In Do Dogs Sweat Sarah Holloway explores dog temperature control.
In this article we’ll be looking at whether dogs sweat, how much they sweat, and what else they do to regulate their temperature under all that fur.
And how to recognize when a high temperature becomes a dangerous temperature.
We’ll also see if dogs can get fevers, and find out how to check a dog’s temperature.
Can dogs sweat?
When humans sweat we’re exploiting the physics of evaporation to cool the surface of our skin.
Sweating is the mechanism by which we stop our organs overheating and failing in hot conditions.
Dogs can sweat, but not as profusely as we do, because they only sweat water from areas of skin without fur – their paws and nose.
Do dogs have sweat glands?
In fact dog sweat gland come in two types, like ours: eccrine sweat glands and apocrine sweat glands.
Humans are covered in eccrine sweat glands, and they’re the ones we use to cool ourselves down.
As you can probably guess, dogs only have eccrine sweat gland in their paws and noses; but they have apocrine sweat glands at the follicle of every hair.
Apocrine sweat glands produce oil laced with pheromones.
Pheromones are chemical signals animals use to communicate information about themselves to other animals of the same species.
They can’t do anything to help cool a dog down though.
Dog temperature: keeping cool without sweating
On a hot day, sweating water from their nose and paws alone isn’t enough surface area to have a cooling effect on the whole body.
So if dogs don’t sweat to keep cool, what do they do?
They lose a little heat by vasodilation: widening the blood vessels at the surface of the skin so that the blood inside can be cooled by the air.
But for dogs, the main way to keep cool is by panting.
Panting draws fresh air into the lungs to cool the body’s core, and also allows heat exchange and evaporation from the surfaces in the mouth.
You can read more about how this remarkably effective process works in Pippa’s article Why Do Dogs Pant – Fascinating Facts About Panting.
In the second part of this article, we’ll look at how too recognize when your dog is too hot, and how to keep them cool.
What is a normal dog temperature?
A normal temperature for dogs at rest is between 99.5 and 102.5 Fahrenheit.
Their temperature can go up when they exercise, when they’re in a hot environment, or if they’re ill.
Since the first two often go hand in hand, we’ll look at those together first.
Finally we’ll look at the symptoms of fever in dogs who are ill.
Dog overheating – and how to avoid it
When a dog’s body temperature gets too high, it’s called hyperthermia.
What causes hyperthermia? Well, dogs can get too hot through physical exertion, or spending to long in a hot place.
Uncontrolled overheating of this kind in your dog can quickly make a dog ill – known as heat exhaustion, or even result in collapse – or heat stroke.
They can also overheat when they have a fever. Let’s look at non-fever hyperthermia first
Heat exhaustion in dogs
Heat exhaustion affects some breeds and some individuals more than others:
- Overweight dogs heat up quickly because their cardiovascular system has to work harder, and their fat insulates their core.
- Dogs with dark coats absorb more heat than their light-colored counterparts.
- Brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds often struggle to pant effectively.
For labradors and other shedding breeds in particular, be especially alert to signs of hyperthermia in spring.
Just a modestly warm day can catch your dog off guard if they still have their thick winter coat.
Signs of heat exhaustion in dogs
As you get to know each other, you’ll probably be able to tell by touch when your dog is running hotter than usual.
But because the average dog temperature is roughly three degrees higher than the average human temperature, they always feel warm to us, to it’s important to know the other physical signs of heat stress too.
Dog overheating symptoms
Look out for your dog:
- panting much more than usual
- pushing their tongue further out of their mouth than usual
- pulling their cheeks back to reveal their gums and molar teeth
- with red gums
- losing focus or readiness
If a dog with these symptoms doesn’t get a chance to cool down, more severe symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness or stumbling, which can eventually lead to seizures and loss of consciousness (heat stroke).
How to cool down a dog with hyperthermia
As always, prevention is better than cure.
Dogs lose a lot of water by panting, so on a warm day make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water.
In very hot spell, try and confine walks and exercise to early in the morning and later in the evening.
If your dogs spends a lot of time outside, make sure there is some shade available throughout the day.
Cold watermelon slices straight from the fridge or freezer are a great way to help your dog cool down on hot days. Watermelon is over 90% water too, so it’s a fab way to keep your pet hydrated too.
Cut of the rind first though, because it’s a bit tough on your pet’s digestive system.
A word of caution – be careful of giving your dog ice cubes or large chunks of ice.
The temperature of ice can’t hurt your dog, but large pieces which don’t yield easily to being bitten could break their teeth or get caught in their throat if swallowed by accident.
If your dogs starts showing symptoms of hyperthermia, bring him indoors, offer him lots of fresh water and place cold wet towels under his armpits and on his tummy.
If his symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures or loss of consciousness, contact your vet immediately.
Can dogs get fevers?
Like us, dogs can get a fever when their immune system is trying to fight off an infection, such as dog flu.
They can also get fever from eating something poisonous to them.
Dog fever: recognizing fever in dogs and dog fever treatment
Symptoms of fever in dogs
- loss of appetite
- red eyes
Does my dog have a fever?
You know your dog best, and if they have any of the symptoms above and you are worried about them, ring your vet and ask their opinion.
They might ask you to you to bring them in for a check up, or ask you to keep monitoring them at home.
If you suspect your dog has a fever, it helps if you can tell the vet his temperature when you call.
Which leads us to…
How to take a dog’s temperature
Typically many dog owners still take their pet’s temperature via their rectum. For this reason, most people keep a designated dog thermometer at home!
As you can imagine, taking a dog’s temperature is easiest when you have a second pair of hands to help keep his head and body still.
Don’t use a glass thermometer in case it breaks, and put a dab of Vaseline or lubricant on the bulb of the thermometer before you insert it.
Gently push it an inch or two into your dogs bottom, and offer them some soothing words while you wait for the reading – but don’t worry, it doesn’t cause them any pain!
You can also use ear thermometers for dogs, but the shape and hairiness of their ear canal means there’s a higher chance of getting an incorrect result if you’re unfamiliar with what you’re doing.
It’s worth asking your vet to show you how to do it properly the first time, to avoid being mislead by inaccurate results at home.
What can I give my dog for a fever?
If your dog has a fever, it is vital to treat not just the fever symptoms, but the underlying cause.
So you must, must, must take them to a vet.
Never try to treat the fever symptoms with any human medications while you wait – many include ingredient which are toxic to dogs.
How do dogs sweat and regulate their temperature: a summary
Dogs don’t sweat to cool off like we do.
To regulate their heat, dogs primarily rely on panting.
But just like us, sometimes they can overdo it on a hot day, so a few easy tricks can help refresh them again.
It’s important to be able to tell when your dog is getting too hot, or has a fever: acting fast to get veterinary help will protect them from organ damage.
Keeping your dog’s temperature normal – what do you do?
What inventive ways have you found for keeping your dog cool in summer?
Please share your tips and tricks in the comments section below so that we can try them this summer too!
Today’s article is by Sarah Holloway. Sarah holds a bachelors degree in Zoology and has a special interest in animal behavior and communication
American Kennel Club, www.akc.org
American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, “Why it is critical to know your dog’s normal bod temperature at rest, at play and at work: using our understanding of working dogs to support performance dog health”, www.akcchf.org.