Dogs do sweat, but not in the way you may expect.

By Zoe Denenberg
January 03, 2020
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Credit: Purple Collar Pet Photography/Getty Images

Many dogs wear gorgeous fur coats year-round, leaving concerned owners to wonder: Is my dog going to overheat? This insulating layer can be extremely useful in the winter, but in the hot summer months, dogs with thicker coats run the risk of heatstroke. How do dogs cool themselves down, and how can you help Fido feel comfortable in the dog days of summer? With this goal in mind, our minds automatically jump to one simple question: Do dogs sweat?

Dogs do sweat, but not in the way that humans might imagine. “They don’t sweat like we do,” says Kit Darling, Infection Control Coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Dogs sweat through merocrine glands located in the parts of their bodies that are not covered in fur, including their noses and paw pads. “Most dogs are covered in fur, so sweat would fail to evaporate from their bodies,” writes Anna Burke for American Kennel Club. “That’s why it is much more efficient for dogs to have sweat glands in their paw pads, where there is little fur.”

Have you ever seen damp paw prints on the street? When it’s very hot out, dogs' paws can become damp with sweat; this sweating, however, does not entirely cool dogs down. Instead, according to Darling, “They cool themselves off through panting.”

Since panting is the primary method for dogs to cool themselves down, it’s extremely important to give your dogs relief from the heat. Darling provides a few recommendations: “Don’t leave them in the car, [especially] when it’s too hot or too cold; don’t over-exercise them, especially in the summertime; and be sure that if you do take them for a walk, be sure that the pavement’s not too hot. You can do that by putting the back of your hand on the pavement—if it’s hot to you, it’s going to be hot on their paws.”

Follow these simple guidelines to help cool your dog down, but in cases of emergency, know the signs of heatstroke. Dogs cool themselves down through panting, but according to American Kennel Club, heavy panting can be a sign of potential heatstroke. Dehydration, excessive drooling, red gums, rapid or irregular heart rate, muscle tremors, and seizures are other signs to look out for—in the case of heatstroke, bring your dog to a veterinarian hospital ASAP.