We hope you had a great summer full of sun, heat and all the other great things that summer brings!
Today we bring you an interesting question that we hear from time to time at Calgary Humane Society: Can our pets sweat? If not, how do they beat the heat?
OK, technically people usually ask only about one kind of animal at a time, but over the years people have asked us about almost every species imaginable… so today we bring you…
THE ULTIMATE HOW PETS BEAT-THE-HEAT LIST!!!!
That title seemed catchier when I thought of it, but you get the idea.
Dogs – Dogs have sweat glands in their paws, but this isn’t very helpful for beating the heat. Instead, dogs rely on panting to cool down, which is pretty inefficient when compared to sweating. If your dog is panting hard on a hot day you can help cool them off by providing extra water, guiding your dog to the shade or moving your dog into a room with a fan or air conditioner.
Cats – Like dogs, cats only have a couple of sweat glands and also need to use panting to cool down. Cats are even less efficient at panting than dogs are though. If your kitty starts to pant you will want to get them somewhere cool and provide them with lots of water to drink.
Rabbits – Rabbits unfortunately have very poor cooling systems and therefore can suffer heat exhaustion easily. Unlike cats and dogs, rabbits don’t have paw pads and have almost no sweat glands at all. Rabbits do pant, but not very efficiently. In hot weather a rabbit may try to cool themselves using their ears (heat can radiate away from the ears into the air) or they may lie on a cool surface but both of these strategies are limited in terms of effectiveness. If you notice your bunny getting lethargic, panting or becoming uncoordinated in the heat you should get your bunny someplace cool and call your vet immediately as your bunny may be having a medical emergency.
Guinea Pigs – Nope, no sweat here! Guinea pigs are similar to rabbits in terms of sweating ability and cooling strategies. Guinea pigs may also reduce their activities or even sleep through warm parts of the day, becoming more active when it is cooler. This mid-day siesta sounds good to us!
Hamsters – For all of my searching I could not find a definitive answer on hammies! Some sources say yes to sweat, some say no, some say only a little bit… but one thing they all agree on is that hamsters do not cool themselves primarily via sweat! Similar to guinea pigs and rabbits, hamsters will find cool places, reduce their activity and drink additional water to stay cool.
Gerbils – Gerbils do not sweat to cool themselves, though they do have a sweat gland on their belly. Finding cooler spots and reducing activity are the best way for these little guys to beat the heat. What does this mean for a gerbil owner? Keep an eye on how warm your gerbil’s room is getting, as you may need to move them to a cooler space!
Mice – Like cats and dogs, mice have sweat glands in their feet. This means they don’t rely on sweat for cooling but instead seek cool places or shelters with the heat begins to rise. If you keep pet mice, you will want to make sure they have access to cool and shady places.
Chinchilla – No sweat here! In fact, if you have a pet chinchilla you should avoid getting them wet at all. Chinchillas in the wild live in very low-water environments and take regular dust baths. A chinchilla’s coat is adapted to having very little contact with water, so getting a chinchilla wet can lead to the development of mildew in their fur. Chinchillas also struggle quickly in the heat, so paying attention to how warm your chin’s housing area is will be very important in the summer months!
Lizards/Snakes/Reptiles – No sweat here! Lizards, snakes and other reptiles do NOT sweat at all! Unlike many other animals on this list, reptiles are cold-blooded, so they don’t produce their own body heat. Instead they must absorb all of their heat from their environment. When the mercury begins to climb, reptiles will relocate to find areas with more comfortable temperatures. Providing a surface that stays cooler, being mindful of the heat and setting up your reptile’s tank with a heat gradient (warmer on one side, cooler on the other) ensures that your reptile is able to find a comfortable spot.
Frogs/Amphibians – These guys are similar to reptiles, but may also use the water as a means to stay cool. Paying attention to the heat of the enclosure and the water is important to keep these little dudes safe in the summer!
Birds – Birds do not sweat. The bare skin on a bird’s legs helps them to cool down (this is why birds will tuck their feet into their feathers on a cold night, but have their legs exposed on a hot day) and some birds have large bills with rich blood supplies that can help radiate some of their body heat into the environment. Other methods that birds will use to beat the heat include finding shade, bathing, panting (though this isn’t very effective), puffing out their feathers to catch a breeze or reducing their activity level.
Pigs – Pigs DO sweat, but not very much. They only have a few sweat glands so sweating is not really a useful temperature control. If you have ever seen a pig wallowing in shallow water or mud it’s not just because they like being dirty. Sweating cools humans off because of evaporation and water or mud will work the same way that sweat does. So pigs use evaporation to cool themselves, just like we do, but their method of achieving evaporation is a little bit different.
Cows – Cows have a few sweat glands but those glands are not very active, so they cannot rely on sweat to cool themselves. So what is a warm cow to do? Cows will seek out shady places and drink extra water when the mercury starts to climb. Cows also lose some heat by breathing faster with their mouth open, similar to how cats and dogs pant.
Horses – Horses totally sweat! In fact, horse sweat is really interesting, because it works like a detergent! Unlike humans who have mostly bare skin, the natural oils in a horse’s coat could prevent sweat from working efficiently if not for this neat characteristic of horse sweat. By acting like a detergent, the sweat is able to better spread out and do its’ job without being repelled by oil. Just as with human sweat, horse sweat works because of evaporation.
Hedgehogs – Hedgehogs have sweat glands on their bellies, so they can sweat but because their bellies are so close to the ground (and not really exposed to air), hedgehogs are not able to cool themselves as efficiently as humans using sweat. In fact, keeping a hedgehog in temperatures that are too warm can lead to heat stroke! If your hedgehog is feeling the heat you will most likely find them laying down flat on a cool surface.