13 Reasons Why Your Dog’s Head is Hot in 2023

icon July 25, 2023

While dogs naturally have a slightly higher body temperature than humans, an unusually warm head might cause concern. In this article, we will explore the various reasons why a dog's head might feel hot and when it may be a sign of an underlying health issue.

Normal Body Temperature for Dogs

Dogs typically have a higher body temperature compared to humans, ranging from 100.5°F to 102.5°F (38°C to 39.2°C). Puppies and smaller dog breeds tend to have slightly higher average temperatures than larger dogs.

Can I Check a Dog’s Temperature Using its Head?

Checking a dog's temperature using its head is not a reliable or accurate method. The most accurate way to measure a dog's body temperature is by using a rectal thermometer specifically designed for pets. This method provides a precise reading of the dog's core body temperature.

Here's how to safely check a dog's temperature using a rectal thermometer:

  • Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly or water-based lubricant to make insertion more comfortable for the dog.
  • Gently lift your dog's tail, and with the dog in a standing or lying down position, insert the thermometer about one inch into the dog's rectum. Be gentle and avoid causing any discomfort to the dog.
  • Hold the thermometer in place for about 1 minute or until it beeps (if it is a digital thermometer).
  • Carefully remove the thermometer and read the temperature displayed on the screen.

Remember to sanitize the thermometer before and after use, and if you are unsure about the procedure or concerned about your dog's health, it's best to consult a veterinarian for proper guidance and evaluation.

What Does It Mean When a Dog's Head is Hot?

1. Fever

A fever is the body's natural response to an infection or illness. If your dog's head is feeling particularly hot, or if you measure your dog's temperature above 102.5°F with a rectal pet thermometer, and you notice other signs, such as

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shivering
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose

This can be a sign of a fever.

When to See a Vet?

Here are some guidelines for when to take your dog to the vet for a fever:

  • High Fever: If your dog's temperature rises above 104°F (40°C), it is considered a high fever and requires immediate veterinary attention.
  • Persistent Fever: If the fever lasts for more than 24 hours or if it comes and goes over several days, it's time to seek veterinary care.
  • Other Symptoms: If your dog shows additional concerning symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, or any other unusual behavior, it's essential to see the vet promptly.

How To Treat Fever In Dogs?

Some common causes of fever in dogs include infections (bacterial, viral, or fungal), inflammatory conditions, immune system disorders, and more.

The vet may perform a physical examination, conduct blood tests, urine analysis, and other diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the fever. Treatment options can include antibiotics for bacterial infections, antiviral medication for viral infections, anti-inflammatory drugs, or supportive care to address the underlying condition and alleviate the fever.

It's crucial not to attempt to treat the fever at home with over-the-counter human medications, as some of them can be toxic to dogs and worsen the situation. Always consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment of your dog's fever. Early intervention can prevent complications and help your dog recover more quickly.

Related: How to Tell If Dog Has Fever Without Thermometer

2. Dehydration

When a dog is dehydrated, their body temperature can rise, including their head. Dogs regulate their body temperature through panting, and when they are dehydrated, they may pant more to cool down.

Dehydration in Dogs

One way to check for dehydration is by gently lifting the skin on the back of the dog's neck or between the shoulder blades. In well-hydrated dogs, the skin will quickly return to its original position, but in dehydrated dogs, the skin will take longer to go back to normal, or it may even tent up and not return to its original position immediately.

The symptoms of dehydration in dogs:

If you suspect that your dog may be dehydrated, it's crucial to offer them fresh, clean water and monitor their condition.

Mild dehydration can often be resolved by encouraging the dog to drink more water.

But if you notice severe dehydration or if the symptoms persist,  such as extreme lethargy, very dry and sticky gums, sunken eyes, or is unable to stand or walk, it's essential to seek veterinary care immediately.

The veterinarian can provide appropriate treatment, which may include fluid administration and addressing the underlying cause of the dehydration.

3. Ear Infections

Infections in the ears can cause inflammation and increased blood flow, leading to a warm sensation in the head area. A dog for ear infections if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Persistent Scratching or Pawing at the Ears
  • Head-Shaking or Tilting
  • An unpleasant smell emanating from the ears
  • Inflamed, red, or swollen
  • Ear Discharge
  • Ear pain to touch

Ear infections in dogs can be caused by various factors, such as bacteria, yeast, allergies, or foreign objects trapped in the ear canal. The vet will examine the ears and may take a sample of the ear discharge for analysis to determine the underlying cause of the infection.

Ear Infections in Dogs

Treatment for ear infections in dogs may include:

  • Cleaning solution to clean the ear: your veterinarian may clean the ear with an all-natural, gentle cleaning solution to remove debris and earwax so that medications can penetrate better.
  • Topical treatment: ear drops or ointment.
  • Medication: antibiotics, antifungal medications.
  • Pain Management: If the ear infection is causing pain or discomfort, your veterinarian may provide pain medication.
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Related5 Common Ear Canal Infections

4. Dental Issues

Dental problems like gum disease or tooth infections can cause discomfort and inflammation, leading to a feeling of warmth in the head.

Some common signs of dental issues in dogs include:

  • Bad Breath: Foul-smelling breath is often a sign of dental disease in dogs.
  • Drooling: Excessive drooling can indicate oral pain or discomfort.
  • Difficulty Eating: If your dog is having trouble eating, chewing, or picking up food, it could be due to dental problems.
  • Pawing at the Mouth: If your dog is frequently pawing at their mouth, it may be a sign of oral pain.
  • Red or Swollen Gums: Inflammation of the gums is a sign of gingivitis or gum disease.
  • Visible Tartar or Plaque Buildup: The presence of yellow or brown tartar on the teeth can be a sign of dental issues.
  • Loose or Missing Teeth: Dental problems can lead to loose teeth or even tooth loss.

If you notice any of these signs, it's essential to take your dog to the veterinarian for a dental examination. The vet can assess the dog's oral health and determine the appropriate course of treatment. Dental issues in dogs are not only painful but can also lead to more severe health problems if left untreated.

Treatment for dental issues in dogs may include:

  • Professional Dental Cleaning: If there is significant tartar buildup or gum disease, a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia may be necessary. During the cleaning, the vet will remove the tartar, clean the teeth, and examine the oral cavity thoroughly.
  • Tooth Extractions: In some cases, severely damaged or diseased teeth may need to be extracted to prevent further complications and alleviate pain.
  • Oral Medications: The veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or other medications to treat infections or manage pain and inflammation.
  • Dental Care at Home: Regular dental care at home can help maintain your dog's oral health. This includes brushing your dog's teeth regularly with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste, providing dental chews or toys, and feeding dental-friendly diets.
  • Follow-up Care: Regular follow-up visits to the veterinarian will ensure that the dental issues are properly addressed and that your dog's oral health is maintained.

Remember, prevention is key to avoiding severe dental problems in dogs. Regular dental check-ups with the vet and at-home dental care can significantly reduce the risk of dental issues and promote better overall health for your furry friend.

5. Upper Respiratory Infection

An Upper Respiratory Infection (URI) in dogs can cause the head to feel hot due to the inflammation and increased blood flow in the nasal passages, sinuses, and throat. When the respiratory system is affected by an infection, the body's immune response can lead to localized warmth in the head area.

When to Visit the Vet?

If you suspect your dog has an Upper Respiratory Infection, it's essential to monitor their symptoms closely. While mild URI cases can often be managed at home, you should take your dog to the vet if you notice any of the following:

  • Difficulty breathing or severe respiratory distress.
  • Persistent high fever.
  • Lethargy and weakness that don't improve.
  • Refusal to eat or drink for an extended period.
  • Severe nasal discharge or eye discharge.
  • Any signs of dehydration, such as dry gums and skin tenting.
  • If your dog is very young, very old, or has a weakened immune system, as they are more vulnerable to complications from respiratory infections.

6. Physical Activity and Environmental Factors

Physical activity and environmental factors can cause a dog's head to become hot primarily due to the way dogs regulate their body temperature. Unlike humans, dogs don't have sweat glands distributed all over their bodies. Instead, they primarily cool themselves down through a process called panting. Panting allows dogs to release excess heat from their bodies. As they pant, they take in cooler air, and when they exhale, the warm air from their lungs carries away heat from their body. Since a dog's head contains the mouth and respiratory system, the process of panting involves a significant exchange of warm air, which can make the head feel hot.

7. Emotional State

Emotional states can cause a dog's head to feel hot due to the physiological changes that occur in response to emotions. When a dog is stressed or anxious, their body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones trigger the "fight or flight" response, preparing the body for quick action. This physiological response can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood flow, which can cause the head to feel warm.
And increased panting can raise body temperature and contribute to the sensation of warmth in the head region.

8. Sunburn

Just like humans, dogs can get sunburned, especially in areas with thin fur or exposed skin, such as the nose and ears. Sunburn can make the affected areas warm to the touch. When a dog gets sunburned, the affected area of skin may become red, inflamed, and painful. While sunburned skin may be warm to the touch due to inflammation, it does not cause the entire head to feel hot. If your dog experiences heat, he will be in one of 2 stages (in order from mildest to most severe):

  • Heat stress
  • Heat stroke

If your dog is suffering from heat stress, he will show signs of intense thirst and panting. Often, you can treat heat stress or even heat exhaustion at home by simply taking your dog to a cool place out of the sun. Make sure they have plenty of water and wipe their paws with a cool, damp cloth.
Heat stroke is much more serious than heat stress and exhaustion. So if your dog's head gets hot from overheating and they don't respond to your home remedies, take them to the vet immediately.

9. Dog’s Natural Cooling Process

Dogs don't have sweat glands all over their bodies like humans, and they regulate their temperature by panting. This panting can lead to a warm feeling in the head.

10. Injuries

Head or neck injuries can cause head fever in dogs. This can be caused by trauma, such as being hit by a car or falling from a height.

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

11. Vaccination Side Effects

Vaccinations can cause mild side effects in some dogs, and these side effects can lead to changes in behavior, discomfort, or a temporary increase in body temperature.  If the vaccine is given on or near the dog's head (e.g., intranasal vaccines), there may be some localized warmth due to the inflammatory response.

12. 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.

13. It’s Possible That Your Dog Consumed Something Toxic

Consuming something toxic, such as antifreeze, antifreeze contains ethylene glycol, which is highly toxic to dogs (and other animals) and can indeed cause a dog's body temperature to rise, leading to symptoms like a hot head or fever.

Additionally, ethylene glycol can affect the central nervous system, leading to neurological symptoms and changes in the dog's behavior, which can include restlessness, confusion, and increased body temperature.

How to Prevent Dog Head Hot?

Preventing a dog's head from getting excessively hot involves taking various measures to ensure their overall well-being and comfort, especially during hot weather or situations that may cause increased body temperature. Here are some tips to help prevent a dog's head from getting too hot:

  1. Avoid Hot Environments: During hot weather, avoid prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Keep your dog indoors or provide them with a shaded area when outside. Avoid leaving them in a parked car, as the temperature inside a car can rise dangerously high, even with the windows cracked open.
  2. Provide Indoor Cooling: If you don't have air conditioning, make sure your dog has access to a cool, well-ventilated area inside the house. You can use fans or create a cool spot with a wet towel or cooling mat.
  3. Provide Access to Fresh Water: Always make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh water. Hydration is essential for regulating body temperature, and water helps dogs cool down through panting.
  4. Limit Exercise in Heat: Avoid strenuous physical activity during the hottest parts of the day. Opt for walks and playtime during the cooler morning or evening hours.
  5. Grooming: Regular grooming can help keep your dog's coat in good condition, preventing excess heat retention. However, avoid shaving double-coated breeds, as their fur provides insulation from both heat and cold.

By following these preventive measures, you can help ensure that your dog stays comfortable and safe, and their head temperature remains regulated even during hot weather or physical activity.


Do Dogs Heads Get Warm When They Are Happy?

Yes, a dog's head can feel warm when they are happy or excited. When dogs experience positive emotions like happiness, excitement, or joy, their bodies can go through physiological changes, including an increase in blood flow and body temperature. Panting is also a way for dogs to express happiness and cool down, which can contribute to the feeling of warmth in their head and body.

Why Do Dogs Heads Get Hot When You Pet Them?

Dogs often enjoy being petted and may become excited or content when receiving attention from their human companions. Positive emotions like happiness and relaxation can cause physiological changes, including an increase in body temperature, which might be more noticeable in their head.

Should I Be Worried If My Dog Feels Hot?

If you notice that your dog is feeling hot, this could indicate a number of different conditions, some of which may be concerning while others may be less serious. Dogs will naturally feel warm if it's a hot day or after strenuous exercise. Make sure they have shade and fresh water to keep them cool. This need not be a concern. However, if the dog is febrile and accompanied by other symptoms such as dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite, the dog needs to be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian immediately!


It is important for dog owners to know the signs of a hot dog head and take the proper steps to prevent heat stroke. Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke, especially in hot and humid weather conditions. If you notice persistent symptoms such as high fever, lethargy, or other related signs, be sure to consult your veterinarian immediately. Keeping an eye on your dog's health will ensure that any potential health issues are detected early and treated promptly, resulting in a happier and healthier companion for your dog!



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