Do you ever rest your head on your dog’s belly and marvel at how soft and warm it feels? Sure, dogs are mammals with fur, so it makes sense that they’d be warm. But why are their bellies so toasty?
Warmer than humans is normal for dogs
One reason your dog’s belly feels warm is that your dog’s belly is warm! Dogs have an average temperature of 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, several degrees warmer than the human average of 98.6 degrees. Chances are, if you place your cooler hand against their warmer belly, you’ll be able to feel the difference.
Dogs’ temperatures may shift within the normal range as outdoor temperatures change, or as they exercise and increase body heat. However, for dogs, a temperature above 103 degrees is cause for concern.
Less fur = more warmth
Another reason dog bellies feel especially warm is that they’re less furry than other dog body parts.
Fur acts as insulation, keeping cold out and body heat in. On parts with less fur, you can feel your dog’s skin directly, without a barrier. Test this out at home: pet your dog’s neck or rump, and notice that you mostly feel fur. Then, give them a belly rub or armpit scratch. Chances are, you’ll notice that their less-furry parts feel warmer.
In addition to feeling warmer, your dog’s thinly-furred parts may appear pink. This is particularly true for short-haired or white-furred dogs. My mostly-white pitbull Radar has the cutest, pinkest, warmest tummy! Though his body temperature is consistent, in the right light, his pink tummy almost glows.
Of course, thin-haired dog parts can be extra-sensitive to irritants and sunshine. If your puppy has a particularly warm and rosy stomach, consider using sunscreen, and check them all over for ticks, scratches, or signs of irritation after a romp outdoors.
How to tell if a dog tummy is too warm
Dogs’ temperatures fluctuate a bit with the external temperature. Like humans, they get hot in hot weather, and cold in cold weather. You may not even notice minor, non-serious changes in temperature. However, a dog’s temperature may also rise or fall with minor illness, infection, inflammation, or accidentally ingesting something toxic.
In general, a dog’s body temperature should range between 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. While there are not definitive, external signs of fever, these are some symptoms that might indicate or accompany fever in dogs:
- Excessive panting
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
If you suspect your dog may be “running hot,” you can take their temperature at home.
How to take your dog’s temperature
Rectal thermometers offer the most accurate temperature readings for dogs. Yes, that means you’re going to have to put a thermometer in your dog’s anus. Don’t reach for the human thermometer. The best tool for taking your dog’s temperature is a digital thermometer approved for rectal use in dogs.
To take your dog’s temperature, put a disposable plastic cover on the thermometer and coat the thermometer with a lubricant like petroleum jelly. Then, gently insert the thermometer about one inch into your dog’s anus. Here’s where a fast-acting digital thermometer comes in handy! Once the thermometer registers your dog’s temperature, take it out, remove the cover, and clean the thermometer with rubbing alcohol.
If your dog’s temperature is in the normal range, no need to worry! If her temperature is elevated, but not dangerously high, offer her small amounts of water.
You can also apply cold cloths and/or ice to her body to help her cool down. But if your dog’s temperature is 103 degrees or higher, it’s time to call the vet. Never give your dog fever reducers designed for humans, as they are toxic to dogs.
For most dogs, a warm, toasty tummy is nothing to worry about. It’s just their body doing what it’s supposed to do: modulating their temperature, and inviting humans to give them lots of belly rubs!