Do you believe in the adage that healthy dogs have cold, wet noses and sick dogs have warm, dry noses? Even though there’s some truth to that theory, the best way to determine if your pup is running a fever is to take your dog’s temperature. But don’t let Haley fool you with the image above, you’ll actually be working at the other end of your dog when taking their temperature.
I found out how important it is to know how to take a dog’s temperature a few weeks ago after Haley had CCL knee surgery. She was progressing well the first few days after surgery, but then she started having digestive issues that we thought were caused by one of her pain medications. After the vet changed her medication, she still didn’t make much progress with her knee and continued to have a lot of pain symptoms. I assumed the pain stemmed from the surgery until she became weaker and then refused to eat. It wasn’t until I took her temperature and discovered she had a fever of 103.3 degrees that I realized something else was going on.
Another trip to the vet revealed that Haley had infectious colitis. I felt so bad she was suffering with the infection while also trying to recover from knee surgery. Since many fever symptoms happen to be the same as the symptoms of pain expected after the surgery, taking her temperature was key in discovering her colitis. In case you’re not sure how to take your dog’s temperature, here’s what you need to know.
How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature
- You’ll need a rectal thermometer and some lubricant. A quick-reading, digital thermometer with a flexible tip works great.
- You can take your dog’s temperature while they’re standing or lying down and it’s helpful to have someone secure your dog to prevent any sudden movements while you’re holding the thermometer.
- Apply a lubricant such as petroleum jelly or baby oil (vegetable oil can be used in a pinch) to the end of the thermometer.
- Gently lift your dog’s tail and insert the thermometer about an inch inside your dog’s rectum. For larger dogs, you may insert it a little further. Don’t force the thermometer if it doesn’t slide in easily with lubricant.
- Carefully hold the thermometer in place, keeping it straight until you get a reading.
- Clean the thermometer thoroughly with alcohol then wash your hands.
- If it’s not clear the thermometer is for dog use only, label it so it’s not confused with your human thermometer.
You can also use an infrared or ear thermometer but rectal thermometers tend to be more accurate. Don’t try to take your dog’s temperature orally, especially if you’re using a glass thermometer.
Thank you, Haley for being a good sport on demonstrating the procedure!
What’s the Normal Temperature Range for a Dog?A dog’s normal temperature range is slightly higher than our human range. The normal range for a dog is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees (Fahrenheit) and anything over 103 degrees is considered a fever. A temperature of 106 degrees and higher should be considered a medical emergency since there’s a risk of damage to internal organs or even death. If your dog has a low temperature, below 99 degrees, you should also seek medical attention.
Other Signs Your Dog May be Running a FeverOther symptoms of fever include lethargy or depression, a warm-dry nose, warm ears, red eyes, shivering, loss of appetite, coughing and vomiting.
What Causes a Fever in Dogs?A fever can be caused by many different things including various types of infections (bacterial, viral or fungal), poisoning, canine influenza, inflammation, immune system disorders, cancer and a reaction to a recent vaccination. Another cause of a high temperature can be heatstroke which is more of a risk during the hot summer months. For more information on heatstroke, check out my post 10 Tips for Exercising Your Dog in the Summer.
How to Treat a FeverBecause there can be so many different causes of fever, you should always contact your vet first to see if your dog may need to have a medical examination. Don’t treat your dog with human medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen which are toxic to dogs.
If it’s not possible to speak with a vet right away and your dog’s temperature is above 103 degrees, you can cool your dog by applying a towel soaked with cool water to your dog’s fur and if possible, use a fan to aid in cooling. Focus on cooling the paws, ears, stomach and armpits while also offering your dog ice chips or cool water to drink. Continue to check your dog’s temperature and stop the cooling when it comes down to 103 degrees.
Knowing how to take your dog’s temperature is an important skill that can help your dog stay healthier. If your dog’s not feeling well, early detection of fever means earlier and more successful treatment of the underlying cause.
Have you ever taken your dog’s temperature? Share your tips with us below!