Do Dogs Sweat?
Dogs have some sweat glands, but their skin is covered in fur, so this minimizes the amount of cooling the sweat can provide. Paw pads have the most sweat glands. You may see damp footprints from your dog walking on a hard surface in the summertime. Panting is the most efficient way dogs cool themselves. It works by allowing heat from the hottest part of the body, the inner thorax, to escape through moisture produced by mucous membranes of the tongue, mouth and throat. The dog exhales the moist air and the process of evaporation cools the dog.
How Does Body Temperature Stay Within the Normal Range?
Body temperature is controlled by the brain. When there are increases in outside temperatures, or a dog is excited, stressed, or has been exercising, the body gets a signal from the brain to lose the extra body heat. The primary way is through panting, but other methods are also important. Dilating blood vessels in the skin allows heat to escape as the warm blood is brought closer to the surface. Sweating, stretching out the body, or getting wet are other ways dogs stay cool. If these processes cannot be performed, or the body is overwhelmed and cannot cool itself enough, heat stroke and death may occur.
What Can Make A Dog Too Hot?
- True fever
- Excitement & stress
- Warm air temperatures
- Lying near warm objects (heater, another animal, electric blanket, campfire etc.)
- Being trapped in a car or home that's too hot
- Lack of water or other means to cool off
- Lack of shade in warm weather
Fever or Just Hot?
A temperature consistently over 102.8 degrees Fahrenheit is cause for concern in dogs. Signs of fever include reluctance to move, increased frequency of breathing, depression, anorexia, and lethargy or listlessness.
Hyperthermia is simply an increase in body temperature. This may be due to outside temperatures, excitement, exercise or other causes and is not a true fever.
If you are unsure whether your dog actually has a fever, rest her for 20 minutes, then check the rectal temperature again. If your dog is acting normal other than panting and having an increased temperature, chances are it is hyperthermia and not a true fever.
What Increases Heat Stroke Risk?
- Heart or lung disease
- Any sickness; even a cold
- Brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs or Bulldogs
- Heavy fur such as Sheepdogs
Why Does My Dog Have an Increased Temperature?
As discussed above, body temperature may be increased due to many things. Fever increases the body’s set temperature point (the normal temperature range of 100-102.5° Fahrenheit) to assist the immune system by activating immune cells to attack the foreign invader, such as a bacterial infection. With increased environmental temperatures and other causes of hyperthermia, the body’s set temperature point is not increased1. The body temperature is temporarily increased but can cool off over a short period of time as long as cooling mechanisms are not overwhelmed by too much intense heat.
If your dog seems to be overheated or is not acting normal contact your veterinarian immediately. Heat stroke is possible in dogs, and can be lethal. Organ failure, brain swelling, blood clotting disorders or death may occur with heat stroke. In a very hot dog, applying cool water to the groin, armpits and front of the neck will cool her. Provide water to drink and contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may give IV fluids and hospitalize for additional treatments and monitoring.
Common sense and thinking ahead will allow you to avoid serious complications from overheating in your dog. Remember, if you are hot, your dog is hot. Dogs are not people—they have their own unique ways of staying cool.
- William R. Fenner, Quick Reference to Veterinary Medicine (Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000), 60.
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