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How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature

Nicole Cosgrove

July 2, 2021

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 he’s ill or injured, it’s your responsibility to understand what abnormal symptoms to look out for.

One way to monitor your pet’s health is to take his temperature. However, this isn’t as simple as placing your hand on his 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.

divider-dog paw

What is the Normal Temperature of a Dog?

A healthy temperature for a canine will fall between 99.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, plus or minus one degree. If your dog’s temperature is higher or lower than this range, contact your vet right away.

boxer lying on the carpet
Image Credit: heathergunn, Pixabay

Using a Rectal Thermometer

While it might not be the most memorable experience for you or your pup, accurately calculating your dog’s temperature is critical if you think he’s sick. You can take his 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’ll need to get assistance from a partner. This should be a person the dog already knows and trusts. Make your pet lie on his side while your relative or friend gently holds him in place. Talk to your dog in a quiet, soothing voice to calm him. After thoroughly lubricating the thermometer in petroleum jelly, gently lift your dog’s tail and slowly slide the thermometer into his rectum with a twisting motion. Insert the thermometer about one to three inches inside your pet, depending on his size.

A digital thermometer should register your dog’s temperature in about 60 seconds, decreasing his (and your) discomfort.

Using an Ear Thermometer

An ear thermometer is less invasive than a rectal one if used correctly. An ear thermometer measures the infrared heat waves coming from your pup’s eardrum area, accurately taking his temperature. Place the thermometer deep into his horizontal ear canal. Never put a glass thermometer in your dog’s ear.

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 degree Fahrenheit range, take him 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 symptoms with over-the-counter medication. Ibuprofen is highly toxic to dogs.

If your dog has hypothermia, cover him in warm towels or blankets. Use a hot water bottle or heating pad in the lowest setting to help him stay warm. 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 him cool, clean water. You can also soak a towel in cool water and drape it over his back or neck, or place it in his groin area or armpit.

What Causes Dog Fevers?

Many factors can cause a fever in your dog, including:
  • Ear infection
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Viral or bacterial disease
  • Organ infections
  • An infected scratch, cut, or bite
  • Toxic plants
  • Antifreeze
  • Human foods or medications

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Conclusion

Always seek immediate medical attention if your dog has a temperature. If you think your dog is ill, you can take his temperature with either an ear or rectal thermometer. Never take your dog’s temperature orally as he might bite you.

Being a responsible dog owner means taking proper care of your pet. If he seems “off,” closely monitor him for any signs of sickness or injury.


Featured Image Credit: O_Lypa, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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