Sweating or perspiration is a process that releases salty liquids from the body through the sweat glands. Sweating is an essential function as it regulates temperature and helps the body to stay cool. Skin is the largest organ in a human’s body. As sweat glands are located all over the human body, humans have a more efficient way of regulating body temperature. Because dogs are covered with fur, there is a common misconception that dogs do not sweat. Dogs are believed to regulate body temperature not by sweating but by panting. The truth is dogs sweat too.
Dogs have very few sweat glands and most are located on the body parts that are not covered with fur. A few sweat glands are found on the area of the dog’s nose. Most sweat glands are found on the pads of the feet. Dogs have two types of sweat glands - the eccrine glands and the apocrine glands. The apocrine glands that produce sweat in humans have a different function in dogs. Aside from closing up the outer layer of the epidermis, this gland has nothing to do with regulating the body temperature of the dog. The apocrine glands secrete sweat into the hair and produce pheromone, the unique hormone scent that is used by the dog to identify each other. Eccrine glands found on the pads of the paws secrete a liquid that is not unlike human perspiration. A sweating dog would leave wet paw prints on the floor. Although there are a few sweat glands around the nose, sweat is not secreted in this area. What makes the nose wet is the fluid that comes from the mucosa of the nose.
Dogs may not sweat the way humans do but our four legged friends have their very own cooling system. Notice how a dog would open its mouth and loll its tongue during very hot weather or after a strenuous activity. Because of the very few sweat glands, dogs tend to overheat when allowed to stay outdoors or allowed to do strenuous activities when the temperature is high. Dogs regulate their body temperature by panting. When dogs pant, the mouth, tongue as well as the blood that circulates through the head is kept cool thereby maintaining body temperature at a normal and safe level. By panting, the major blood vessels on the dogs head are provided with a flow of fresh cooling air. We know that the head which contains the brain is the most heat sensitive organ of a dog. A dog’s tongue has a large surface and when the dog sticks out the tongue evaporation and consequently cooling is enhanced thus cooler blood is circulated to the rest of the body.
In spite of the dog’s effective cooling system, heat exhaustion is one of the most common concerns of pet owners especially during the summer months. Panting may not be enough to lower the body temperature of a dog that was chained in an unshaded area in the yard or a dog that was walked on a hot pavement under the scorching sun. Heavy panting, rapid breathing and excessive salivation will be manifested by a dog that is suffering from heat exhaustion.
Overheating can be prevented by making sure that the dog has adequate shelter. The dog must be provided with a steady supply of fresh water too. It would be a good idea to place several bowls of water in different locations. A misting system would be a rather costly measure that will keep the dog cool but if an owner can afford the cost then the dog must be provided with one. A kid’s wading pool with 2 to 3 inches of water would be a better alternative. The dog will surely thank you not only for the cooling effect of the water but also for the chance to play.