Dynamic changes in ear temperature in relation to separation distress in dogs

Physiol Behav. 2016 Dec 1:167:86-91. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.09.002. Epub 2016 Sep 5.


Infrared thermography can visualize changes in body surface temperature that result from stress-induced physiological changes and alterations of blood flow patterns. Here we explored its use for remote stress monitoring (i.e. removing need for human presence) in a sample of six pet dogs. Dogs were tested in a brief separation test involving contact with their owner, a stranger, and social isolation for two one-minute-periods. Tests were filmed using a thermographic camera set up in a corner of the room, around 7m from where the subjects spent most of the time. Temperature was measured from selected regions of both ear pinnae simultaneously. Temperatures of both ear pinnae showed a pattern of decrease during separation and increase when a person (either the owner or a stranger) was present, with no lateralized temperature differences between the two ears. Long distance thermographic measurement is a promising technique for non-invasive remote stress assessment, although there are some limitations related to dogs' hair structure over the ears, making it unsuitable for some subjects.

Keywords: Ear temperature; Infrared thermography; Noninvasive stress monitoring; Pet dogs Canis familiaris; Physiological stress responses; Separation stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Dogs
  • Ear / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / pathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Thermography