Yes, humans and dogs have a few things in common.  We both have hair.  We both have skin.  We both sweat (sort of).  But there are four distinct differences between humans and dogs when it comes to temperature moderation.  So put the clippers away, your dog could be one Mohawk away from heating up like a solar panel.

1.  Sweat Glands

Humans: Humans have sweat glands on their skin, so they are able to cool down all over their body.

Dogs: Dogs only have sweat glands on the pads of the feet.

2.  Evaporative Cooling

Humans: Humans will sweat when their body needs to be cooled.  The sweat then evaporates, displacing heat as it vaporizes.

Dogs: Dogs only sweat through their paws.  Their main mechanism for cooling down is the evaporation that occurs by panting.  As a dog pants, the moisture in their mouth evaporates, cooling them down.

When a dog pants, evaporation causes the heat to dissipate at the mouth, cooling down the dog

Because a human is covered with sweat glands, heat dissipates over the entire body

3.  Average Temperature

Humans: Humans maintain an average body temperature around 98.7°F

Dogs: A dog’s average temperature is 100 – 102°F:

4.  Hair

Humans: Though humans have hair follicles on almost the entire body, evolution has caused us to lose most of our “fur” for the purposes of keeping warm.  The hair on our heads still functions according to its original purposes, however, which is to insulate in the cold and protect from the sunburn in the sun.

Dogs: Being covered in hair actually acts as insulation from the heat (note: fur also protects against biting insects and sunburn, so shaving your dog is generally not a good idea). In fact, the topcoat of hair is often referred to as the “reflective layer.”  When it’s cold out, a dog’s hair will stand up, trapping heat and creating an insulating blanket around the dog.  In the heat, the reverse happens and hair lies flat.  A double-coated dog will shed the undercoat in hot months to assist with cooling.

3 thoughts

  1. There is nothing wrong with this article. It’s based on scientific research of cases involving more than one dog. Having dealt with a lot of working dogs over the past ten years, we’ve never run into heat stroke with dogs of longer coats who had proper grooming and health. Dogs with longer coats should have the dead undercoat removed when necessary so the skin can release heat, but shaving is not necessary.

    Perhaps your dog had another issue or you were working it too hard. It’s good you figured out your problem, but that doesn’t make this article any less factual.

  2. I have a Border Collie who has suffered from frequent bouts of heat stroke for the last 6 years of his life, even after shaving his belly. I hesitated shaving him after reading articles like this and ones about the possibility of alopecia. I finally bit the bullet and shaved his coat down to about 1 inch long all over excluding his legs and tail. He has yet to suffer from heat stroke this summer, and it’s even hotter than it was last year. Before, we could barely get out to pee and back up the apartment steps before he was weaving. He would be panting all night long, stretched out on the floor and now he is comfortably sleeping curled against me at night. A dog is not a thermos. They do not need to be insulated from the heat. They create heat. They need to be able to dissipate heat created by their muscles to the surrounding air and a profuse coat will prevent that from happening. They may not be able to utilize evaporative cooling from sweat like humans, but they can still use radiant and convective cooling through their skin to the ambient air in temperatures under 100 degrees if there is less hair to insulate and keep it all in!

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