You may have heard that dogs don’t sweat. This isn’t exactly true. Dogs do sweat; they just don’t sweat the way (or as much as) humans do. So, how do dogs sweat, and if your dog is hot, how can you keep them cool?
How do dogs sweat?
Since we now know that dogs do sweat, the answer to the question “Do dogs have sweat glands?” is yes. They have what are called merocrine sweat glands located in their paw pads, which produce sweat when it’s hot to help them cool off.
It’s the evaporation of the sweat from the surface of the paws that leads to the cooling. That’s why you don’t find these sweat glands anywhere else; the dog’s fur would prevent the sweat from evaporating, making sweat glands useless.
(Dogs actually have another kind of sweat gland, too, called apocrine sweat glands, which are located all over the body. But these aren’t sweat glands the way we think of them. Instead of producing sweat to cool off, they mainly release pheromones which help them communicate with other dogs.)
What does it mean when a dog pants?
Sweating is the main method the human body uses to cool down, but for dogs, panting is their go-to activity. When you notice a dog panting, that’s a sign that they’re hot. The same way that sweat evaporating from skin leads to cooling in humans, it’s moisture evaporating from the surfaces of the tongue, lung linings, and nasal passages that helps dogs cool down.
Vasodilation is another way dogs cool off. This is when blood vessels close to the skin expand, letting warm blood flow closer to the surface of the skin to let off heat.
How to keep a dog cool
The best way to keep a dog cool is to not let them spend too long in a location that’s very hot (including, of course, a car on a warm or hot day). When outdoors, make sure your dog has access to shaded areas and fresh water for drinking freely. At home, keep the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.
If your dog does start showing signs of overheating (see below), you can take these steps to keep your dog cool.
-Move to a cooler location
-Give water to drink
-Give a frozen doggy treat to eat
-Spray them with water from a hose, put them in a bathtub or small pool, or place wet towels on their neck and belly to help cool off
Identifying heat stroke in dogs
It’s important to notice things like excessive panting in your dog because this can be a sign of heat stress or heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body overheats, and if it’s not treated in a timely manner it can lead to severe health problems and even death.
These signs can indicate heat stroke in a dog:
-Heavy and/or rapid panting
-Rapid heart rate
-Warm or hot to the touch
-Temperature of 106F/41C (anything over 103F/39.5 in a dog is considered a fever)
-Bright red gums
-Clumsiness or loss of coordination
-Loss of consciousness
If you see these signs in a dog, take immediate steps to cool them down and call your vet or an emergency veterinary hospital.
How to keep a dog cool and comfortable
Now you know that dogs do in fact sweat, but that you can’t rely on it to keep them cool. It’s up to you as a responsible dog owner to keep them in an environment where they won’t get too hot and to notice the signs of overheating, too. It could save your dog’s life!