The Surprising Place Dogs Sweat the Most

Introduction

Sweat glands are small tubular glands in the skin that produce sweat. Sweat helps regulate body temperature by cooling the skin as it evaporates. Humans have sweat glands all over their body, allowing us to sweat profusely as a cooling mechanism. Dogs, however, have a limited number of sweat glands. Instead of sweating, dogs rely mainly on panting to cool themselves.

Dogs do have some sweat glands, but they are concentrated in their paw pads and nose. This means that dogs primarily sweat through their feet and nose. When a dog is hot, you may notice sweaty paw prints on the floor or a damp nose. But since their sweat glands are so limited, dogs do minimal sweating over the rest of their body.

Sweat Glands in Dogs

Dogs have two types of sweat glands: apocrine and eccrine glands. Apocrine sweat glands are associated with hair follicles and are found all over a dog’s body except for its nose and paw pads. These glands produce sweat that contains fatty acids and proteins. The main purpose of apocrine sweat is for scent communication rather than cooling. Eccrine glands, on the other hand, produce watery sweat mainly for thermoregulation. They are found primarily on dog paw pads and noses (Dermal Adnexa – Epitrichial (Apocrine) Glands and Eccrine).

While apocrine glands are considered true sweat glands, eccrine glands produce most of the sweat for cooling. This is why dogs primarily sweat through their paw pads and noses. The watery fluid produced by eccrine glands allows for evaporative cooling. Apocrine sweat, while not as efficient at cooling, still provides some thermoregulation through wetting of the coat. However, its primary function is secreting pheromones for communication (Do Dogs Sweat?).

Paw Pads

Dogs have a high concentration of sweat glands in their paw pads. These glands, known as merocrine glands, play an important role in temperature regulation and traction control (https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/do-dogs-sweat/). When a dog’s body temperature rises, the merocrine glands activate to release sweat through the paw pads and cool the dog down. This sweating through the paws allows for efficient heat dissipation.

a dog's paw pads touching the ground.

Additionally, sweat released on the paw pads helps give dogs better traction on slippery surfaces. The moisture from the sweat glands essentially acts like a sticky substance to help grip the ground. This is especially useful for allowing dogs to run and make quick cuts without sliding around.

So in summary, the high concentration of sweat glands in a dog’s paw pads serves the dual function of cooling through sweat evaporation and improving traction control.

Nose

A dog’s nose contains many sweat glands and mucus producing cells. The sweat glands allow dogs to release sweat through their nose pads to help cool their body temperature. The combination of sweat and mucus helps keep a dog’s nose wet. This wetness serves several important functions.

First, the moisture helps enhance a dog’s ability to pick up scents and odors, which is critical for their sense of smell. The wet nose helps absorb and dissolve odor molecules.

a dog panting with its tongue out.
Second, the wetness helps protect a dog’s sensitive nasal tissue from drying out. Dogs’ noses have exposed skin with little fur coverage, so the mucus coating prevents the tissue from becoming cracked or damaged.

Finally, the wet nose helps regulate body temperature. As liquid evaporates from the nose, it provides a cooling effect. This is similar to sweating or panting. Evaporation of moisture from the nose pad dissipates heat and helps lower a dog’s body temperature. This is an important cooling mechanism, along with panting [1].

Minimal Sweating Elsewhere

unlike humans, dogs lack sweat glands on most parts of their body. According to the experts at PetMD, “dogs have sweat glands, but only on their paws and nose.” The merocrine glands that produce sweat to cool a dog’s body are concentrated mainly on their paw pads and the leather of their nose. As the AKC confirms, “Dogs do have some sweat glands, but they are much fewer in number than in humans and their activity is limited.”

Exceptions

While dogs primarily sweat through their paw pads and nose, there are some exceptions where certain breeds may sweat more than others in areas like their underarms (reference https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/do-dogs-sweat). For example, some large breed dogs like Newfoundlands and St. Bernards have more developed sweat glands in their armpits and may perspire slightly when hot (cite https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/do-dogs-sweat/). These larger breeds tend to have more hair and insulation, so sweating under the arms may help cool them more efficiently. Smaller dogs generally don’t have as many sweat glands in their underarms and don’t rely on sweating to regulate temperature as much.

According to veterinarians, anxious or nervous dogs may also sweat more in areas like their paws and belly (reference https://canna-pet.com/articles/do-dogs-sweat/). When a dog is experiencing stress or anxiety, its sympathetic nervous system activates, which can stimulate sweat glands and cause sweating. However, this reaction is still relatively minimal compared to humans.

Panting

Panting is the primary means of temperature regulation in dogs. When dogs pant, they rapidly breathe in and out, drawing cool air over moist surfaces in the mouth and respiratory tract. This evaporation of moisture cools the blood before it circulates to the rest of the body. As air passes over the tongue, moist nasal passages, and the lining of the lungs, the moisture evapotranspiration has a cooling effect (AKC).

During panting, dogs do not actually sweat. The moisture comes from the dog’s drool and the surfaces of the respiratory system. Panting moves air quickly over these moist surfaces to maximize evaporative cooling. This is an efficient way for dogs to cool themselves without losing significant fluids through sweating (PetMD).

Therefore, even though dogs do not sweat through their skin like humans, panting serves the same thermoregulatory purpose. The rapid breathing and evaporation helps lower the dog’s body temperature and prevents overheating.

Implications

a dog sitting in the shade panting on a hot day.
Since dogs do not have many sweat glands spread across their body like humans, they have a limited ability to cool themselves through sweating. This poses risks for dogs, especially in hot weather. Without ample sweating, dogs are susceptible to heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke, which can be fatal if not recognized and treated quickly.

To prevent overheating, dogs rely heavily on panting to cool down. However, panting is only effective to a certain point. In extreme heat or during strenuous exercise, panting may not be enough for a dog to regulate its body temperature. This is why it is critical for dog owners to provide shade, cool drinking water, and avoid overexertion in high temperatures. Paying attention to signs of overheating like excessive panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, and unsteadiness, and acting quickly if they occur, is also essential.

Since dogs sweat through the pads on their paws, keeping their paws clean, dry, and protected is important. Cracked, damaged paw pads inhibit their limited sweating ability. Dog owners should check and care for their dog’s paw pads regularly, especially if exercising or walking on hot pavement which can burn sensitive paw pads.

Breed Differences

There are some notable differences in sweating ability between dog breeds. For example, brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boxers have difficulty panting to cool themselves due to their shortened airways. These breeds rely more heavily on sweating through their paw pads and are at higher risk of overheating (American Kennel Club).

On the other hand, breeds like the Saint Bernard and Newfoundland have a much higher concentration of sweat glands on their paw pads, which aids their ability to work and live in cold environments. Their paws act like a radiator helping them release heat (WagWalking).

a saint bernard dog with large paws.

In general, dogs with thicker coats like Huskies, Malamutes, and Samoyeds rely more on panting to cool down since their fur prevents sweat from evaporating. Short haired breeds like Greyhounds and Whippets tend to distribute sweat more evenly across their bodies (Hill’s Pet Nutrition).

While individual variation exists, a dog’s breed can impact how they sweat and regulate body temperature.

Conclusion

To recap, dogs primarily sweat through their paw pads and nose. Their paws contain sweat glands that release moisture, helping them cool down. The nose is another important area of sweating, especially for dogs like Labradors with a lot of exposed nasal skin. Dogs generally have minimal sweating elsewhere on their bodies. They instead rely more on panting to cool down and regulate their temperature. Certain breeds like Greyhounds sweat more than others. But the paws and nose are the main sources of sweating and moisture evaporation for cooling in most dogs.

Scroll to Top