomed to summer heat, avoid exercise during the hottest times of the day, offer plenty of breaks, and be on the lookout for signs of fatigue or illness.