Why Do Dogs Have a Higher Temperature?

Adrienne Farricelli

Dogs have a higher temperature compared to humans and dog owners may wonder why Rover is always feeling hot. Sure, it's true that dogs do not sweat like us humans do, but on top of this, they have higher temperatures when you take their vitals, what gives?

Why do dogs have a higher temperature? You turn on the heat and your dog is panting, you cover him in a blanket and he moves it away, you take him on a car ride and his heavy breathing fogs up your windows, what gives? 

Turns out, dogs have a higher temperature compared to humans, so next time you take your dog's temperature and notice it's higher than yours, don't panic; most likely he's not running a fever, but only showing his normal temperature.

Dog regulate their temperature through panting when hot.

Warm Blooded Like Us

Dogs, just like us, are considered warm-blooded animals which means that they are capable of maintaining their body temperature constant despite temperature changes in the environment. 

Dogs have special thermoregulators in their brain which detect changes in body temperature. When these sensors detect a temperature drop, the dog's body works to increase temperature through internal mechanisms such as shivering and an increase in metabolism; whereas, when temperatures rise, the dog's body decreases temperature through panting in an effort to dissipate heat.

Every warm-blooded animal has its normal temperature range, and the body works hard to maintain it. This is part of an organism's commitment to homeostasis, a complex mechanism meant to maintain a stable internal environment which includes regulating body temperature, the internal pH, hydration, blood pressure and the glucose levels in the blood.

Normal Dog Temperature

dog body temperature

What's a healthy dog's normal temperature? According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, a dog's normal temperature is set to be between 100.2 and 103.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above that or below that may be cause for concern and worthy of veterinary attention.

These numbers may appear quite high compared to the normal temperature found in humans which ranges on average between 97.5 to 98.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

 Despite the fact that humans and dogs share many similarities when it comes to body parts and certain medical conditions, body temperature is apparently not a common feature.

Did you know? When dogs have an elevated temperature (higher than normal) this can be indicative of a fever. The function of the fever in this case is to help the body combat any invading microorganisms. Many viruses indeed are heat-sensitive and are unable to replicate in high temperatures. An elevated temperature therefore creates a hot, unfriendly environment for these invaders. If your dog has a temperature above 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, please see your vet.

A Matter of Metabolism

So why do dogs have a higher body temperature than humans? It's likely a matter of metabolic rates. Dogs have a faster metabolism compared to humans, explain Cynthia M. Kahn and Scott Line in the book: "The Merck/Merial Manual For Pet Health." 

Indeed, dogs breathe faster, their blood pumps faster, they age faster and therefore they also prone to have a higher body temperature.

A group of adult Xoloitzcuintlis , by Hajor~CC BY-SA 3.0
A group of adult Xoloitzcuintlis, by Hajor~CC BY-SA 3.0

The Myth of The Hairless

Hairless dogs are often referred to as having higher temperatures compared to other dogs. Indeed, the hairless Mexican dog, also known as the Xoloitzcuintli, has been considered by the Aztecs a healer for arthritic pain for many years. 

Sufferers have been draping these dogs' toasty bodies around their neck and on their joints for comfort for many years. Xolos were also used to heal stomach aches, acting as furry hot water bottles.

However, their temperatures aren't higher than the average dog. Turns out, they just feel warmer to the touch because there's no hair to provide insulation between their skin and yours so they radiate the heat better. 

Breeders have been using the ancient healing beliefs associated with these dogs as a selling point, but there's no proof that these dogs are going to cure a person's rheumatoid arthritis, explains Amy Fernandez, president of the Xolo Club of America in an article for ABC News. 

However, nobody can deny that the warmth is soothing and that it can help alleviate certain types of pain, points out Dr. Paul Christo, director of the Pain Treatment Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Did you know? It's quite normal for dogs to give temperature readings that are about 0.6 degree Fahrenheit higher at the vet's office. This is because of the car ride, the excitement and the agitation associated with going to the vet, explains veterinarian Ron Hines.