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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Humans sweat when we exert ourselves, which helps cool us down and bring our body temperature back down to a normal level. You might wonder if dogs sweat too, and the answer is yes! Dogs sweat, but not in the same way as us.
Sweating is completely normal for dogs. They’ll sweat most often when exerting themselves or while recovering from exercise. Dogs may also sweat when sleeping when it’s hot outside or when they’re a little stressed or anxious.
Discover everything you need to know about how dogs sweat, the signs of overheating, and how to prevent it.
Where Do Dogs Sweat?
“Dogs sweat primarily through the sweat glands in their paws,” says Dr. Adam Chung, Lead Veterinarian at Parker & Ace. Dr. Chung adds that when dogs are nervous or it’s hot outside, pet parents might see a trail of wet paw prints from the sweat.
While it’s true that dogs do sweat mainly through their paw pads, some think they sweat through other glands anywhere on their body with hair. However, this sweating mechanism is less understood than sweat glands on the paw pads.
How Do Dogs Sweat?
A dog’s skin is a complex organ with many layers that help them sweat and cool off. For example, the sweat glands on a dog’s paw pads are known as eccrine glands. These can also be found on a dog’s nose, although whether those glands serve a cooling function is unclear. Some scientists also believe the sweat glands on a dog’s paws can help to increase traction in addition to helping regulate their body temperature.
Dogs also have another type of sweat gland known as the apocrine gland. These are found in the dermis, a deeper skin layer. These are the same glands responsible for sweating in humans, but they serve a slightly different purpose for dogs.
“These glands are primarily used to release natural scents rather than sweat,” Dr. Chung explains. He says due to a dog’s hairy skin, sweating in these regions would be inefficient and cause hairs to stick together. He adds that if hair sticks together, it creates an insulated barrier over the skin, making it more difficult to release heat when the body is hot.
How Do Dogs Cool Their Bodies Besides Sweating?
Sweating alone isn’t enough to cool a hot dog down. “The limited number of sweat glands are inefficient at cooling down your dog,” says Dr. Kelly Dunham from IndeVets.
She explains that dogs use other bodily functions to keep them cool instead. The main thing a dog does when overheating is panting. “If your dog starts panting heavily, they’re most likely trying to regulate [their] body temperature,” Dr. Dunham says.
Panting works like an internal air conditioner. As your dog inhales air rapidly, the liquid in their mouth, throat, and lungs evaporates. In turn, this helps to send cooler air around their bodies, helping them regulate their temperature.
Additionally, Dr. Dunham explains that dogs also use vasodilation to cool down. “This is an expansion of the blood vessels,” she says. “Vasodilation allows warm blood to get closer to the skin surface, primarily the ears and face, which means a dog can then begin to cool their body temperature.”
Is My Dog Overheated?
Heatstroke is a very dangerous condition that occurs if your dog can’t cool themselves down and regulate their temperature. This potentially fatal disorder causes your dog’s body temperature to rise excessively.
Signs that your dog is overheated include:
- Excessive panting. Panting is a key way for your dog to cool down. But your dog might be overheating if their panting is constant, intense, or starts out of nowhere.
- Dehydration. Signs of dehydration in dogs include a dry nose and gums, sunken eyes, and loss of skin elasticity.
- High body temperature. A dog’s average body temperature should be between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s above that range, they’re overheated. Invest in a dog thermometer so you can easily keep track of your dog’s temperature.
- Excessive drooling. While some drool is normal, overheating can make your dog drool excessively. Also, some breeds drool more than others, such as Basset Hounds, Boxers, Bloodhounds, and Bulldogs, so paying attention to what’s typical for your pup is always good.
- Irregular heart rate. The average heart rate for dogs is 60 to 140 beats per minute. However, heatstroke can cause a faster or irregular heartbeat. Learn how to take your dog’s normal heart rate, so you can check if it’s faster or more irregular than what’s typical.
- Vomiting. While a range of factors can cause vomiting, if it’s combined with any other symptoms of heat stroke, your dog may need to see a veterinarian.
- Red gums. A dog’s gums will typically be a light pink or salmon color. However, if your dog’s gums are bright cherry red, this can signal they’re overheating.
- Muscle tremors. As heat stroke progresses, you might notice your dog’s muscles shaking and twitching as if they’re shivering.
- Seizures. Heat stroke can cause your dog to stumble, collapse, and suffer from loss of consciousness or seizures.
What should I do if my dog is overheating?
“If your dog is showing signs of heat stroke, seek immediate veterinary care,” Dr. Chung advises. “Call ahead and keep your dog cool in the car while en route.”
Chung also says submerging your dog in cold water or using ice packs is not recommended. This can constrict the blood vessels and initially lead to decreased heat dissipation.
Instead, lay your dog on a cooling mat and wet them with room temperature or cool water. Direct a fan towards them if possible.
How To Keep Your Dog From Overheating
While dogs sweat and pant to keep themselves cool, their temperature regulation systems aren’t quite as efficient as ours. Unfortunately, that means your dog is more likely to overheat when the weather starts to heat up.
Therefore, it’s essential to know the signs of heatstroke and how to keep your dog cool and comfortable. We’ve rounded up some tips to help prevent your dog from overheating, including the following.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a vehicle
- Keep your home at a comfortable temperature (between 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the time of year)
- Always have cool, fresh water available. Some dogs also love to lick ice cubes!
- Keep your dog inside during the hottest parts of the day
- Offer your dog frozen treats when it’s hot outside
- See if your dog will wear hat hats or visors for instant shade when outside
- Go on walks during the coolest parts of the day (usually early morning and late evening)
- When outdoors, make sure your dog has access to shade and isn’t left unattended for long periods
- Take extra care during walks or outdoor playtime if your dog’s predisposed to heat stroke (this includes flat-faced breeds and those with heavy coats)
- Some dogs may enjoy a cooling all-over body mist from a spray bottle filled with water.
- If your dog loves water, set up a small paddling pool in the shade and fill it with cool water (remember to change the water regularly and don’t let it get too hot)