A dog’s tongue is one of their signature features. You’ve probably spent a lot of time up close and personal with your pooch’s tongue. After all, they love to lick. Some even enjoy letting their tongue hang out.
However, it can be a bit startling to discover your dog’s tongue is hot. They lick you, and their tongue feels warmer than usual. Similar to a child with a warm forehead, you start worrying if they are sick.
Why is my dog’s tongue hot?
The good news is that a hot tongue alone doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your pooch. In most cases, it’s completely normal. However, there are some potential causes of a hot tongue that you should be aware of.
Naturally Warmer Body Temperature
Dogs have a higher core body temperature than we do. Their temp typically ranges between 99.5 and 102.5. Some dogs will naturally have a higher body temperature than others, just as people do.
Our temperature ranges from 96.7-99.7. Since dogs are naturally hotter than we are, they can feel like they have a temperature to us. However, this is often just the natural difference in our temperatures.
If your pooch’s tongue is always hot, this is likely the cause. If they are naturally hotter, you shouldn’t see any signs of illness. They should be their normal healthy selves.
The most common reason your dog has a hot tongue, other than their natural body temperature, is that they are cooling down. Dogs don’t sweat the way people do. Instead, they use their tongue as their main method of lowering their body temperature.
This is why your dog pants when they are hot. When you sweat, the sweat evaporates from your body. This is how sweat cools your body. When your dog pants, they allow the water on their tongue to evaporate, which cools them. This process can raise the temperature of your dog’s tongue.
If your pooch is panting and showing no signs of illness, it’s safe to assume this is why their tongue feels warm.
If you’ve ever experienced heatstroke, you know it’s not a fun experience. You may have felt hot, dizzy, and even sick. Dogs are accustomed to managing their body temperature, but they are also susceptible to heat stroke in hot weather.
If your pooch is in hot weather and their tongue is very hot, they may be experiencing heatstroke.
Some breeds are at a higher risk than others. Brachiatric dogs like English bulldogs and pugs have shorter noses and airways that make them prone to overheating. Breeds from cold climates, including Huskies and German Shepards, have a double coat to keep them warm in the winter. They are also at a higher risk of overheating.
Even though some breeds are at a higher risk of heatstroke, it can happen to any dog.
Heat stroke occurs when your pooch’s body temperature gets too high due to the current conditions. If their body temperature reaches 106, they are experiencing heat stroke.
At this temperature, they can experience organ dysfunction and even organ failure if they don’t get cooled down quickly.
Heavy panting is one of the first signs of heatstroke. It’s natural for dogs to pant to cool down. However, heavy panting indicates that your dog is getting too hot.
Their heartrate may increase or become irregular. This is because they begin pumping blood away from their vital organs to help keep them cool.
Other signs of heatstroke include vomiting, muscle tremors, loss of coordination, lethargy, and red gums. Severe heatstroke can cause shock, loss of consciousness, seizures, and organ failure.
Fever will also cause your dog’s tongue to get hot. You may have noticed your mouth and tongue becoming hot when you have a fever. When your internal temperature increases, the temperature of your tongue will naturally increase as well.
This is also true for your pooch. A dog has a fever when their body temperature rises above 103.
Symptoms of Fever in Dogs
Mothers have relied on their children’s eyes to let them know when they are sick for thousands of years. It’s also a good indication of health or sickness in your pooch. If their eyes are red or glassy, this can be a sign of fever.
You may have heard that a cold wet nose indicates your pooch is healthy, and a dry warm nose means they are sick. This isn’t a foolproof method for determining if your pooch isn’t well, but it is often a sign of fever.
They may also have a hot and dry nose or warm ears. They will pant to try to cool themselves down, and will likely be lethargic. Just like humans, they may also shiver when running a temp. A loss of appetite is also common.
Causes of Fever in Dogs
Fever in dogs can be caused by many things, but there are a few basic categories. In most cases, a fever is caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. These range from urinary tract infections to a tooth abscess. In addition to internal infections, an infected skin wound can also cause a fever.
The other cause of fever is the dog ingesting something that is poisonous or toxic. This includes toxic houseplants, household chemicals, human medications, and human foods that are toxic to dogs, like grapes.
Rarely, fever can be caused by a poisonous or venomous animal bite. These include snakes, frogs, and insects. Animals that are venomous inject poison into your pooch via a bite. Poisonous animals are toxic if your pooch eats them.
It’s also possible for a fever to be caused by a serious illness like cancer, or organ dysfunction. Luckily, these conditions are much rarer than the doggie flu.
Because there are so many potential causes of fever in dogs, it’s important to get them checked out by your vet.
What to do about my dog’s hot tongue?
If your canine companion has a hot tongue, what to do will vary greatly depending on the cause. Some causes require immediate veterinary attention, while others require no action at all.
If you are concerned about your pooch’s hot tongue, the first thing to do is to take their temperature. You may be tempted to just feel of your dog to see if they feel hot. This will not accurately let you know if they have a fever.
If your pooch has a fever, you may notice their ears, nose, groin, and armpits are warmer than normal. However, to take your dog’s temperature, you’ll need to use a rectal thermometer.
Get a rectal thermometer, which is a bit different from the type you stick in your mouth. You can find rectal thermometers designed for pets, but one designed for human use will work just fine.
Lubricate the thermometer well, and insert it into your dog’s rectum gently. You may need someone to help keep your pooch still during the process. When the thermometer beeps, remove it slowly.
If your pooch’s temperature is 103 or above, they have a fever.
What To Do If Your Dog Has a Fever
If your dog has a temperature of 106 or greater, take them to the vet immediately. This is a life-threatening emergency. If it’s between 103-106, it’s not a medical emergency. However, you will need to make an appointment with your vet.
Other signs your pooch needs immediate veterinary care include vomiting blood, loss of consciousness, loss of coordination, and difficulty breathing.
If your pooch doesn’t seem to be in immediate danger, provide plenty of cool water. You can use a towel dipped in cool water to wipe down their paws and ears. This will help cool them down. A fan can also help. Monitor their temperature, and stop cooling if it reaches 103 or lower.
They will still need to be checked out by a vet, particularly if their fever doesn’t go away or returns. It can be helpful to write down any details you notice. When did the fever start? Are there other symptoms of illness? When did they appear?
The more information you can provide, the easier it is for your vet to provide the correct diagnosis.
What If My Dog Doesn’t Have a Fever?
If you take your dog’s temperature and it’s normal, it’s likely their tongue is just hot naturally. This can occur because they have a naturally higher temperature than we do, or because they are cooling themselves down when they are hot.
If you notice any signs of illness, call your vet or make an appointment. If they seem fine other than a warm tongue, you don’t have anything to worry about.
Depending on the severity, you may be able to treat heatstroke at home. If your pooch’s temperature is 106 or higher, you’ll need to get them to the vet as soon as possible.
Regardless of severity, the first thing you’ll need to do is get your pooch somewhere cool. If possible, bring them inside into air conditioning. If needed, you can also place them in an airconditioned car.
Apply a cool wet cloth to your pooch’s paws and ears. This will help lower their temperature. Do not pour cold water on them or put them into a very cold room. The temperature change can put them into shock.
If your dog is very lethargic, having difficulty breathing, confused or disoriented, or losing consciousness, these are also signs that you need to get them to the vet immediately.