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Why Do Dogs Have a Higher Body Temperature? Vet-Approved Facts

Written by: Keri-Beth Clur

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

Labrador Retriever dog standing on the lawn

Why Do Dogs Have a Higher Body Temperature? Vet-Approved Facts


Dr. Ashley Darby Photo


Dr. Ashley Darby

BVSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Disclaimer: This article has been fact checked by a qualified veterinarian using information available at the time of review. Veterinary medicine is continually evolving and changing. Dog owners are urged to discuss their dog’s care with their veterinarian and this article should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice for your pet.

Have you ever cuddled your dog on a cold day and been warmed up by their body heat? Dogs have a higher body temperature than humans, which ranges from 100.0 to 102.5°F, while a human’s body temperature should be around 98.6°F.

Dogs have a higher body temperature because of an internal process called thermoregulation that maintains body temperature within a set range. This range is higher than that of humans, and your dog will feel warmer than you, even on a cold day.

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Thermoregulation occurs in all animals. Sensors called thermoreceptors detect environmental and body temperatures and trigger changes to maintain an ideal body temperature, which differs between species. A high metabolic rate in warm-blooded animals is a source of heat production. Other adaptations to stay warm in dogs include the fur coat, shivering, and behavioral changes to conserve heat.

Dogs can cool off by panting, sweating from paw pads, and, again, behavioral changes. Unfortunately, short-nosed dogs are not as efficient at cooling down as those with longer noses. Therefore, Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers, among others, are prone to overheating and need special care on hot days.

Pit Bull Terrier mixed breed dog panting
Image Credit: Mary Swift, Shutterstock

Abnormal Temperatures for Dogs

It’s normal for your dog’s temperature to rise or fall slightly as they go about their day because weather and exercise can affect it, but it should never rise above 103°F or drop below 99°F because these temperatures are abnormal for a dog and are a sign of concern. If their temperature does fall outside of the normal range, it’s important for you to take your dog to the vet.

A hot summer’s day, stress, or vigorous exercise can raise dogs’ body temperature, while a cooler day or a swim in the pool can cause it to drop slightly. Thankfully, dogs have ways to regulate their body temperature. If they are cold, they’ll curl up into a ball to retain heat and shiver to generate heat, but if they’re hot, they’ll pant or sweat through their paw pads.

What May Cause a Dog’s Temperature to Be Abnormal?

If your dog’s body temperature is above 103°F, they have a fever. There are many reasons why your dog may have a fever, but it is generally a sign that their body is fighting off an infection or producing inflammation. A fever can arise from an infected wound, an ear infection, a urinary tract infection, an abscessed tooth, an organ infection, or from eating food, plant matter, or a human product that is toxic to dogs.

If your dog’s temperature is below 99°F, they have hypothermia. Although hypothermia can be caused by leaving your dog outside in cold conditions or getting wet on a cold day, it can also be caused by blood loss, anesthesia, poisoning, and illnesses such as sepsis, pyometra, and severe Addison’s disease.

a sick basset hound dog lying on the sofa
Image Credit: Daniel Myjones, Shutterstock

Signs of a Dog Fever

It isn’t always easy to tell if your dog has a fever because they are naturally warmer than you. The only way to know for sure is to take their temperature. However, there are common signs that can help you determine whether your dog is running a fever, such as lack of energy, lack of interest in food, and signs related to the cause of the fever (coughing, vomiting, straining to urinate, etc).

How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature

If you’re still not sure if your dog is naturally warm or running a fever, take their temperature. To take your dog’s temperature, you’ll need to use a thermometer. The best type of thermometer is a digital one designed for pets. It can give you a reading within a minute, which is faster than older types. Glass thermometers are dangerous since they can break easily and leave you with shards of broken glass.

Getting a reading quickly is necessary when taking your dog’s temperature because you’ll need to place it in their ear or anus, which can be uncomfortable for them. Regardless of their temperature, if your dog shows signs of an illness, they need to go to the vet.

Veterinarian’s hand holding thermometer taking dog’s temperature
Image Credit: Krysja, Shutterstock

How to Bring a Fever Down

If your dog is sick, you must take them to the vet, especially if they display other signs, such as lethargy, vomiting, coughing, blood in the stool, etc. Your vet may run several tests, including bloodwork, urinalysis, X-rays, and ultrasounds, to determine what is causing your dog’s fever. A temperature above 103°F warrants a trip to the vet, and if it rises to 106°F, damage can occur to your dog’s organs, which can be life-threatening.

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If you take your dog’s temperature and notice it is higher than your own, don’t panic. Dogs naturally have higher temperatures because they are a different species. A dog’s body temperature can range from 101.0 to 102.5°F. However, fevers in dogs can be severe and should not be ignored. You will need a veterinarian to treat your dog and help them recover.

Featured Image Credit: Radomir Rezny, Shutterstock

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