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Can dogs sweat?

Updated on February 18, 2012

Dog owners have always been warned against walking the dog when the temperature is high. Dogs should only be walked early in the morning or an hour or two after the sun has set. Dogs should not be made to walk on hot pavement as well. These precautionary measures are done to prevent the dog from overheating. It is a common misconception that since dogs are furred, they do not sweat. The truth is dogs sweat! Dogs though sweat only on the part of the body that is not furred and that is through the pads of the feet. On a hot day and after a strenuous activity, the wet foot prints of the dog can be seen on the floor.

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Sweat glands of dogs

Aside from hairless breeds of dogs that have sweat glands all over the body just like humans do, most dog breeds have very few sweat glands. Concentrations of sweat glands are found on the dog’s nose but most of the sweat glands are found on the pads of the feet. Dogs have apocrine sweat glands too but their function is not for thermoregulation as rather than cooling the body, this type of sweat gland produces a hormone scent called pheromone, the natural chemicals secreted by dogs and used to communicate with each other.

How do dogs regulate body temperature?

Humans regulate body temperature through perspiration. The sweat glands all over the body give humans an efficient cooling system. The evaporation of moisture on the skin cools the body. This is not so with canines. How do dogs sweat? Unlike humans that sweat profusely on the armpit and on the skin, dogs sweat only on the pads of the feet where the sweat glands are located. Dogs do not have a very efficient thermo regulation system.  On a very hot day or after a strenuous exercise, a dog would be seen with a wide open mouth and a lolling tongue…the dog is panting. This is how a dog regulates its body temperature. This form of cooling unique to dogs is aimed at maximizing heat reduction and at the same time conserving moisture by carrying heat from the central part of the thorax which is the hottest part of a dog’s body. To dissipate heat, dogs dilate the blood vessels on the ears and face. Dilated blood vessels causes blood to flow closer to the skin surface thus cooling the dog.

A dog’s exchanging mechanism

As mentioned, dogs do not have a very efficient cooling system as they sweat only through the pads of their feet. Dogs though have an effective heat exchanging mechanism that prevents them from overheating. Dogs have a rete mirabile, a complicated intermingling of arteries and veins found at the dog’s neck that acts as heat exchanger that transfers heat from one medium to another. The brain is the most heat sensitive organ of a dog. During a strenuous activity, the muscles in the dog’s body generate most of the heat. The rete mirabile thermally isolates the head and enables the dog to maintain physical exertion for a prolonged period of time even in a hot environment. This allows a dog to pursue its prey without overheating.


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