Hot under the collar? How to take your dog's temperature

dog sick in bed
Chris Stoddard
Chris Stoddard

It can be a really worrying time when a much loved dog is under the weather and you're not sure what's wrong with them. It could be they are off their food or just not interested in going out for a walk which is something they usually love going on.

If you cannot get your pet to the vet straight away, you should try to take their temperature to find out if they running a bit of a fever and there are several ways you can do this. Although it's pretty easy to take a dog's temperature, it's important that you do it the right way using a top quality thermometer which you can buy from a good pet shop or online pet products website. If you are not sure whether you should get your dog to the vet as a matter of urgency or maybe it's the weekend and the surgery is shut, knowing if they are running a temperature could well be the deciding factor as to whether or not your dog needs veterinary attention sooner rather than later.

What your dog's normal temperature should be

A healthy dog should have a temperature from anything between 100.5 degrees F and 102.5 degrees F. Most people think that by feeling a dog's ears or head is enough to tell if they are running a temperature or not. The same can be said of a dry or hot nose. However, this would not give an accurate idea of your dog's core body temperature which in short means it would be unreliable. The only way of establishing whether a dog is running a temperature is to use either a rectal or an oral thermometer and these days you have a choice of using either a mercury or a digital one. Another option is to invest in an ear thermometer which is often an easier option especially if you share your home with a dog that fidgets a lot. The key to successfully taking your dog's temperature is to learn how to read the thermometer correctly.

How to take a dog's temperature using a rectal thermometer

If you share your home with a laid-back dog, the chances are they will let you take their temperature without getting too upset about things. However, if you have a fidget on your hands, you might need a second pair of hands around when you attempt to do it.

How to use a mercury or digital thermometer

• It's important that you always give a mercury thermometer a shake before using it. You should give it a flick of the wrist to make sure the mercury level is below 94 degrees. • Next, you should put a little Vaseline or KY jelly on the thermometer which acts like a lubricant. • If your dog fidgets, you need to get your helper to hold their head and shoulders by gently, yet firmly hugging them. • Once your dog is calm and settled, you should then gently lift their tail before inserting the thermometer. You can then very carefully and slowly insert the thermometer about an inch into their rectum. You need to hold it in place for a minimum of 2 minutes when using a mercury thermometer. If you're using a digital device you will hear it "beep" when the time is up. • Gently remove the thermometer and you can read the temperature straight away.

How to take a dog's ear temperature

A healthy dog's ear temperature should be anything between 100.0 degrees F and 103.0 degrees F. When you use an ear thermometer, the heat waves that emanate from your pet's ear drum are measured by the thermometer which establishes whether or not they are running a temperature. An ear thermometer has to be placed quite deeply into your pet's ear canal in order to get an accurate temperature reading and this needs to be done very carefully and gently. If your dog fidgets, it's worth asking someone to give you a hand by holding your pet's head steady in much the same way as they would when you use a rectal thermometer. If your dog just won't sit still, then it's not worth the risk of using an ear thermometer because you might end up injuring their inner ear in the process. It's a good idea to take use both a rectal thermometer and an ear thermometer the first few times you attempt to take your dog's temperature to make sure you are placing the thermometer far enough in your pet's ear so that you get an accurate reading. You should be able to see if this is so by comparing the two readings. If you find that your dog's body temperature has dropped to under 99 degrees F or they are running a temperature in excess of 104 degrees F, you need to get them along to the vet as a matter of urgency so they can be checked out sooner rather than later.


Learning how to take your dog's temperature is important because knowing if they are running a temperature could be the deciding factor in whether or not they need to see a vet as a matter of urgency. It's important to have a thermometer in your dog's first aid kit whether it's a digital or mercury one. You may prefer to use an ear thermometer, but these need to be used with care and it would be worth asking your vet to show you how to use one before attempting to do it yourself.
(Article source: Pets 4 Homes)

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