Sweat. We humans know it well. That telltale moisture that seeps through the pores of your skin when you get too hot is your body’s ingenious temperature regulation method, keeping organs and cells from overheating under duress – and we would be hardpressed to live without it.
As the temperatures steadily climb this summer, our pets are gearing up to stay cool as well. If you’ve ever wondered if dogs and cats sweat, we’ve got the answers for you!
Yes, Dogs and Cats Sweat
Sort of. Both species have a small amount of sweat glands located primarily in the paw pads. Because this surface area is so small, dogs and cats both have other methods of built-in temperature regulation, making their “sweat” secondary to their primary means of self-cooling.
The Dog Days of Summer
Panting is the primary method by which dogs release excess heat from their bodies. Panting allows for the evaporation of heat (in the form of water vapor) from the tongue, mouth, and upper respiratory tract. Because panting takes up so little energy, thanks to the elasticity of a dog’s lungs and airway, this is an extremely efficient means of cooling down.
In order to bring blood to the surface of the skin, the dilation of blood vessels (known as vasodilation), is another way dogs can lower their body temperatures. Vasodilation is not as efficient as panting and can indicate that a dog is becoming overheated.
Humans sweat, dogs pant, but what about cats?
Anyone who has ever sat outside, sweating buckets, while a cat lounged peacefully nearby has probably wondered why cats rarely seem bothered by temperature extremes. It turns out cats have their own preferred ways of lowering body temperature.
Besides sweating through the paw pads (cats do this more than dogs), a cat’s brain will turn to alternative methods for dispersing body heat, such as stretching out the body, moving to a shaded area, or drinking cool water. Cats may pant as a last resort, but excessive panting is not normal and may be a sign that your cat is dangerously overheated.
Protecting Your Pet
Dogs and cats can easily become overheated on warm, humid days. It doesn’t take long before an elevated body temperature can lead to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that can cause brain swelling, organ failure, blood clotting disorders, and death.
You can avoid a heat-related pet emergency by helping your pet stay cool:
- Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, even for a short time
- Always have plenty of fresh, cool water available for your pet
- Exercise your pet during the early morning and evening hours, when temperatures are cooler
- Make sure your pet always has access to shade while outside, and bring pets indoors during the hottest part of the day
- Brush your pet often to get rid of excess fur and increase airflow to the skin
- Use caution with older pets, very young pets, or short-nosed breeds (pugs, bulldogs, Siamese cats, etc.) who have more difficulty with body temperature regulation