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Dog’s Head is Hot? Understanding Canine Hyperthermia - PawSafe
Dog Healthcare

Dog’s Head is Hot? Understanding Canine Hyperthermia

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

If your dog’s head is hot, it’s natural to be concerned. After all, this is not a common problem for dog owners. This condition occurs when a dog’s head feels warmer than the rest of its body. It is important to monitor a dog’s body temperature and seek veterinary care if necessary.

There are times when your dog’s head is hot simply because it’s hot and they’re panting a lot. Other times the dogs are dehydrated, especially during walks. This makes it necessary to fill up a portable water bottle whenever you’re traveling with them. 

In other cases, a warm or hot head can be a sign of an underlying health issue. We’ve consulted experts like John Walsh in his book The Diseases of the Dog and Their Treatment to better understand canine hyperthermia. 

Dogs have a higher body temperature than humans. A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 100.5°F to 102.5°F, while humans have a normal body temperature of 98.6°F. This means that a dog’s head will naturally feel warmer to the touch. 

Our article on how hot is too hot for a dog will help you understand canine temperature regulation.

Dogs do not have sweat glands all over their bodies like humans do. Therefore, when a dog is hot, blood vessels in the head dilate to increase blood flow to the area, which helps to dissipate heat on top of the panting. 

If a dog’s head feels excessively hot or exhibits other symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or vomiting, or swelling, it is important to seek veterinary care immediately.

What Causes Hot Head In Dogs? 9 Common Reasons

It’s more common for a dog’s belly, paws, and ears to feel warm to the touch. While rare, a dog’s head can feel hot due to these nine reasons:

1. Fever

Fever is a common cause of hot head in dogs. It is usually a sign that the dog’s immune system is fighting off an infection. A variety of factors, including bacterial or viral infections, parasites, and other illnesses, can cause fever. Sometimes dogs can also get a low fever after getting a vaccination and may show other symptoms, like shaking.

This should go away on its own in a couple of days. Remember, routine vaccinations are vital to prevent deadly contagious diseases in dogs.

Fever is also a common reason for a dog’s ears getting unusually hot. According to research, dogs with a fever have temperatures ranging from 103°F and 106°F (39.5°C to 41.1°C).This is called “hyperthermia.” Anything above 106℉ can result in organ failure.

2. Heatstroke or overheating

Heatstroke or overheating is another common cause of hot heads in dogs. This can occur when a dog is exposed to high temperatures for an extended period, such as being left in a car on a hot day or exercising excessively in hot weather.

Brachycephalic breeds (short muzzle) like Frenchies and Bulldogs are more susceptible to heat stroke.

 3. Dehydration 

If dogs don’t drink enough water to compensate for water loss, dehydration can occur. In addition to a warm head, signs of dehydration may include dry gums, sunken eyes, lethargy, and loss of skin elasticity. 

Dogs start showing signs of dehydration in less than 24 hours and can only go for a total of about two days without drinking water. Dehydration risk increases when a dog vomits and diarrheas due to an illness.

4. Infectious disease

Infectious diseases such as distemper, parvovirus, and kennel cough can cause a hot head in dogs as they will also cause a fever. These diseases are highly contagious and can be transmitted through contact with other infected dogs or contaminated objects.

Both localized and systemic infections can lead to an increase in your dog’s body temperature, resulting in a hot head. This is because the body naturally increases your dog’s body temperature in an attempt to kill off the microbes causing the diseases.

5. Juvenile Cellulitis

Juvenile Cellulitis, also known as puppy strangles, is a rare condition that can cause a hot head in puppies, along with lesions around the eyes and mouth. It is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the skin and lymph nodes.

6. Allergies

Contact Dermatitis and food or environmental allergies can also cause a hot head in dogs. These conditions can cause inflammation of the skin and lead to itching, scratching, irritation, and wheezing

7. Skin and Ear Infections

Skin infections such as pyoderma and ringworm can cause a hot head in dogs. Bacteria, fungi, or parasites can cause these infections and can lead to redness, inflammation, and itching.

Infections in the ears can cause inflammation and raise the temperature of the surrounding tissues, including the head. Common signs of ear infections include head shaking, scratching at the ears, discharge, and a hot sensation around the ears and head.

8. Autoimmune disorder

Autoimmune disorders such as lupus and pemphigus can cause a hot head in dogs. These conditions occur when the immune system attacks the dog’s own tissues, leading to inflammation and other symptoms. Expert sources show that Pemphigus (disease-causing blisters on the skin) make up nearly a third of all autoimmune disorders in dogs.

9. Injury

Injury to the head or neck can cause a hot head in dogs. This can occur as a result of trauma, such as being hit by a car or falling from a height.

If you notice any signs of discomfort, swelling, or heat in specific body areas, consult a veterinarian for a proper evaluation and treatment plan.

Understanding Canine Temperature & Hyperthermia

Normal Dog Temperature

The average body temperature for a healthy dog ranges from 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.0 to 39.2 degrees Celsius). It’s important to note that a dog’s body temperature can vary slightly depending on factors such as age, breed, and activity level.

One way to determine if a dog’s temperature is within the normal range is to take their rectal temperature using a digital thermometer. It’s important to use a lubricant and insert the thermometer gently to avoid injuring the dog. If the temperature falls outside of the normal range, it’s important to contact a veterinarian, as it may be a sign of an underlying health issue.

Additionally, it’s important to note that a dog’s temperature can fluctuate throughout the day. It’s not uncommon for a dog’s temperature to increase slightly after exercise or when they are excited or anxious. However, if a dog’s temperature consistently falls outside of the normal range, it’s important to seek veterinary care.

Other Symptoms of a Hot Head in Dogs

Dogs are susceptible to overheating, especially during the hot summer months. One of the most common symptoms of overheating in dogs is a hot head. Here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Excessive panting: Dogs regulate their body temperature through panting. If your dog is panting heavily, it may be a sign that they are overheating.
  • Red or flushed ears & gums: The ears are one of the areas where dogs release heat. If they are red or flushed, it may indicate that they are trying to cool down. Overheating dogs also have red gums.
  • Drooling: Excessive drooling can be a sign of overheating in dogs. It is their way of trying to cool down. Also, look out for foaming around the mouth.
  • Lethargy: Overheating can cause your dog to become lethargic or weak. They may seem disoriented or uncoordinated.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea: Overheating can cause vomiting or diarrhea in severe cases. This is a sign that your dog’s body is struggling to regulate its temperature.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, it is important to take action immediately. Move them to a cool, shaded area and offer them water. You can also use a cool, damp towel or a fan to help cool them down. If their symptoms persist or worsen, seek veterinary care right away.

Diagnosing a Hot Head in Dogs

Physical Examination

When a dog has a hot head, it is important to perform a thorough physical examination. During the examination, the veterinarian will check the dog’s temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate. They will also look for any signs of pain or discomfort, such as whining or whimpering, and check for any swelling or inflammation in the head or neck area.

Blood Tests

Blood tests can also help diagnose a hot head in dogs. A complete blood count (CBC) can help determine if there is an infection or inflammation present. A chemistry panel can also be useful in identifying any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to the dog’s symptoms.

Imaging

Imaging, such as X-rays or CT scans, can provide a more detailed look at the dog’s head and neck area. This can help identify any abnormalities or injuries that may be causing the dog’s hot head. Additionally, an MRI may be recommended if a more detailed look at the brain is necessary.

How To Treat a Hot Head in Dogs 

Medications

When a dog’s head is hot, there are a few medications that can help alleviate their symptoms. Drugs such as aspirin (made for dogs) can be given to dogs but only under the guidance of a veterinarian, as they can be toxic in high doses. Never give your dog medicine without your vet’s prescription.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as carprofen, meloxicam, or firocoxib can also be prescribed by a veterinarian to reduce fever and inflammation. However, it is important to follow the dosage instructions carefully and monitor the dog for any adverse reactions.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Hot Head at Home 

  1. The first step is to make sure the dog is in a cool and comfortable environment using fans or air conditioning and shade.
  2. This can be achieved by providing plenty of water and shade, or cool area to rest in.
  3. Avoiding strenuous exercise during the hottest parts of the day. 
  4. Cool compresses can also be applied to the dog’s head and neck to help reduce their body temperature. It is important to monitor the dog’s condition closely and seek veterinary care if their symptoms persist or worsen.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing a dog’s head from getting too hot is essential to avoid heatstroke and other related illnesses. With many areas around the world experiencing record temperatures in summer, it’s more important than ever to. The following are some strategies that can help in preventing a dog’s head from overheating:

  • Provide plenty of water: Dogs need plenty of water to stay hydrated and regulate their body temperature. Ensure that your dog has access to fresh water at all times, especially during hot weather.
  • Avoid direct sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause a dog’s head to heat up quickly. Provide shade or a cool, air-conditioned room for your dog to rest in during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Limit exercise during hot weather: Limit your dog’s exercise during the hottest parts of the day. Exercise in the early morning or late evening when it is cooler.
  • Use cooling products: Cooling products such as cooling mats, vests, and bandanas can help keep your dog’s head and body temperature down.
  • Trim hair: Long hair can trap heat and make a dog’s head feel hotter. Regularly trim your dog’s hair to help keep them cool.
  • Never leave a dog in a parked car: A parked car can quickly become a hot and dangerous environment for a dog. Never leave a dog in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked.

By following these prevention strategies, pet owners can help keep their dogs safe and healthy during hot weather.

Should I Be Worried if My Dog’s Head Feels Hot? When to Consult the Vet

If a dog’s head feels hot, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. In some cases, a hot head may indicate a fever, infection, or inflammation. While some causes of a hot head may be minor and resolve on their own, others require prompt veterinary attention.

If a dog’s head feels hot and they are displaying any of the following symptoms, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian:

  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive panting
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Changes in behavior or personality

If a dog has a hot head and any of these symptoms, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Delaying treatment can lead to a worsening of the condition and potentially life-threatening complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should my dog’s head feel hot?

It is normal for a dog’s head to feel slightly warmer than the rest of their body. However, if your dog’s head feels excessively hot, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue. It is important to monitor your dog’s body temperature regularly to ensure that it stays within a healthy range.

Why does my dog’s head get hot when I pet her?

When you pet your dog, it can cause an increase in blood flow to their head, which can make it feel warmer to the touch. This is a normal response and should not be a cause for concern, unless you notice other symptoms.

My dog’s head is hot, and nose is dry. What could it be?

If your dog’s head is hot and their nose is dry, it could be a sign of a fever. Other symptoms of a fever in dogs include lethargy, loss of appetite, and shivering. It is important to monitor your dog’s symptoms and consult with a veterinarian if you suspect they have a fever.

Why does my dog feel hot to the touch?

If your dog feels hot to the touch, it could indicate an underlying health issue such as a fever, infection, or inflammation. It is important to monitor your dog’s body temperature and other symptoms to determine the cause of the heat.

Why is my Chihuahua’s head hot?

Chihuahuas are a small dog breed and tend to have a higher metabolism than larger breeds. This can cause their body temperature to be slightly higher than other dogs, making their head feel warmer to the touch. However, if your Chihuahua’s head feels excessively hot, it could be a sign of an underlying health issue and should be monitored closely.

How do you tell if a dog has a fever without a thermometer?

Several signs can indicate if a dog has a fever, even without a thermometer. These include lethargy, loss of appetite, shivering, and a dry nose. If you suspect your dog has a fever, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

Final Thoughts

It is important for dog owners to be aware of the signs of a hot dog head and take appropriate action to prevent heatstroke. Dogs are susceptible to heatstroke, especially during hot and humid weather conditions. Dehydration, allergies, and illnesses are other reasons for a dog’s head being hot. 

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.