When it’s hot outside, your dog starts panting to cool down and get some relief from the heat. And there you are, drenched in sweat and looking like you just climbed out of a swimming pool. Since your dog isn’t a wet, sweaty mess, you might wonder if dogs sweat. Well, they do, but not in the same way as humans.
How Do Dogs Sweat?
Dogs sweat through two kinds of sweat glands in their bodies. The first type of sweat glands are merocrine glands which are primarily in dogs’ paw pads. Dogs also have some merocrine glands in their nose, which is why your pup’s nose may feel wet sometimes. These glands are similar to the sweat glands in humans, making dogs sweat through their paws.
You might notice your dog leaves behind damp footprints when they’re hot or nervous because of their sweaty paw pads. But how does this type of sweat cool down your dog? As your dog sweats through their paw pads, the sweat evaporates, releasing some of your pup’s body heat.
The second type of sweat glands dogs have is apocrine glands, which are throughout the body. However, these particular sweat glands aren’t used for cooling your dog down but for releasing scent pheromones. Dogs use these glands to identify and communicate with each other, hence the famous butt sniff. Humans have them too, which is why your pup embarrasses you by sniffing a person’s crotch.
Other Ways Your Dog Keeps Their Cool
As you can imagine, sweating through their paws isn’t exactly the most effective way to keep cool. And their other sweat glands aren’t for cooling but for communicating. So, how does Fido stay cool?
Your dog keeps their cool in the heat through two main functions, panting and vasodilation.
- Panting — You’ve likely noticed your dog panting when you’re outside in the heat. As your dog pants, the rapid breathing causes the moisture in your dog’s airways to evaporate. This evaporative cooling effect is the same process that cools down humans when they sweat. Similarly, it also helps give your pup some relief from the heat.
- Vasodilation — Vasodilation is a fancy way of saying expanding blood vessels. As the blood vessels dilate, they move warm blood toward the body’s surface so it can get cool.
Some Dog Breeds Can’t Take the Heat
Heat affects everyone differently. Whenever there’s an extreme heat warning in the weather, the alert usually includes various precautions. They say something like, “Especially watch young children, the elderly, and those with certain health conditions.”
Well, the same holds true for dogs. Some dog breeds do better than others in the heat. Although it’s essential to keep a close eye on any pup spending time in hot conditions.
Dogs more susceptible to heat include flat-faced dogs (brachycephalic breeds), breeds with thick fur, obese pups, senior dogs, and puppies.
Brachycephalic breeds include Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Pekingnese, English Bulldogs, and Pugs (to name a few). These flat-faced breeds are more susceptible to heat stroke because of their narrow airways and smaller nostrils. Their facial structure makes breathing a bit more difficult and panting less effective at cooling.
Dogs with Thick Fur
A thick, double coat can increase a dog’s chances of overheating, and darker coats make it even likelier. (The darker fur tends to absorb more heat.) Examples of dogs with double coats are Pomeranians, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Australian Shepherds, and Chow Chows.
These pups have a shorter, softer undercoat and coarser outer coats. The undercoat sheds regularly and serves as an insulator for your pup, while the outer coat doesn’t shed as much. Proper grooming, regular brushing, and maintaining a healthy coat are essential to help these heavy-coated dogs handle the heat.
Overweight dogs get hotter because of the extra insulation from excess fat cells. They also tend to generate more heat during exercise. If you have an obese pet, talk with your vet about an appropriate health plan to help your dog reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Senior Dogs and Puppies
When you’re caring for a senior pet, they require special attention and an ever-watchful eye. Older dogs are more sensitive to extreme temperatures, so it’s essential to watch them closely when things start to heat up. Senior dogs also are more likely to have underlying health conditions that make them more prone to heat-related complications.
In addition to older dogs, puppies are also at higher risk for heat-related issues. Puppies have difficulty regulating their body temperature, and they’re very active. This combination puts them at higher risk for heatstroke.
Is Your Dog Overheating?
- Extremely heavy panting
- Red gums
- Excessive drooling
- Increased heart rate
- Disoriented behavior
If you spot any of these signs, call your vet immediately and let them know you’re on your way. Give your dog cool water and pour cool water on them to help lower their body temperature. Avoid putting wet towels or blankets on them as this will trap heat.
Ways to Help Your Dog Cool Off
Your dog can only do so much to cool themselves adequately. Therefore, you need to step in and provide some extra relief when things get hot.
- Always provide fresh water to your dog. Use a large capacity bowl when it's hot so your dog doesn’t run out of water after a few laps. To help your pup stay hydrated when outside, use a Polar Bowl to keep the water nice and cool.
- Provide a shady spot outside for your dog to escape the sun.
- During hot weather, take walks in the evening or early morning hours.
- Avoid spending lots of time outside or exercising outdoors.
- Test the pavement. If it’s too hot for you to leave your hand on it for 7 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog. If you must take your pup outside, get them dog booties or socks to protect their paws.
Should I Shave My Dog When It’s Hot Outside?
It’s tempting to think if your dog has a thick double coat, shaving would help get them cool. But don’t do it. The fur acts as an insulator, slowing the transfer rate of heat to the body. Your dog’s coat also serves as protection from UV rays.
If your pup has a single coat, a summer cut could be beneficial. Discuss options with your vet or groomer, though, before you grab the razor.
Dogs Never Let You See Them Sweat
You won’t really notice when your dog sweats, so you can’t rely on your pup’s sweating to tell you they’re hot. Dog sweat might not work exactly like human sweat, but it still is one of the ways your pup tries to keep cool. However, since your dog primarily only sweats through their paws, providing them extra ways to beat the heat is essential.
Fresh water at the ready is a must, as is a shady spot to rest outside. The best thing you can do for your dog when it’s hot is to let them stay indoors as much as possible. For more helpful tips on caring for your canine companion in any kind of weather check out the Neater Pets blog.