Dogs pant in the summer heat to keep themselves cool. When a dog’s tongue droops out of its mouth, moisture on the surface and inside the mouth evaporates. The process brings cooler air into the dog’s lungs and prevents overheating. It’s a more efficient process for some breeds than for others. Flat-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs, for example, often struggle to cool off from panting alone.
Does this cooling process mean that dogs don’t sweat? Not exactly. Dogs don’t have the same vast network of sweat glands as humans, but they do perspire.
How Dogs Sweat
Dogs have two distinct types of sweat glands: merocrine glands and apocrine glands. The former work like human sweat glands to keep dogs cool. They’re only located on the paw pads. As a result, your dog may occasionally leave wet paw prints on outdoor surfaces.
Why don’t dogs have merocrine glands everywhere? Because their sweat wouldn’t evaporate under all that fur. Paw pads are among the only spots on a dog’s body where sweat can evaporate to cool them effectively.
Apocrine glands are similar to human sweat glands in that they are located all over the body. Otherwise, they’re much different. Rather than cooling a dog’s body, these glands release pheromones.
Don’t Shave Your Dog!
To look at a long-haired dog, you might assume that its coat will lead to dehydration. In fact, the opposite is true. Your dog’s fur acts as an insulator, keeping them from getting too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. Shaving your dog could remove essential, insulating hairs and ultimately leave them more susceptible to heat stroke and dehydration. Your dog’s natural shedding processes should take care of any excess hair.
Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs
Panting and paw-based sweat glands aren’t always enough to keep a dog cool. While flat-faced dogs are more susceptible to heat exhaustion, all dogs are vulnerable.
Here’s a list of heat stroke symptoms to watch out for:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased thirst
- Rapid breathing or panting
- Seizures and muscle tremors
If you recognize any of these signs, get your dog out of the sun as soon as possible. Contact your veterinarian and give your dog plenty of cool water to drink.
Keep Your Dog Cool This Summer
Heat stroke is a serious risk, but it doesn’t have to get in the way of summer fun. If you and your pup will be spending time outdoors, make sure they always have access to clean, cool water, as well as shady areas. Avoid the sun altogether if you’ve seen any heat index warnings and try to walk your dog during cooler hours of the day. Most importantly, remember that you should never leave your dog unattended in a hot vehicle — whatever time of year it is.