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Home > Dogs > How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature – Vet Approved Guide

How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature – Vet Approved Guide

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Maja Platisa

Veterinarian, DVM MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As a pet parent, it’s important to stay on top of your dog’s health and happiness. When your pup isn’t feeling well, it’s essential that you know the signs of sickness. Whether they’re ill or injured, it’s your responsibility to understand what abnormal signs to look out for.

One way to monitor your pet’s health is to take their temperature. However, this isn’t as simple as placing your hand on their forehead. Did you know that a dog’s normal internal body temperature is higher than yours? This is why your pet feels like a furnace on chilly nights.

Here’s everything you need to know about taking your dog’s temperature.

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What Is the Normal Temperature of a Dog?

A healthy temperature for a canine will fall between 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog’s temperature is higher than this range, contact your vet right away. If the dog’s temperature is 98 degrees or lower, it may indicate hypothermia, but it depends on the accuracy of your reading. If your dog is lethargic and unwell, then you can trust the low reading. If your dog is bouncy and seems normal, you need to make sure you are taking their temperature the correct way.

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Image By: heathergunn, Pixabay

Using a Rectal Thermometer

While it might not be the most memorable experience for you or your pup, accurately measuring your dog’s temperature is critical if you think they’re sick. You can take their temperature with an ear or rectal thermometer. You should always keep a digital thermometer in your dog’s first-aid kit for easy access. Never try to take your dog’s temperature orally.

To efficiently take your dog’s temperature rectally, you may need to get assistance from a partner. This should be a person the dog already knows and trusts. Your dog can stand or lie on their side while your relative or friend gently holds them in place. Talk to your dog in a quiet, soothing voice to calm them, and even offer treats during the process. After thoroughly lubricating the thermometer in petroleum jelly, gently lift your dog’s tail and slowly slide the thermometer into the rectum with a gentle twisting motion without forcing anything. Insert the thermometer about one to three inches inside your pet, depending on their size. If you get resistance, which may mean there is some feces there, you may need to reposition and try again.

A digital thermometer should register your dog’s temperature in about 10 to 15 seconds, decreasing their (and your) discomfort.

Using an Ear Thermometer

An ear thermometer is less invasive than a rectal one if used correctly. You just need to place the thermometer gently into the horizontal ear canal. However, their accuracy can vary depending on many factors, such as proper placement, angle, and the animal’s stillness, while ear infections may cause inaccurate readings. Some studies have found that ear thermometers consistently showed lower temperatures than rectal ones in dogs with both normal and abnormal rectal temperatures, so their accuracy may be limited.

Some types of thermometers measure the infrared heat waves coming from the skin or eye surface and are called non-contact infrared thermometers. So far these kinds of thermometers have not proven as very accurate in dogs and are not being used. Never use a glass thermometer, as they are not safe due to the mercury content.

What to Do if the Temperature Is Abnormal

sick husky dog in vet
Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

If your dog’s temperature falls outside of the 99.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit range, take them to the nearest vet right away. Call them in advance and ask them for advice during your trip to the clinic. Never try to alleviate your dog’s signs with over-the-counter medication, as it may do more harm than good. Ibuprofen is highly toxic to dogs.

If your dog has hypothermia, cover them in warm towels or blankets. Use a hot water bottle or heating pad in the lowest setting to help them stay warm, but be careful about skin burns. Use a towel to create a barrier between your pet and the heating source. Supervise your dog at all times.

If your dog’s temperature is high, give them cool, clean water. You can also soak a towel in cool water and get them to lie on it, and even wet them. But be careful that the water isn’t too cold, as it will cause shivering, which in turn increases body temperature. Use a fan to provide cool airflow, and in case of a fever or especially heat stroke, get to the vet as soon as possible.

What Causes Dog Fevers?

Many factors can cause a fever in your dog, including:
  • Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
  • Skin and ear infections
  • Lung infections (pneumonia)
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Viral or bacterial disease
  • Other organ infections
  • An infected scratch, cut, or bite
  • Toxic plants
  • Antifreeze
  • Human foods or medications
  • Seizures


In Conclusion

Always seek immediate medical attention if your dog has a temperature. If you think your dog is ill, you can take their temperature with either an ear or rectal thermometer, but be aware of the limitations of the ear thermometer.

Being a responsible dog owner means taking proper care of your pet. If they are unwell, with or without a fever, they should be checked out by your vet.

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Featured Image Credit: Elayne Massaini, Shutterstock

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