Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do dogs sweat?” This is not an unusual thought since you never see sweat pouring down a dog’s face or under its armpits when the weather is hot and humid.
Dogs have a different way of regulating their body temperature than do humans. Dogs will sweat through their foot pads and also release heat by panting. They are not able to release body heat as efficiently as humans do because we release body heat by sweating through our skin.
If your dog pants excessively on a hot day it’s because it feels warm and needs to relieve some of its body heat. By panting, a dog sends cool air over its tongue and deep into the lungs which alleviates some of the heat.
It may surprise you, but dogs do have sweat glands. Their sweat glands are divided into two groups: Merocrine glands are located in a dog’s foot pads and are activated when the dog is warm; apocrine glands are considered to be sweat glands and they are located all over a dog’s body. The apocrine glands don’t actually release sweat, but secrete pheromones used as a means of communication between dogs.
Dogs sweat when they are unable to effectively rid themselves of excessive heat and the internal body temperature begins to rise. When the dog’s temperature reaches 106°, damage to the body’s cellular system and organs may become irreversible. Many dogs die from heat stroke when it could have been prevented.
Since dogs don’t have complex means to eliminate sweat and body heat, they can suffer from heat stroke on very hot days; or if you leave them in a car, even if the windows are partway down. Especially avoid leaving your dog outdoors during times of extreme heat. If you must keep your dog outdoors make sure it has a shaded area where it can cool off and be sure it has plenty of cool water to drink to help it maintain a normal body temperature.
Signs of a heat stroke include: excessive panting, unconsciousness, sudden collapse, increased rectal temperature (over 104° requires action, over 106° is a dire emergency), seizures, lying down and unwilling or unable to get up, dizziness or disorientation, or in the worst case, a coma.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke you need to take immediate action. Start by moving your dog out of the heat and away from the sun. Begin placing cool, wet rags or washcloths on its body, especially the foot pads and around the head.
Do not use ice water or very cold water. Extreme cold may cause the dog’s blood vessels to constrict and prevent its body’s from cooling. This can cause its internal temperature to rise. Overcooling can also cause hypothermia.
When the dog’s body temperature reaches 103°, stop cooling. You should give your dog cool water, but do not force water into its mouth.
Now you know why dogs sweat and what to do if your pet begins showing signs of heat stroke.