The thermo-optical dynamics of polymer loaded surface plasmon waveguide (PLSPPW) based devices photo-thermally excited in the nanosecond regime is investigated. We demonstrate thermo-absorption of PLSPPW modes mediated by the temperature-dependent ohmic losses of the metal and the thermally controlled field distribution of the plasmon mode within the metal. For a PLSPPW excited by sub-nanosecond long pulses, we find that the thermo-absorption process leads to modulation depths up to 50% and features an activation time around 2ns whereas the relaxation time is around 800ns, four-fold smaller than the cooling time of the metal film itself. Next, we observe the photo-thermal activation of PLSPPW racetrack shaped resonators at a time scale of 300ns followed however by a long cooling time (18μs) attributed to the poor heat diffusivity of the polymer. We conclude that nanosecond excitation combined to high thermal diffusivity materials opens the way to high speed thermo-optical plasmonic devices.