My Dog’s Head Feels Hot? What Should I Do?

By Kevin Myers | 2020 Update

You’re cuddling with your pup one day, when you notice that their head is feeling unusually hot.

The first thing you anticipate is fever. But you’re a bit skeptical about it, because your dog seems perfectly healthy.

So why is their head feeling hot? Your dog could be suffering from fever, but you can’t tell without checking it through a thermometer. It could also mean that your dog’s natural cooling mechanism is in action. Or it could directly be a result of staying near a heat source for too long.

But how do you become certain that your dog is suffering from a fever? What’s the procedure for checking their body temperature?

To find out, keep reading ahead!

Why Is Your Dog’s Head Hot?

As humans, our first instinct when we find out that our dog’s head is feeling hot is to panic. But just because a hot forehead is an indication of fever in humans doesn’t necessarily make it valid for dogs too.

The reason is that dogs naturally have a higher body temperature than humans. Also, your dog’s head could be hot due to numerous reasons, which aren’t an emergency or even dangerous. We’ll discuss all the reasons later on, but first, let’s take a more in-depth look at why a hot head isn’t usually an indication of fever.

Average Body Temperature Of Dogs

Dogs tend to have a higher average body temperature than humans. The body temperature of a healthy dog lies between 99.5°F – 102.5°F, while humans average between 97.6°F –99.6°F. So, what you might consider being a high temperature for your dog would actually be entirely normal for them.

Another thing to consider is that our fingers aren’t sensitive enough to accurately estimate temperatures. So even if you do feel that your dog’s head is feeling hotter than usual, the actual reason might be completely harmless.

Can you test your dog’s temperature by their nose?

One of the most popular misconceptions in the canine world is that you can check a dog’s temperature by the condition of their nose. But despite its popularity, this method is mainly inaccurate and has no scientific research to back it.

According to the method, if your dog’s nose is wet and cold, your dog is perfectly healthy, and his body temperature is normal. However, if your pup’s nose feels dry and warm, they could be feverish or sick.

In reality, there can be many reasons why your dog’s nose feels this way. Your dog could have licked their nose or recently drank water, which would explain why their nose feels wet and cold. And if their nose feels dry or warm, it could be a result of the dry weather or just old age. 

So if you do suspect that your dog is feeling hotter than usual, use a thermometer to check their body temperature and look for symptoms related to fever.

Reasons Why Your Dog’s Head Feels Hot

If you ever suspect that your dog’s head is feeling hotter than usual, it’s always best to do some inspection and find out the cause. Although, in most cases, a hot head doesn’t indicate a serious issue, leaving a potentially dangerous condition, unattended could lead to serious harm to your pup’s health.

Here are some of the most common reasons why your dog’s head might be feeling hotter than usual. We’ll also explain how to recognize each condition and steps you need to take once you identify them:

1. Fever

Fever can be medically defined as an elevation in body temperature. And while it might sound relatively harmless, fever in dogs should be taken as a serious medical concern and should be addressed urgently.

Usually, a temperature of more than 103˚F is considered as fever in dogs. More importantly, it is an indication that your dog might be suffering from a medical issue that might need immediate attention. 

Causes of Fever:

A dog can become feverish due to both internal and external factors. While there is a chance that the fever might be due to mental stress, it’s best to rule out any possible infections which could turn fatal to your dog:

1. Infections: In dogs, an infection causes dogs to become feverish in the majority of the cases. Because an infection could be both internal or external, you must find the source as soon as possible so it can be treated appropriately.

If the infection is external, it could be caused by a scratch, bug bite, or a cut on the skin that has become infected. Your dog’s ears and teeth can also become infected due to poor hygiene. 

Your dog can also get internally infected through if germs enter through a break in the skin. These can be bacterial, fungal, or viral, and can affect one or multiple organs at a time. This includes the lungs, kidneys, or even the brain.

In any case, infections can aggravate and need to be treated immediately. If you do find the source of the infection, contact your veterinarian so they can take a better look and prescribe medication accordingly.

2. Vaccination: If you’ve recently taken your dog to the veterinarian for immunization, the chances are that the fever is a reaction to the vaccine. In this case, the fever will last no more than 24-48 hours at max. 

However, if it does continue for more than two days, contact your veterinarian for further guidance.

3. Toxication: This is the most alarming of all situations. Your dog could develop a high fever if they consume something poisonous or toxic. 

If you suspect that your pup might have consumed some toxic plants, human medication, macadamia nuts, chocolate, or anything harmful to their health, contact your veterinarian right away.

In most cases, you’ll find some of the toxins such as medicines or chocolate lying around when your dog eats them. If you’re convinced that they have been poisoned, don’t waste time looking for other symptoms or checking their temperature and get them to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

The 5 Signs Of Heatstroke In Dogs That Dog Owners MUST Know

Symptoms of Fever

If you notice that your dog’s head is feeling hotter than usual and they aren’t poisoned, the first thing you should look for is fever-related symptoms. At least one sign will always be present regardless of what the cause is. Some common symptoms of fever include:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Shivering
  • Vomiting
  • Nasal Discharge

If you observe one or more symptoms in your pup, check their body temperature to confirm that they really are feverish. 

How to test a dog’s body temperature

Unfortunately, checking a dog’s temperature isn’t as simple as it sounds. First, you need a special thermometer to test their temperature. There are two types of thermometers available for testing a dog’s temperature:

  • Rectal Thermometer
  • Digital Thermometer

A rectal thermometer is quite accurate in measuring temperatures but is both uncomfortable for your dog and difficult to use. On the other hand, a digital thermometer is easy to use, quick, and accurate enough to know if your dog has a fever.

If you’re using a rectal thermometer, first get them busy with someone they trust, such as a family member. Give them some treats to keep your dog busy will you take their temperature. 

Place some water-based lubricant on the thermometer’s tip, and gently insert it about one inch deep into your dog’s anus. Hold it in for about 45-60 seconds and then take it out to read the temperature.

But if you’re using a digital thermometer, just read the instructions on the thermometer’s manual and gently insert it into their ear. You shouldn’t need to insert it too deeply, and it shouldn’t take more than two to three seconds for the digital thermometer to measure your dog’s temperature.

If your thermometer reads below 102.5˚F, your dog’s body temperature is normal. But if the reading is above 103˚F, it’s probably best to take your dog to your veterinarian as soon as you can.

Hunting Dog has Heat Stroke or Hypoglycemic Attack

2. Natural Cooling Mechanism

Another reason why a dog’s head gets hot, which a lot of people don’t know, is their natural cooling mechanism. Like humans, dogs cannot cool themselves by sweating through their bodies. The only way for them to lower their temperature is by panting or sweating through their feet.

However, they do possess a unique cooling mechanism that humans do not. When their body temperature rises above normal, their body circulates warm blood to their heads. From there, the blood spreads to a larger part of their skin, such as their ears, where it cools off.

On a hot day, the chances are that your dog’s natural cooling mechanism will be working at full capacity unless you’ve got the room temperature controlled. In these cases, it’s easy to misjudge and consider a hot head as fever, while in reality, it’s just hot blood circulating to their heads.

3. Stress

Like humans, stress can cause physical symptoms in dogs, which includes an elevated body temperature. In fact, dogs can even develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if they experience severe trauma!

Multiple reasons can cause stress in dogs. Most of the time, it’s due to a change in their environment and atmosphere, such as shifting to a new home, changing their sleeping area, an adjustment to their routine, all contribute to stress.

A change in the environment also includes the addition of a new family member or a pet. In the beginning, most dogs are bound to develop some level of stress unless they’re extremely friendly.

If your dog suffers from a traumatic event, that could also lead to a lot of stress. Getting attacked by another dog or animal, losing a companion or partner, thunderstorms, and fireworks, all of these events can cause them trauma and lead to the buildup of stress.

4. Daily Unharmful Occurrences

While a hot head might indicate something serious, the truth is that in the majority cases, it’s due to completely harmless daily occurrences in your dog’s environment. 

Imagine this; your dog comes to you after a long period of sitting in front of the fireplace or heater. His head is obviously going to feel warmer than usual. Or you come home after playing or walking with them in direct sunlight; chances are their head will feel quite warm.

The truth is that most of us are guilty of becoming over-concerned in such a situation. However, you can never blame yourself for being protective of your dog’s health. In fact, it’s a good thing to be vigilant about any kind of changes in your dog’s overall condition, behavior, health. It’s an indication that you care about your dog’s well-being and is a sign of being a good owner.

FAQ’s

What happens if your dog seems too hot?

Overheating is very dangerous to dogs and can cause heat strokes or sudden death if not addressed immediately. If your dog is panting, disorienting or fainting, breathing heavily, vomiting, or showing any signs of overheating, take them to a vet straight away.

What room temperature is best for dogs?

In summers, you should maintain a temperature of around 78˚F, while in winters, a room temperature of 68˚F is ideal for most breeds of dogs.

At what temperature should you not walk dogs?

To test this, use the five-second rule by placing the back of your hand on the pavement. If you cannot keep it on for five seconds, it’s probably too hot to walk your dog.

How to cool down an overheated dog?

If your dog is showing symptoms of overheating, place them in an air-conditioned room or infront of a fan. Place cool, wet pieces of cloth on their pulse points such as the neck, behind their hind legs, armpits, etc. Try to give them cold water to drink, but don’t force them.

What are the signs of dehydration in dogs?

Some common symptoms of dehydration in dogs include panting, lethargy, dry nose, vomiting, loss of appetite and skin elasticity, and eyes that appear dry.

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