- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
In short, yes! Your dog sweats. It’s a common misconception that dogs don’t sweat at all. Dogs sweat through glands located on their paws, which are similar to human sweat glands. You may even notice wet paw prints on a hot day.
However, sweating through the paws plays only a small part in cooling off your dog. It helps, sure, but the real work is accomplished through your dog’s mouth, via panting.
How Dogs Cool Down
Your dog sweats via merocrine glands, which are located both in the paws and nose. It’s unclear if the nose sweat glands serve a cooling function at all, and some scientists believe that the sweat glands in a dog’s paws serve to increase traction in addition to regulating their body temperature.
Dogs also release fluid through Apocrine glands located all over their bodies, but these serve no cooling function—instead, they spread scents that communicate with other dogs.
So sweat plays a small role in cooling down your dog, but here are the many ways your dog’s body regulates heat:
- Sweat through the merocrine glands in the paws
- Vasodilation, an internal blood cooling process
- Cooling off their skin, usually in water, such as by taking a swim in a cold creek
Panting is a vital function of your dog’s overall temperature regulation. It works like internal air conditioning. Air is inhaled rapidly, evaporating the liquid in a dog’s mouth, throat, and lungs, sending cooler air around the body. Read more about panting here.
Dogs also cool down through a process called vasodilation, a pretty amazing function where the blood actually seeks to cool itself. The blood vessels expand and rise toward the skin where external air then cools them down. So cool water on a dog’s skin also cools off those rising blood vessels.
When to Be Concerned About Your Dog Overheating
Though dogs have several means of cooling down, they aren’t as functional as the sweat glands on our comparably bald human bodies.
The most common ways dogs overheat are:
- Dehydration due to lack of water
- Exposure to heat, especially in hot cars
- Over-exercising on hot days
All that fur doesn’t help. In fact, your dog’s hair can contribute to overheating. A dog’s coat functions like an insulator, so dogs have a harder time cooling down as their fur traps heat in their bodies.
Signs of heat stress or stroke in your dog can include:
- Labored or heavy panting
- Seeming lackadaisical or uncoordinated
- High body temperature (see how to take your dog’s temperature)
- Redness of the gums
- Excessive or unusual drooling
See more on heat stroke. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, contact a vet immediately.
Keeping Your Dog Cool
When things heat up outside, keep in mind that our dogs don’t have an efficient body temperature regulation system like we do. Because dogs can’t cool themselves off as easily we can, it’s good to pay attention to your dog’s environment when the weather heats up.
There are a few things you can do to make sure your dog stays cool.
- Monitor the indoor temperature, keeping it cool.
- Offer your dog plenty of fresh, cool water.
- Exercise your dog during the coolest parts of the day, usually mornings and evenings.
- Treat your dog to doggie popsicles or other cold delights. Check out these frozen treat ideas. My dog loves frozen peanut butter and banana cubes.
- When outdoors, make sure your dog has access to shade and is monitored.
- Try a cool, all-over body mist with a spray bottle. (That’s if your dog doesn’t equate water with torture, as mine does.)
- Don’t leave your dog in the car. Car interiors heat up quickly.
Yes, Your Dog Sweats. But Not Enough to Keep Cool.
So yes, the canine body is equipped to sweat when things heat up. Who would’ve guessed that dogs sweat through their paws?
However, because your dog’s cooling system functions much differently than the human system we’re accustomed to, it can be tricky to tell what situations might cause a dog to overheat. When spring and summer come around, it’s useful to remember how to keep our dogs from heat overload.
When the sun’s out, it’s best to make sure your dog has access to a cool place indoors or in the shade outside, lots of water to drink, and to keep your dog indoors during the hottest parts of the day. Avoid leaving your dog in the car, even for a short time, as car interiors heat up quickly.
And you can always have some fun experimenting with frozen treat recipes for your pup. Dare we say pupscicles?