It's a sunny day and you're perspiring but do dogs sweat as well? We know that our bodies secrete water to control our temperature when we're hot but it may surprise you to learn that, yes, dogs do too, but not to the same extent as humans.
Every one of us has sweat glands distributed across our body. When we become warm, fluid is expelled through the pores of our skin and, as it makes contact with the air, this liquid – that is, sweat – evaporates. This causes the surface of the skin to cool and it helps to prevent us from overheating.
Dogs are different, however. The majority of them are covered in a thick coat of hair so if they were to sweat across their bodies, then the liquid would end up becoming trapped in the fur and it wouldn't come into sufficient contact with the air.
In this case, the sweat wouldn't evaporate and you'd still have a hot dog if the temperature was high. But if they're not expelling liquid across their bodies and yet they can still sweat, how on Earth are they doing it?
Do dogs have sweat glands?
Like humans, dogs have two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine. In the human body, eccrine glands are found everywhere and they open on to the surface of our skin. Apocrine glands, on the other hand, are found in our armpits and our genital regions and they open into the hair follicle. Any pong in these areas is due to bacteria breaking the dried sweat down..
Dogs switch things around to some degree. They don't have anywhere near as many eccrine glands as we do but they still work in a similar way to ours', secreting water through their pores. Dogs also have loads of apocrine sweat glands – in fact, they are all over a dog's body. Yet they don't actually work to cool a canine (and they don't cause pongs either so you won't need the best dog shampoo just yet).
Instead these glands are producing chemical signals called pheromones used for communication with other dogs. But that still begs the question of where the eccrine glands are doing their work.
Do dogs sweat through their paws?
Absolutely! Got it in one! Have a think about it. There are hairs all over a dog's body but there are very few to be found on the paw pads. So, yes, dogs sweat through their paws.
Nature has found a way of ensuring that the paws are packed with eccrine glands – which are also known as merocrine. Since there are so few hairs, they can secrete water, safe in the knowledge that the sweat won't become trapped by masses of fur.
This will allow water to simply form on the surface, from where it can evaporate and cool. But that's not all. A dog's nose will also sweat because, again, there are very few hairs there. What all of this means, though, is that our canine companions are finding other ways to control their body temperature.
How can you tell if a dog is sweating?
In general, there are two main telltale signs. First, watch what happens when a dog is walking on a dry surface on a hot day. It's likely you will see a trail of little wet paw prints being left behind which is evidence of dog sweat.
Second, pay attention to a dog's face. A sweating pooch's nose will become wetter than usual, either because of warm weather or strenuous exercise.
But don't rely on sweat to tell you if a dog is hot. The biggest giveaway that a pooch is looking to cool down is panting which, alongside the expansion of blood vessels in their face and ears, is a dog's main way of regulating their temperature.
By opening their mouth and sticking their tongue out, a canine is allowing moisture to evaporate. At the same time, cooler external air is being exchanged with the hot air of their lungs. But it's not the most efficient way for an animal to regulate body temperature.
To that end, watch out for excessive panting. That's a sure sign that your dog is far from comfortable, especially if you're spotting drool and the tongue and gums are becoming more red. At this stage, you're going to have to take some action and try and cool your dog down.
How to keep a dog cool
It's important to know how to cool a dog because overheating is dangerous. In general, dogs can keep cool in much the same way as we can, so if it's a hot day try not to expose a dog to too much sun. Ensure there is plenty of shade and maybe consider the best cooling mat for dogs – these are very effective in absorbing heat from your pet.
At the same time, keep a dog hydrated with a good supply of cool water and don't engage in strenuous exercise when the rays are at their strongest: wait until later in the day or encourage play early in the morning.
In other words, care for a dog in the same way as you'd care for yourself. If you're having a frozen treat, ensure your furbaby has one too. If you're going for a paddle, then think about the best swimming pool for dogs. And, of course, if you would feel uncomfortable sitting in a car on a hot day, then think how a hairy animal would fare – certainly never leave a dog unattended in a warm vehicle.
But what if you suspect a dog is suffering heatstroke. In this case, seek immediate help from a vet on how to avoid dog heatstroke. One thing's for sure, don't rely on a dog's sweat glands to keep them sufficiently cool. Yes, dogs do sweat but nowhere near enough to be effective.
David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.
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