With temperatures rising steadily this summer, it’s important to keep our dogs and us cool. People sweat to stay cool, but dogs sweat?
Do dogs sweat?
Dogs sweat, but not the way humans do. While sweat glands are designed to help cool in humans, heat is not released in the same way in dogs. Dogs have some sweat glands, but they are much fewer than humans, and their skin is covered with fur, so the cooling from sweat is minimized.
The two glands in which dogs can produce sweat are the merocrine and apocrine glands.
The merocrine glands are located in your dog’s paws. If your dog gets too warm, he will produce sweat. Apocrine glands are used as a form of social interaction.
While they are technically sweating glands, they don’t produce sweat. They are all over the body; the spots emit pheromones that our pets identify with. Instead of using them for cooling, your dog will make friends.
Because this surface area is so small, dogs have other methods of built-in temperature control, making their “sweat” secondary to their primary means of cooling themselves.
Here’s how to keep your dog cool in hot weather
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How do dogs cool off?
What if sweating is not a dog’s primary source of regulating its temperature and staying cool? Wheezing is the primary method, while vasodilation is the second most important method of keeping your dog cool.
Wheezing is moderate to rapid, open-mouthed breathing, usually paired with a large lolling tongue. Panting helps your dog cool off. When they gasp, they quickly exchange hot air from their lungs for cool outside air, which speeds up the evaporation of water from their tongue, mouth, and upper airways. As this water evaporates, it helps regulate your body temperature and thereby cools you down.
Vasodilation means expansion or dilation of blood vessels. When your dog gets hot, vasodilation will help cool him down. Your blood vessels, mainly in your face and ears, expand and bring warm blood directly to the surface of your skin, allowing the blood to cool before returning to the heart.
Heatstroke in dogs
Despite your dog’s natural cooling processes, dogs are still prone to overheating and suffering from heatstroke. Heatstroke, also called hyperthermia, occurs when our dogs’ body temperature rises within a healthy range, and they are unable to regulate their own body heat. This condition can range from mild heat exhaustion to more severe, where your dog can become unconscious, suffer organ failure, and die.
Dog handlers should carefully monitor the weather and their dogs before they run, walk, or spend time outdoors. The most common cause of heatstroke is leaving a dog in the car without adequate ventilation. In a matter of minutes, a dog’s temperature can rise to dangerous levels. Other common causes include access to shade or outdoor water, exposure to a hairdryer for long periods of time, and excessive play or exercise in hot temperatures.
Signs that your dog is overheating include:
- Excessive wheezing
- Redness of the gums, muzzle and ears
- Excessive drooling
- The body feels warm.
- Tremors or tremors
- Loss of coordination
- Elevated temperature (When a dog’s temperature exceeds 103 degrees Fahrenheit, it is considered abnormal. Body temperatures of around 106 degrees are considered heatstroke.)
If you see any of the above, move your dog to a cool place, provide your dog with water, and contact your veterinarian.
Brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs (dogs with flat faces and restricted airways) are at greater risk of heatstroke and can experience heat stroke even at moderately elevated temperatures.
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Protect your dog from the heat
Because dogs don’t sweat like humans, it is important that dog sitters be proactive in keeping their dogs cool and comfortable. Here are some tips to help you avoid heatstroke.
- Have a cool, well-ventilated room for your dog. Good ventilation is important as dogs lose heat by panting, which relies on good airflow.
- Your dog should always have access to fresh, clean drinking water.
- Avoid walking and other outdoor activities with your dog during busy times. Take your dog for a walk early in the morning or after dark to avoid the hottest hours of the day. Bring water with you on long walks, taking breaks in shaded areas if necessary.
- Know your dog’s medical history and symptoms of overheating. Dogs at increased risk of developing heat stroke include older dogs, dogs suffering from obesity or heart disease, brachycephalic breeds, large breeds, and breeds with extremely thick hair.
- When using muzzles, use basket muzzles that dogs can gasp with. Nylon muzzles prevent dogs from wheezing and can cause overheating. Dogs gasp to cool off, but also during times of anxiety and stress. Failure to wheeze can increase anxiety and stress. The muzzles will allow your dog to gasp and drink when properly fitted. If using a muzzle, it is recommended that you train the dogs to enjoy wearing the muzzle.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a parked car. On a humid and/or hot day, it doesn’t help to keep the windows partially down. It has been investigated that even at 72 degrees outside, the internal temperature of a car can rise to 116 degrees within an hour.
- Give your dog frozen treats like dog ice cream or frozen popsicles.
When you and your canine companion start enjoying the warm weather, don’t forget the importance of a cool water drink and a break in air conditioning. Even after your pet has got used to the summer heat, avoid exercise during the hottest times of the day, provide plenty of breaks, and keep an eye out for signs of fatigue or illness.