Editor’s Note: A recent conversation on our Facebook fan page, about our Cockapoos and their Frito-scented paws, was followed by some deep research into doggy “B.O.” and sweating. That inspired us to write and post this article. We were surprised by some of the facts we uncovered. Enjoy!
We humans sweat when our bodies need to regulate temperature. We tend to show sweat under our arms or down our back, especially after exercise or during hot summer months. Human sweat glands are situated under the skin all around the body. The moisture created by secreted sweat evaporates and in doing so it cools, reducing our body temperature.
Dogs do not have sweaty underarms, as many of their sweat glands are actually around their foot pads. A dog which is over-heating will sometimes leave behind a trail of wet paw prints, as evidence of his sweating. Many dog owners have noted that the aroma of sweaty dog paws is not particularly unpleasant, and in fact most resembles that of a popular brand of corn chips!
Even though they do not sweat in the same way that humans do, dogs still need to regulate their body temperature. Primarily this is done by panting, and you will probably have seen your dog with his mouth open panting after exercise or on a hot day. This mechanism of panting and heaving breathing allows the lungs to be involved in the cooling process. The lining of your dog’s lungs is very moist, and as that moisture escapes and evaporates from his tongue, his body temperature comes down.
Dogs also make use of their specially designed blood vessels, particularly those located in their ears and face. After exercise, these blood vessels expand and the blood flows nearer to the surface of the skin, and so the blood is cooled. This mechanism is not as effective for cooling when the air temperature outside is high.
Another factor which has a bearing on your dog’s body temperature is his fur coat. While it acts as a very effective insulator during the cold winter months, to a certain degree it can also serve as a barrier against the heat during the warmer summer months. Unfortunately, if your dog finds himself in a sustained warm environment, the barrier becomes less effective. Over a period of time, his core temperature will naturally increase, and then his fur coat will tend to retain the heat, preventing him from cooling down comfortably.
A sustained hot environment is potentially dangerous for your dog, particularly if he is very active. If your dog becomes too overheated he may develop hyperthermia, leading to heat stroke. The symptoms to be aware of include apparent confusion, sluggishness, hard panting and a bright red tongue and gums. If your dog’s condition goes unchecked he may collapse and slip in to a seizure or a coma. Always assess your dog’s condition carefully when you suspect something is amiss.
In order to counteract the possibility of your dog overheating, especially on a hot day, carry a water spray bottle such as those used for misting plants. Every so often mist your dog with water, and as the water on his skin evaporates it will help to cool him down.