Where would we be without our dogs? If you are fortunate enough to have a canine cohabitant, you know they are so much more than pets. For many of us, our dogs are our therapists, entertainers, confidants, cuddle buddies, and best friends. Because dogs play such an important role in our lives, our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team decided that now is a good time for you to learn these curiously cool canine facts to better understand and appreciate your amazing four-legged best friend. 

#1: Dogs are superb sniffers

How often does your dog sniff something during your daily walks, digging in their heels as you encourage them to move on? When you understand the essential role smell plays in your dog’s life, you will be much more obliging and patient when they stop to sniff.

A dog brain’s scent center is 40 times larger than that part of a human brain’s, making a dog’s sense of smell—their primary sense—exponentially more sensitive than a human’s. Humans should be grateful for dogs’ sniffing skills, because their smell sense keeps us safe through a variety of canine jobs, including:

  • Police dogs — Police dogs can track criminals, and sniff out people trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building or other structure.
  • Search and rescue dogs — These dogs search for missing people and deceased victims’ remains.
  • Medical alert dogs — Trained dogs can use their sharp sense of smell to predict humans’ medical emergencies, and to detect cancer and other diseases.
  • Explosive-detecting dogs — These dogs can detect a variety of specific odors, such as explosives and drugs. 

#2: Dogs sweat through their paw pads

Dogs do not sweat the way humans do, and they have far fewer sweat glands. Dogs’ main sweat glands—merocrine glands—are located on their fur-free paw pads, where sweat easily evaporates. These sweat glands activate to help your pet cool down. When your dog—who has not stepped in water—leaves damp paw prints on the kitchen floor, they are likely sweating. 

Because they have fewer sweat glands, your dog’s primary cooling mechanism is panting. Panting dogs inhale cool, dry air through their nose and airways, and exhale warm, moist air. When the air temperature is about the same as your dog’s normal body temperature, they have difficulty cooling themselves, which can lead to heat-related conditions, such as heatstroke. You should learn to recognize dogs’ heatstroke signs to help your dog avoid a potential heat-related emergency. Heatstroke signs include:

  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Extreme thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bright red tongue 
  • Pale gums
  • Increased heart rate
  • Convulsion 
  • Collapse 

If your dog shows any of these signs, take them to the nearest veterinary emergency clinic.

#3: Dogs see more than black and white

The common assumption that dogs are color blind is false, and while dogs do not see the same colors as humans, they do see some colors beyond black and white. Perhaps we should think of dogs as being color-spectrum challenged, because their eyes have two color receptors (i.e., cones), while most humans have three color receptors. Dogs’ two color receptors perceive light wavelengths that correspond to blue and yellow. Dogs, and some color-blind people, are missing red-green cones, seeing only in blue and yellow combinations. When choosing your dog’s toys, keep in mind that they will be able to spot a yellow ball much easier than a red one. 

#4: Dogs yawn when stressed

A yawning dog is not necessarily a sleepy dog. Dogs yawn to calm themselves when they are stressed or scared. Dogs also use this calming signal to diffuse a potentially threatening situation—yawning is your dog’s way of telling someone new, “I come in peace.” If your dog is yawning a lot and displaying other stress signs, such as a tucked tail, flattened ears, big eyes, and lip licking, they are likely feeling fearful or uncertain.  

#5: Dogs dream during sleep

Your dog is most likely dreaming if they twitch or move their paws while asleep. Dogs and humans have the same slow-wave sleep (SWS) type and rapid eye movement (REM), and dogs can dream during the REM stage. Research also suggests that the length and frequency of dogs’ dreams may be related to their size, meaning small dogs tend to dream more than larger dogs.

Our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team feels pretty lucky to be surrounded by dogs all day, and we are dedicated to providing these fascinating creatures with the highest quality health care. Contact us to schedule an appointment for your curious, clever canine.