You go in to give your dog some loving pets. But upon touching their head, you realize it's hotter than normal! What gives?
The normal body temperature for a dog is around 99.5 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.5 to 38.8 degrees Celsius. That's a few degrees hotter than a human's healthy body temperature.
Your pup's head will naturally feel warmer than what you're used to when checking the forehead of a family member. But when it rises above that range, there is some cause for concern.
A hot head could point to a few pressing health issues. However, there are perfectly normal reasons why a sudden temperature increase occurs. Let's look at some of the most common reasons your dog has a hot head.
10 Common Reasons Why Your Dog Has a Hot Head
1. The Effects of Fever
Many dog owners assume that a fever is to blame, and that may be true.
Dogs can get sick just like humans. When a virus or infectious agent gets into your dog's body, their immune system goes on the offense. The immune system works hard to keep the infection at bay and keep your dog healthy. However, the result is a fever and increased body temperature.
Additional symptoms of fever might include behavioral changes, a loss of appetite, and vomiting. Low energy and trembling are common.
Some people even report their dog looking around frantically as they grow confused over their awful feelings. You may also notice increased temperatures if you feel around the eyes, nose, and belly.
Don't be afraid to take your dog to the vet if you think a fever is to blame. Fevers can go south quickly, so it's good to provide treatment. Your vet will likely use a rectal thermometer to get an accurate body temperature reading and diagnose the fever before recommending treatment.
2. The Start of Heatstroke
Unfortunately, dogs can experience heatstroke. This occurs when they spend too much time outside, exert too much energy, or get trapped in a space without ventilation.
Canines have a few mechanisms to combat heatstroke. They can sweat through their paw pads and pant to get as much cool air as possible. That's why dogs pant after an intense run or play session.
If they can't cool off, heatstroke can cause many health problems. You'll feel the increased temperature on their heads, but other signs could manifest, too.
Heatstroke results in rapid breathing, vomiting, discoloration of the gums and teeth, and weakness. If you don't cool your dog down quickly, it can experience seizures and sudden death.
Sadly, some dog owners see the signs of heatstroke before they realize what's happening. For example, you may notice them wandering aimlessly. That confusion is a telltale sign of serious heatstroke and could indicate severe damage.
The best thing you can do during heatstroke is to bring your dog inside somewhere cool. You can apply cold packs to bring down their body temperature as quickly as possible. Once their temperature decreases, visiting a vet and assessing for long-term damage is wise.
3. Recovering from Vaccinations
Did you know that a vaccine can cause your dog's body temperature to rise for up to two days? A hot head is common. Many dogs will develop a slight fever as the immune system gets accustomed to the vaccine.
Fortunately, this isn't a huge cause for concern. It's perfectly normal to notice slight changes as the body adjusts. Keep an eye on your dog and pay attention to any severe side effects. While rare, they are possible.
If you notice anything major, such as an allergic reaction, get to the vet immediately.
4. The Result of Allergies
Allergies can affect dogs as badly as they affect you! Your dog may be sensitive to certain plants or substances. They can even experience reactions after consuming perfectly healthy ingredients in a dog food formula. It all depends on how your dog's immune system responds to stimulants.
Dome dogs grow up dealing with allergies, while others develop them later in life.
Either way, they're pretty uncomfortable! Allergies manifest themselves as dry and flaky skin. The skin becomes itchy, forcing your dog to scratch like no tomorrow.
Redness and inflammation soon follow, resulting in a hotter head. You can often feel the site of the rash with your hand before you even realize how red and flaky the area is getting.
Consult with your vet about potential allergies. Canine allergy tests are available. They'll let you know what allergens to avoid, empowering you to take steps that avoid uncomfortable reactions.
5. Worry-Free Sunbathing
Is your dog a known sunbather? While this behavior is commonly associated with cats, dogs like to soak up the rays, too!
As your pooch lounges by a window or on a porch, the fur on its head will heat up. Most dogs know when they've had enough and will go back inside to cool off. However, some will not realize the issue until they're full-on panting and panicking to cool off.
Excessive sunbathing can lead to all the same signs of heat stress and exhaustion. Your dog can get weak, and you may notice that your dog loses coherence.
Be mindful of how much time your dog spends outside. Check on them every few minutes and know when it's time to cool off. Consider avoiding sunbathing hours around noon when the sun is highest, and temperatures climb.
6. External Heat Sources
Here's a pretty innocent reason why your dog's head gets hot. Sometimes, it's all a matter of what your dog is doing!
If you have a space heater or fireplace, your dog's head will get hot when sitting in front of it. The same goes for snuggling under a thick blanket or burrowing into a plush bed. Your dog's head gives off heat naturally, but the insulation of soft materials will trap it. The result is a hot head!
Your dog's head will cool off naturally once you remove the external influence. Recheck their head in 20 to 30 minutes to make sure.
7. A Response to Excitement
There's nothing cuter than watching a dog get ultra excited. Maybe someone they love visits your home, or you give them a few minutes of untethered play at the dog park!
When the adrenaline gets pumping, and the excitement looms, it's natural for the head to get a little hot. Blood can rush to the dome, causing a slightly warmer feel.
Don't worry! This isn't something you need to worry too much about. Your dog's head will cool off once they start to relax. As long as they're not overdoing things to the point of exhaustion, let them have fun for a few minutes.
8. Stress and Anxiety
Canines can experience many strange manifestations of stress and anxiety. Contrary to popular belief, dogs aren't always happy-go-lucky animals. They can deal with a wide range of emotions they don't know how to deal with in a healthy way.
Anxiety often appears in the form of labored breathing and pacing. Some dogs will cry out in fear, cower in the corner of a room, or even lash out.
Body temperature will increase as their heart pumps faster. It's a sad reality for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety.
Pups with a history of trauma and abuse will experience stress, too. Even healthy dogs will get stressed when introduced to a new environment or way of life.
Consider working with a trainer or behavioralist. The goal is to make your dog more comfortable and learn how to cope with their emotions without blood-pumping stress.
9. Poison Consumption
Countless toxins are lying around your home. Dogs are allergic to everything from grapes to chocolate. They may also have exposure to poisons like antifreeze. If they eat something with toxic compounds, they will suffer the consequences.
Fevers are common consuming a dangerous substance. The body tries to fight off the toxins, resulting in inflammation and increased heat temperatures.
Take your dog to the vet immediately when you notice they've eaten something they shouldn't have. Time is of the essence, and there's a real chance your dog could die or suffer long-term issues from the poison.
10. Health Complications
Finally, several health issues could result in your dog's elevated body temperature. For example, cancer, organ failure, and dangerous diseases could plague your furry friend. The body can shut down, resulting in many biological reactions that cause the head to feel hot.
The only way to know what's happening is to go to a vet for a proper diagnosis. Don't hesitate to take action if you suspect underlying medical issues are to blame. The sooner you get professional help, the better the prognosis.
Feeling a hot head can be alarming. But as you see above, there are both innocent and serious reasons why this might happen.
The trick is to pay attention to other existing symptoms. If you notice any changes in your dog's behavior or see them looking around incoherently, seek veterinary care as soon as you can!
Knowing how to spot potential issues will help you make wiser care choices for your dog. Understand when expert help is necessary and when your dog can benefit from a cool-down period inside.