Does Water Really Cool Down A Dog’s Hot Paws?

Introduction

During warm weather, pet owners often look for ways to keep their dogs cool and prevent overheating. One common question is whether wetting a dog’s paws and feet can help lower their body temperature and cool them down. The theory is that since paws and foot pads contain blood vessels close to the skin surface, wetting them can promote evaporative cooling much like sweating does in humans. However, dogs primarily cool themselves through panting and have very few sweat glands in their footpads. So does simply wetting a dog’s feet actually provide an effective cooling mechanism? This article will examine that question, looking at the effects wetting paws and feet has on canine body temperature, as well as other methods for keeping dogs cool in hot conditions.

How Dogs Stay Cool

Dogs have a few methods for staying cool in warm weather. Unlike humans, dogs don’t have sweat glands distributed throughout their body. According to the Blue Cross, dogs primarily sweat through the pads of their paws and their noses[1]. The sweat evaporates from these areas, which provides a cooling effect. Dogs also regulate their temperature through panting. As a dog breathes quickly, air passes over the moist surfaces of the mouth and lungs, resulting in evaporative cooling. This is why dogs pant on hot days. Their coat also helps regulate their temperature. The fuzzy double coat provides insulation from heat and cold[2].

wet dog paws on pavement on a hot sunny day

[1] https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/how-to-keep-dogs-cool-in-the-summer-heat

[2] https://www.sonnysspaw.com/dogs-regulate-body-temperature/

Effect of Wetting Feet

One common way people try to cool their dogs in hot weather is by wetting their paws and feet. This can provide some evaporative cooling for dogs, similar to how sweating cools humans. As the water evaporates off the dog’s feet and paws, it pulls heat away from their body which lowers their core temperature 1. Wetting the paws provides moisture for evaporation and increases the surface area for heat dissipation.

However, research shows that wetting only the paws provides minimal cooling effects for dogs. The paws make up a small percentage of a dog’s body surface area, so wetting them does not cool the whole body very effectively. The cooling effect is very temporary and small compared to other methods like providing access to shade or cool water to lay in 2. Still, wetting paws can provide a quick cooling boost and momentary relief on hot walks.

Other Cooling Tips

In addition to wetting your dog’s paws and coat, there are some other simple but effective ways to help your dog stay cool in hot weather:

Provide shade – Make sure your dog has access to shaded areas when spending time outside. Shaded trees, a covered patio, or a dog house are great options. Shade allows the sun to not directly heat your dog’s body.

Cool drinking water – Provide fresh, cool water for your dog to drink frequently. Use metal or ceramic bowls rather than plastic, as plastic bowls heat up in the sun. Change the water often to keep it cool. Adding ice cubes can help lower the water temperature.

dog drinking cold water from a bowl

Avoid too much exercise in heat – Take walks early or late in the day when temperatures are lower. Avoid strenuous exercise on extremely hot days. Play fetch or go for short walks instead of long runs when it’s very hot out.

According to the AKC article, other tips like cooling mats, vests, and bandanas can help lower your dog’s body temperature (source). Just make sure not to over-cool your dog – aim for a comfortably cool temp without getting chilly.

Breed Differences

Certain dog breeds are more prone to overheating and heat stroke than others. This is especially true for brachycephalic breeds, which have short snouts and obstructed airways. These physical traits make it more difficult for them to pant and cool down effectively.

According to research, the breeds at highest risk for heat stroke include: Chow Chow, Pug, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Dogue de Bordeaux, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Greyhound, Golden Retriever, and Springer Spaniel. Their squished faces and narrowed nostrils make it challenging to circulate air through their nasal passages.

In addition to brachycephalic breeds, dogs with thick coats like Huskies and Malamutes overheat more easily. Their heavy fur insulates them in cold weather but prevents heat from escaping their body in warm conditions.

Knowing your dog’s risk factors can help prevent heat stroke. Provide extra shade, water, and breaks for high-risk breeds on hot days. Schedule outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day as well.

Signs of Overheating

Some signs your dog may be overheating include:

  • Heavy panting – Dogs pant to help lower their body temperature. Excessive panting is a clear sign a dog is getting too hot.
  • Lethargy – An overheated dog may act very sleepy and have trouble standing up or walking. This lack of energy is a warning sign.
  • Vomiting – Throwing up can be caused by heat exhaustion. If your dog is vomiting and has other signs of overheating, get help right away.

dog panting with tongue hanging out of mouth

According to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, other symptoms include hypersalivation (drooling), reddened gums, rapid heartbeat, dry nose, and quiet/depressed mood [1]. Watch for these warning signs on hot days to keep your dog safe.

Dangers of Overheating

Overheating can be extremely dangerous and even fatal for dogs. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), heat stroke is one of the most common dog emergencies during the summer months. If a dog’s body temperature rises above 104°F, major organ damage can begin to occur https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dogs-overheating-signs-symptoms-prevention/.

Some of the dangers of overheating in dogs include:

  • Heat stroke – This occurs when a dog’s body temperature rises above 104°F. It can cause severe organ damage and even death if not treated immediately.
  • Brain and organ damage – High body temperatures put strain on the brain, heart, lungs and other organs. This can lead to anything from vomiting to seizures, respiratory failure or cardiac arrest.
  • Death – In severe cases of overheating, dogs can suffer sudden death from cardiac arrhythmias or heart failure. The mortality rate for heat stroke is over 50% according to the AKC Canine Health Foundation https://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/caring-for-your-dog/dehydration-and-overheating.html.

It’s crucial to monitor dogs closely on hot days and watch for early signs of overheating. Rapid treatment is essential to prevent permanent organ damage or death.

When to Call a Vet

If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke such as excessive panting, drooling, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, or uncoordinated movements, it is crucial to call a vet immediately. Heatstroke can lead to organ damage or death if left untreated, so time is of the essence.

According to the ASPCA, once a dog’s temperature reaches 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, it is considered a life-threatening emergency. Take the dog’s temperature rectally if possible. If it is over 103 degrees, immediately cool the dog down and transport them to a vet clinic, even if they seem to be recovering.

Other symptoms that indicate an emergency vet visit is needed include seizures, diarrhoea, bright red gums, weakness, or collapsing. Do not attempt to cool the dog down rapidly yourself if heatstroke is suspected, as this can cause harm. Let the vet handle rapid cooling.https://theshotspot.org/news/pet-overheated/

Veterinary assistance for heatstroke may involve intravenous fluids, medication, oxygen therapy, and monitoring of organ function. Early intervention greatly improves the chance of survival and full recovery. So never hesitate to call a vet if you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke.

Preventing Overheating

Signs of overheating in dogs can be scary, but there are several steps you can take to help prevent it from happening in the first place:

person walking dog early in the morning

Conclusion

Wetting a dog’s feet with cool water can provide some relief from high temperatures. The pads of a dog’s paws have many blood vessels close to the surface, allowing heat to dissipate when the paws are soaked in water. This can lower a dog’s core body temperature and provide temporary cooling. However, wetting the feet alone is usually not enough to prevent overheating on hot days. Other precautions like providing shade, ventilation, cool drinking water, and limiting exercise during peak heat should still be taken. Monitoring dogs closely for signs of heat stress is also essential, even if their feet have been wetted. Overall, wetting a dog’s paws can supplement other cooling techniques, but does not replace the need for comprehensive precautions during hot weather.

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