Keeping it Cool!

Tails from the Trail- Adaptations

Sled dogs are a group of amazing athletes, some of the best in the world. But how do these dogs survive and thrive in the coldest weather of Alaska? Over time, nature has allowed dogs to have developed physical characteristic or behaviors that help them survive. These are called adaptations. There are several adaptations that sled dogs have; one is its tongue.

Dogs use their tongues by panting to get rid of the excess heat they produce during exercise. Unlike humans, dogs do not have as many sweat glands.  Their sweat glands are primarily on their paws, however they rely on panting to regulate their heat.

So, how does this work out on the trail?  As the colder air is inhaled, it is warmed up in the lungs. When the warmed air is exhaled, it evaporates the water on the dog’s tongue. Evaporation then cools down the dog’s tongue, cooling the blood that flows through the tongue and the rest of the body. The more heat the dog needs to get rid of, the more the dog pants.  Now that’s hot stuff!

Photo Credits: Terrie Hanke

Stayed tuned next month for another interesting adaptation. Teachers: Speaking of panting, let’s talk weather! It was HOT in Alaska this summer during summer camp. There was a whole lot of humans sweating and dogs panting. Click here for a Weather lesson.

Weather Report Journal