You might be surprised to learn that yes; dogs do in fact sweat. However, the way they sweat is a bit different than the way humans sweat. Another thing to note is that when a dog is attempting to cool his body down, sweating is only one of several techniques he can use.
Just like a human, your dog’s brain controls his body temperature. The brain does this by computing signals from your dog’s environment and triggering different functions, giving your dog’s body instructions to cool down.
As a comparison, when the brain instructs a human body to cool down, our sweat glands secrete salt water to release energy. As our sweat evaporates, our body temperature lowers. With dogs, the process is different. A dog’s body is covered in fur, so secreting sweat all over his body is not an efficient way for the body to cool itself.
Unfortunately, though a dog’s fur may provide a bit of insulation against overheating in the first place, once your dog becomes overheated, his fur can work against him. So, instead of having sweat glands all over his body, your dog only has sweat glands in certain areas of the body that have no fur, such as his paws and (possibly) his nose.
If you have ever asked yourself, “Do dogs sweat?”, than this blog post is for you.
Sweat Glands in a Dog
Dogs have two different types of sweat glands. The one that is most similar to the sweat glands in humans is the merocrine sweat glands. These glands can be found primarily in your dog’s paw pads (and possibly the nose).
When your dog gets hot, the merocrine glands secrete a clear, salty fluid, just like humans. So, if you notice little damp paw prints following behind your dog as he walks, it means he is hot. However, it should be noted that this isn’t nearly as common as other thermogenic processes like panting and vasodilation.
The other type of sweat glands in a dog, called apocrine glands, might be more accurately described as pheromone glands. These glands are all over your dog’s body, roughly one for every hair follicle. Though these are considered “sweat” glands by vets, they actually aren’t the same as merocrine glands and they aren’t really designed to cool your dog off. Instead, these glands release pheromones that help dogs identify each other by smell. So, if you’re wondering why your dog stinks when he comes in from playing outdoors, it’s possible these glands could be playing a role.
Why Do Dogs Sweat?
A dog may sweat when he becomes overheated as an attempt to cool down and bring his body temperature back to normal. This is just one cooling mechanism a dog’s body uses to do this. Dogs can overheat and possibly sweat for a variety of reasons.
Reasons dogs sweat:
- Exposure to hot weather
- Exposure to warm weather and no shade
- Exercise and play
- Stress and canine anxiety
- Napping near a heater or fire or another heat source
- No or limited access to cool water
- Contained in a home or car that’s too hot
- Canine fever due to illness
Other Ways a Dog Cools Down
There is quite a small number of true sweat glands compared to the size of a dog’s body, so they aren’t the most efficient method for your dog to cool himself off. A dog will primarily cool down using thermoregulation. This includes panting and vasodilation.
As a dog pants, the heat from his chest and body rises. This heat is released through the dog’s mouth in the form of moisture, similar to how our bodies release moisture to cool off. As the moisture and saliva in a dog’s mouth is touched by moving air generated by the panting behavior, the moisture evaporates and helps lower your dog’s temperature.
Dogs also employ a process called vasodilation to cool off and release body heat. This is primarily through blood vessels in your dog’s face and ears that expand and help blood rise closer to the skin’s surface. As the blood moves nearer to the skin’s surface, it cools down and helps your dog’s body to cool off as well.
Do Dogs Sweat from the Tongue?
No, the moisture dogs secrete from the tongue is mainly saliva. It doesn’t come from sweat glands. When dogs get hot and begin to pant, it’s part of the process of thermoregulation. Though it’s a common misconception that a dog is “sweating” through the tongue, this really isn’t the case. In fact, if you notice your dog is drooling excessively, you may need to take steps to help him cool down, as this could be an indicator he’s overheated and entering the danger zone of a canine heat stroke.
Do Dogs Sweat from the Armpits?
Though it may be easy to assume a dog sweats from the armpits like people do, there are no sweat glands located in a dog’s underarms. They do have glands in that area, but they are the glands that secrete pheromones for identification purposes, not sweat and moisture for cooling purposes.
But My Dog Smells Like Sweat!
What you are likely smelling isn’t sweat but a mixture of pheromones and oils in your dog’s skin and fur. Dogs secrete oils from the sebaceous glands that help to keep his skin and coat healthy and shiny. If these glands are acting in overdrive, they can have a noticeable odor and even make your dog’s skin feel clammy, which can be mistaken for sweat. Dogs also sometimes have an odor of yeast that secretes from their ears. Because of vasodilation when your dog gets hot, the odor could be more noticeable. Regular bathing and grooming your dog can help cut down on your his unpleasant odors.
Why is Thermogenesis Important for a Dog?
Much like people, dogs can easily overheat to a point that becomes dangerous. Processes like panting, vasodilation, and sweating in dogs help to prevent him from overheating and possibly endangering his health. Though a dog’s fur can act as a barrier to heat, once it reaches a certain point your dog’s fur becomes more of a hindrance. And since your dog can’t take his coat off like humans, other bodily processes have to do the work of cooling him down instead.
Warning Signs of Heatstroke in Dogs
Unfortunately, thermogenesis doesn’t always succeed in bringing down a dog’s temperature. When this happens, your dog could suffer from heatstroke. Heatstroke can happen under a variety of different conditions. Most common are when a dog is left in a car on a hot day, when a dog has limited or no access to cool water, or when a dog is being exercised in the heat and isn’t given enough breaks or time to cool down. Heatstroke is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated, which makes it imperative to see your vet if you suspect your dog has this condition.
Signs to look for include:
- Your dog may pant excessively
- Your dog’s gums may be red
- Your dog may experience dehydration
- Your dog’s mouth may drip thick, trailing saliva
- Your dog’s body may feel warm to touch
- Your dog’s heart may beat rapidly
- Your dog may vomit
- Your dog may experience muscle tremors
- Your dog may suffer loss of coordination
- Your dog may lose consciousness
- Your dog may suffer seizures
Treating Heat Stroke in Dogs
If you notice any of these warning signs, you should take steps to try and cool your dog down and seek professional vet care immediately. Your dog may need treatment that you can’t provide. Avoid cooling your dog down too rapidly though. Never use ice water or you could make the condition worse. Instead, try using a fan to blow cool air on him, bring him indoors to a room that is air-conditioned, place him in a lukewarm bath, or try placing wet towels around heat-sensitive areas of his body, including the groin, neck, and underarms. Transport your dog to the vet as soon as possible, keeping your AC on and your windows down to allow air to circulate around your dog freely.
You should also monitor your dog for symptoms of shock, your vet can advise you on what to look for and take your dog’s temperature every five minutes as you transport to the clinic. Once you’ve arrived at your vet’s office, they may want to employ other treatment methods, such as IV fluids and support for your dog’s blood pressure. Sometimes medication may be necessary, if the case is severe. If left untreated, heatstroke can lead to canine kidney failure, swelling in your dog’s brain, abnormal blood clotting, bleeding in the intestine, and even death. Do not waste time if you suspect your dog has overheated, take steps to cool him down right away.
Note that some dogs may be more prone to overheating than others. Dogs with shorter snouts have a harder time panting and keeping themselves cool, as well as dogs with laryngeal paralysis. Puppies and elderly dogs are more susceptible, and so are dogs that may be ill, or suffer from a health condition like canine heart disease or lung disease.
Dogs with darker coats or thicker, heavier coats may find it harder to stay cool. Dogs that suffer from obesity can also overheat easier than their slimmer counterparts. Excess fat acts like an additional layer of insulation on top of your dog’s fur coat. Also, dogs that have had heatstroke in the past may be more vulnerable to a second time.