Are dogs cold blooded? The short and quick answer is no.
Dogs, like humans, are warm-blooded animals that can regulate their own internal body temperature. We could stop there, but you’d probably like to know why a dog isn’t cold-blooded, and what that term even means.
Keep reading to learn more about what it means for dogs and other animals to be cold or warm-blooded!
Thermoregulation is the process in which a living thing, like a dog, cat, or human, keeps itself at the optimal temperature for their bodies. We often refer to animals that can regulate their own body temperature internally as warm-blooded, while animals who rely on their environment as cold-blooded.
The vast majority of warm-blooded animals are birds and mammals. However, a few other animals are too, such as certain species of sharks.
Please note, however, that being warm or cold-blooded is a little misleading. Life is incredibly diverse, and how living things control their body temperature is a lot more complicated than being either warm-blooded or coldblooded.
For this article and probably most of your everyday conversations, the nuances and different types of thermoregulation aren’t particularly important, but it’s good to keep this in mind.
What Does it Mean to Be Warm-Blooded?
Being warm-blooded means you can keep your body warmer than your environment. Your body works hard to stay warm despite your surroundings. Whether you’re in your living room, at the beach on a hot summer’s day, or skiing down the snow-capped slopes, the human body will do its best to keep an average internal temperature of 36.5–37.5 °C (97.7-99.5 °F).
A dog’s internal temperature is a little warmer than a human’s, at 38.3 to 39.2 °C (101 to 102.5 °F).
To be more specific, dogs (and people) are endotherms, which means we mostly regulate our internal temperature by our bodies doing their everyday processes. Your metabolism, the process of your cells converting food into energy (among other chemical reactions), produces heat.
The great thing about being warm-blooded is how stable it is. You don’t have to worry about sunbathing all the time like a snake because your body is good at keeping yourself warm. It means endothermic animals can live in colder environments than many cold-blooded animals.
However, internal temperature regulation through the metabolism also means warm-blooded animals need to eat a lot more than the average cold-blooded animal to keep their temperature just right. Being an endotherm is great, but it’s also a lot of work!
What Does it Mean to Be Cold-Blooded?
Cold-blooded animals, formally known as ectotherms, don’t produce much internal heat as warm-blooded animals do. Instead, their body temperature relies on the animal’s environment.
Have you ever seen a lizard or snake sunbathing? Now you know why! Ectothermic animals, like reptiles, need to do stuff like sunbathe or hide in the shade to keep their bodies warm or cool enough, respectively.
That’s also why your friend’s tortoise tank will have a special UVB/UVA light inside, as such lights will help keep their scaly pet warm. Ectothermic animals include amphibians (frogs, salamanders), reptiles (lizards, tortoises, snakes), most fish, and invertebrates (animals without a backbone/spine).
Being an ectotherm means the animal in question doesn’t need as much food to survive, as they aren’t producing much internal heat. However, that also means they can’t survive for very long in extreme heat or cold.
How Dogs Control their Body Temperature
Dogs are endotherms, so that means their bodies create heat through their metabolism. But what if a dog is too hot or cold? Like humans, dogs have several ways in which their body will naturally do to regulate their temperature.
For starters, most dogs have fur. A fur coat keeps dogs warm in the winter, though some dogs with less fur (or none at all) might appreciate a sweater when going for a chilly walk outside.
Fur is also protective against the summer heat. Though you might think shaving your dog down near the skin in the summer is a good idea. DO NOT DO THIS, especially if your pooch has a double coat.
Fur is an insulator for dogs, not to mention that it protects against sunburns. Your dog will feel hotter if you shave them, and if your dog has a double coat, the fur might not grow back properly.
Human skin is covered in sweat glands, so we sweat to cool off. Dogs do have sweat glands on the pads of their feet, but not on the rest of their skin. A dogs’ primary way to keep cool is panting.
Why does a dog pant?
The dog breathes in through their moist nose, and that moisture captures heat from the body, and then the dog exhales from their mouth. Panting will keep your dog feeling good when it’s warmer, but dogs with shorter snouts struggle with this.
If your dog has a very short snout (like bulldogs), you’ll have to make extra sure they don’t overheat.
All living things need to keep warm or cool enough to survive. In general, animals can either regulate their temperature by their metabolism (warm-blooded/endotherms) or rely on their environment (cold-blooded/ectotherms). Mammals and birds are warm-blooded, while amphibians, most fish, reptiles, and invertebrates, are cold-blooded.
Dogs are warm-blooded. Their bodies regulate their temperature, just like humans, cats, mice, and horses. Dogs have fur, which acts as an insulator in both warm and cold weather. When it gets hot, dogs pant, unlike humans who sweat.
Panting brings cool moisture into the body while expelling heat through their mouth. Dogs with very short snouts like pugs and bulldogs struggle to regulate their temperature during hot weather because they cannot pant or breathe properly.
Though we may sweat and dogs pant in the summer heat, both of us are warm-blooded!