How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature

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How to Take Your Dog's TemperatureDo 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

  1. You’ll need a rectal thermometer and some lubricant. A quick-reading, digital thermometer with a flexible tip works great.
  2. 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.
  3. Apply a lubricant such as petroleum jelly or baby oil (vegetable oil can be used in a pinch) to the end of the thermometer.
  4. 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.
  5. Carefully hold the thermometer in place, keeping it straight until you get a reading.
  6. Clean the thermometer thoroughly with alcohol then wash your hands.
  7. 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!

Taking Your Dog's Temperature

Luckily, dogs aren’t easily humiliated.

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.

Taking Your Dog's Temperature

Normal temperature range – 100.5 to 102.5 degrees (Fahrenheit)

Other Signs Your Dog May be Running a Fever

Other 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 Fever

Because 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!

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40 Comments on “How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature”

    • Hi Y’all!

      My Human said, for those of you who have horses, especially if they are performance horses, it’s important to take their temps too…the same way…only they won’t lay down for you.

      Y’all come on by,
      Hawk aka BrownDog

      • Yes! I remember when my parents had horses. They used to tie a string around the thermometer because sometimes it could disappear, haha! ?

    • Super informative and I’m pinning this because I may refer to it in the future. We’ve only ever had to get their temperatures while at the vet and never at home, but this is helpful.
      Thank you 🙂

    • Haley you are so sweet to be such a good model. It is good to know this stuff. Cocoa had her tummy issues and we sometimes worried because she felt really hot and it would be good to know what her temperature is when this happens.

      • I’m glad the article was helpful, Julie. I hope Cocoa’s stomach issues are all resolved now. Haley’s always had a sensitive stomach but since we started giving her a little food right before bed, she’s had a mostly happy tummy.

    • They have GOT to come up with a better way to take doggy temps. 🙁 Dante hates it!! However, that being said I keep meaning to add a doggy thermometer to our doggy first aid kit, it’s definitely a good idea!

      • I agree! I wish the ear thermometers were more accurate but it sounds like they have to be placed in the proper position, deep inside the ear canal and even then, debris or ear wax can alter the reading.

    • This is a great post. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t think I could do the rectal reading, but I would certainly try an ear thermometer. Thanks for this valuable information!
      Love & biscuits,
      Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

      • Yeah, it’s not a lot of fun for you or the dog when you’re working on that end, lol! ? It’s actually a lot easier than I thought it would be though.

    • We have fortunately not had to take Ruby’s temperature, but did have to many times with our previous dog, Pip. He had many bouts of colitis as well as a few other infections so we had lots of practice. This is a great post as I think this is probably new info for many people.

      • Thanks so much! All that practice with Pip will come in handy in case Ruby ever needs to have her temperature taken. I’m hoping she’ll stay free from any bouts of colitis or other infections though. ?

    • Yep, Emma makes a good suggestion–label that thermometer. I’ve had my husband bring it to me because I forgot to. 🙂

      I find that the practice with a thermometer is also good for ear cleaning, nail trimming, getting shots, etc. It’s good to work with your dog to accept even invasive handling before you need it.

      BTW, I love the first picture of Haley. It’s adorable.

      • Oh geez! I’m glad you weren’t so sick that you used the dog’s thermometer when Mike brought it to you, haha! That’s a great tip to practice some of these things ahead of time. ??

      • Thanks, JoAnn! I think you’re right, a lot of people might assume a dog’s normal temperature range would be the same as it is for people.

    • Thank you for showing us how to do it! So easy to understand with pictures and great demonstrator like Haley. <3 I've never taken dog's temperatures before but it's so nice to know how to do it. 🙂
      I see people with babies always have thermometer at their home.
      Now I feel like we should all have one for our dogs because they are babies too. 😉

      • They are a lot like babies, aren’t they? I know you don’t have to worry about it there in sunny CA, but it’s also nice to have a thermometer to check for hypothermia in states where it’s cold. I had to check Haley once when she was younger after she ate too much snow and stayed out in the cold for too long. Luckily, she was fine but it was scary to see her shivering so much.

    • BOL to this actionable article! I made sure to have a digital doggie thermometer in our first aid kit as well as a lubricant – it’s strawberry flavored! I’ve only had to use it once on Buzz to take his temperature, which resulted in Missy being very interested in that new smell coming from his rear end 😉

    • Good information. We have had to take the dogs’ temperatures for a variety of reasons. One good reason as opposed to illness was when Storm was due to whelp her pups. Temp can give a clue as to when it is time. 🙂 If we think our dog is ill, the first thing I do is take their temperature.

      • Oh yeah! I remember my parents doing that when their horses were ready to foal too. Thinking back, there were probably times when I should have taken Haley’s temperature instead of just waiting awhile to see how she acts. Great tip! That should be one of the first things you do when your dog’s not feeling good. ??

    • What an important post to write and share. Thank you. I’ve watched the vet take their temps but I never thought of having to do it myself before hand. This is a keeper for sure. Will make sure to purchase the correct instrument and have it on hand. Loved this!

      • Thanks, Cathy! I hope Harley and Jaxson stay healthy but it definitely doesn’t hurt to have one in case you ever need it.

    • Love this post. This is probably one of the forgotten arts of being a new pet parent. Just had to share this as many new pet parents may not know how to take their dogs temperature or what a dog’s normal temperature should really be. Thanks for sharing.

      • Thank you, Suzanne. It may not be the most pleasant thing to do, but it’s definitely a good thing to know. Thanks so much for sharing the post! ?

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