Why is it, after a long walkie in the sweltering heat, your dog still looks fresh and fluffy like they could walk straight onto the set of a Pantene commercial? Meanwhile you’re pouring buckets of sweat. “Do dogs even sweat?! What kind of sorcery is this?”
Do Dogs Sweat?
Contrary to rumors you may have heard around the dog park, yes, dogs actually do sweat—just much differently than we do. There’s no doubt that after taking your pup for a long walk you’ve noticed them panting, but not obviously sweating. Why is it that they still look fresh as a daisy while you’re drenched in so much sweat that you could name a new lake out of the puddle you’re creating on the floor? The answer to this mainly comes down to the fact that dogs have two different types of sweat glands that function very differently than our own1.
- Apocrine Glands – You might be surprised to learn that dogs actually do have sweat glands covering their entire body. However, the purpose of these glands is mainly for releasing pheromones, used to communicate to other dogs through scent. Although these glands do release very small amounts of sweat from time to time, it’s not for the purpose of cooling off1.
- Eccrine Glands – These glands are located on your dog’s feet and nose. They release sweat with the purpose of cooling off your pup, as well as keeping their paws moist to avoid cracking1. As the sweat evaporates, it helps lower their body temperature.
Although apocrine glands—which cover your pup’s entire body—can technically release sweat, there’s a reason that they’re not the main source of sweat for dogs. Think of it this way: if your dog began sweating all over their entire body in an attempt to cool down, the sweat wouldn’t be able to evaporate because it would get trapped in their fur—failing to actually cool them off. This is why dogs evolved to sweat mainly through their feet, and why you may notice wet paw prints after being out in the heat, rather than their whole body looking damp and sweaty.
What’s The Purpose Of Panting?
Interestingly, sweating is not actually the most effective way for dogs to cool off. The reason that you’re more likely to notice your dog panting heavily rather than sweating profusely through their feet after a long walk, is that panting is the primary way that dogs cool off and regulate temperature.
When dogs are panting, they breathe in cool air and release hot, moist air. This moisture evaporates as air passes over their tongue and nose. This helps lower their body temperature so that they can cool down, and is much more efficient for dogs than sweating.
|Fun Fact: During rest or light activity, dogs typically take around 35 breaths per minute. When panting, the number of breaths shoots all the way up to 300-400 breaths per minute – but “panting” breaths don’t provide as much oxygen to the lungs as full, slow breaths do.
How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Too Hot?
It’s very important to be able to recognize the warning signs that your dog is overheating. Extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke in dogs, which can lead to seizures and even death if you don’t intervene. Dogs have no way of telling us they’re too hot, and they have no way to cool themselves off other than panting, sweating, or searching for a spot on the cool tile floor. They rely on us to read their body language so we can jump in and find ways to help keep them cool.
Signs That Your Dog Is Too Hot:
- Excessive, frantic panting
- Extreme drooling
- Difficulty breathing
- Rectal temperature over 102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Dusky or purply color to the tongue and gums
Another important fact: Some dogs have upper respiratory issues that can prevent them from being able to thermoregulate normally. So, if your dog has a smush face (brachycephalics), laryngeal paralysis, or a collapsing trachea (to name a few), they will go from “fine” to “heat stroke” way faster than most dogs. These dogs should avoid being outside during the hottest parts of the day. If your dog is a normally noisy breather (or their breathing gets really noisy when they are excited), it’s a sign that they may be at greater risk for heat stroke.
How Can You Help Your Dog Cool Off?
When the temperature is brutal and you’re looking for ways to cool your pup down, we’ve got you covered with some great ways to help your pup beat the heat:
- Give Your Dog Access To Lots Of Water – This should be a no-brainer, but keep your dog’s water bowl filled at all times. Check it throughout the day to make sure it’s full.
- Brush Out Loose Fur Daily – It’s time to add in some extra grooming sessions. Take a few minutes out of each day to brush out your dog’s coat. Removing this extra hair can do wonders to help them stay cool.
- DIY Pupsicle Treat – Nothing is better than a popsicle—or should we say pupsicle—on a hot day. Your pup would love one too! Just plop a few of their favorite berries or treats into an ice cube tray, fill with water, and freeze. Voila! Pupsicle! (Just encourage licking rather than chewing to spare their teeth, please!)
- Keep Cool In The A/C Or With Fans – It’s becoming dangerously hot for dogs to stay outside for extended periods in many parts of the world. Bring your dog inside if you have air conditioning. If you don’t have a/c, make use of portable fans. They actually cool rooms quicker if you point them out a window to blow the hot air out of the room.
- Doggie Splash Pad/Sprinklers – Was there anything more refreshing on a hot summer day as a kid than running through the sprinkler? You probably still have one hidden under mounds of who-knows-what in the garage. Even better yet, right now BarkBox is giving away free doggie splash pads!
- Doggie Pool – Get your butt out there to the store down the street and you’re just about guaranteed to find a cheap kiddie pool on sale. Take one of those bad boys home, fill it with water or ice cubes and let your dog go to town! This is a husky favorite!
- Move Walks To Early Morning Or Late Evening – You’re probably already doing this, even for your own sake. Just walk your dog during the cooler hours of the day, and look for shaded routes when the sun is out. Your dog will thank you.
- Cooling Pads, Mats, And Beds – Although there are actually a few electric cooling blankets and pads out there made for dogs, these can be dangerous if you’re not keeping a constant eye on it. Instead, you’re safer to check out various cooling dog pads, mats, and beds on the market.
Related Article: Best Cooling Mats And Beds For Dogs In 2022
Does Shaving Help A Dog Stay Cooler?
While some pups need a good trim to stay tidy and groomed, it’s a common misconception that shaving your dog’s fur completely will keep them cool. It’s easy to see how pet parents make this mistake: for humans, we know that heavy sweaters or thick winter coats keep us warm in the winter. If we ever attempted wearing a ski jacket to the beach we would probably feel like we’re about to spontaneously combust. So, naturally, we assume that dog’s coats work the same way! The problem is that dog coats, in fact, don’t work like this.
Although it sounds counterintuitive, dog’s coats work as insulation to protect them from both cold and heat. Yup, your dog’s coat actually keeps them cooler! Studies have found that short-haired dogs, surprisingly, have a higher surface body temperature after being out in the sun compared to dogs with longer coats3! That sounds so backwards, but it’s true!
Another study wanted to test whether or not the fur of black labs would make them hotter in the sun compared to yellow labs, since black is known to absorb heat. Surprisingly, they learned that there was no difference in rectal temperatures between the two different-colored dogs after being out in the sun4. Proof that there’s more to dog’s coats than meets the eye! Besides the fact that science has proven that shaving your dog is more detrimental than helpful, there’s a few others reasons why you shouldn’t shave your dog:
Why You Should Never Shave Your Dog
- Their fur insulates them to keep them cooler3
- Their coat protects them from sun damage and skin cancer
- Clipping fur can injure skin and cause infection
- Shaving and clipping is unnecessarily stressful for your dog
- Hair may grow back with a different texture or color after being shaved
This article has been reviewed by Margo Hennet, DVM.
Margo Hennet, DVM, cVMA, and veterinarian at BARK is a canine nutrition, health, & wellness connoisseur. She has a combined 10 years of experience in clinical medicine, research, and education—that’s 70 dog years of know-how—and graduated from Colorado State University as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She completed specialized training in internal medicine prior to working as a general practitioner in Colorado, has authored peer-reviewed publications and textbook chapters, holds certification in veterinary medical acupuncture, and is a member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition and American Veterinary Medical Association.
1 The VIN Dermatology Consultants. “Doggy Odor.” Veterinary Partner, VIN, 5 Feb. 2020, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4952523.
2 Schmidt-Nielsen, Knut, and James B Duke. “How Animals Work.” Google Books, Cambridge University Press, 2003, https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=apxJgDcKjW4C&oi=fnd&pg=PP9.
3 Kwon, Claire J. et al. “Quantifying Body Surface Temperature Differences in Canine Coat Types Using Infrared Thermography.” Journal of Thermal Biology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2019, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31128646/.
4 Neander, Caitlin, et al. “A Comparison of Black vs. Yellow Coat Color on Rectal and Gastrointestinal Temperature in Labrador Retrievers.” Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Elsevier, 18 Apr. 2021, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787821000393.