How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature

Published September 13, 2018
Dog taking the temperature

If you suspect your dog has a fever, you can take his temperature at home before reaching the vet's office. There are several ways to do it that involve a few simple steps.

Using a Thermometer

There are two types of thermometers you can use to take your dog's temperature. One is inserted rectally, and the other goes in the ear. You will need to get a thermometer made for dogs as those made for humans are not effective.

Rectal Thermometer Steps

  1. If your dog doesn't like handling or is nervous, prepare before you take his temperature. Have delicious treats, such as chicken or cheese, on hand.
  2. Check the thermometer and shake it if is not at 96 degrees or lower.
  3. You can also place some treats in a bowl or put his dinner in front of him so he can be distracted by eating while you take his temperature. If someone can help you by distracting your dog, this process can go much faster and easier.
  4. Use a thin layer of petroleum jelly or a water-based lubricant on the thermometer to make it slide in easier.
  5. Put the thermometer inside your dog's anus. It needs to go in about an inch for small dogs and two or three inches for larger dogs to register his temperature.
  6. If your dog moves away, try sitting next to his side and hold on to his collar or harness with one hand while using your other hand to insert the thermometer.
  7. If your dog has a tail that hangs over his rear area, lift it up. If you're by yourself, balance the tail on your arm as you lean in with the thermometer.
  8. If you are using a traditional thermometer, leave it in for one to two minutes. A digital thermometer will give you the reading within a few seconds and notify you with a tone.
  9. Take the thermometer out gently as you don't want it to break or hurt your dog if you move too quickly, especially if you're using a glass thermometer.
  10. Your dog's temperature should be 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If it's higher or lower, contact your vet right away.
Using a Rectal Thermometer

Ear Thermometer Steps

Some ear thermometers require you to put the tip inside your dog's ear whereas other models simply require you to touch the dog's ear on the outside. If you use the traditional "in-ear" type, follow these instructions:

  1. As with the rectal thermometer, get ready first with some treats or your dog's dinner to distract him.
  2. Sit or kneel next to your dog and talk to him gently. Lift up his ear.
  3. If he is nervous about you handling his ear, put some treats in your hand and place it in front of his mouth to eat out of while your other hand works on the ear.
  4. Place the thermometer tip inside your dog's ear praising your dog while you do this. Hold it at a 90-degree angle to your dog's ear canal. You should get a reading within a few seconds.

Other Thermometer Options

If you're having a hard time getting the thermometer in the rectum or ears, another method is to place the thermometer into the pit of the dog's front legs. Rectally or in the ears are the most accurate methods, but this option is there if the others are not possible.

To do this, place the thermometer between your dog's chest and front leg (as in his "armpit") and keep it there for one to two minutes with a traditional thermometer or until it beeps for a digital thermometer. You won't need to lubricate thermometer.

Other Ways to Check for Fever

While these methods can't tell you exactly if your dog has a fever, they can be useful if you don't have a thermometer on hand.

Does Your Dog Feel Warm to the Touch?

A dog with a fever will feel warm to the touch, particularly on his ears, paws, nose, armpits, and groin. Just as you would with a human, touch the back of your palm to these areas to see if they feel hotter than normal.

Is His Nose Dry?

A dog with a fever may have a dry nose because he's dehydrated. You may also see some nasal discharge.

What Is the Condition of Her Gums?

A dehydrated and feverish dog will have red, dry gums that look abnormal. The gums may also feel warm.

Are There Other Fever Symptoms?

If your dog is displaying any of the common symptoms of fever along with the areas you've checked for warmth or redness, she is most likely feverish and needs to see a veterinarian.

Dog Fever Symptoms

Since dogs can't tell their people they don't feel well, you can get an idea of whether they have a fever by observing the common signs. These include:

  • Lethargy
  • Red, bleary eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Ears and nose feel warm to the touch
  • Nose may be dry
  • Dog will not eat
  • Shaking, coughing and/or panting
  • Vomiting

If you're unsure, you can call your veterinarian's office or an emergency vet clinic if it's after hours and describe your dog's symptoms.

Taking Your Dog's Temperature

While it's easier to have your veterinarian take your dog's temperature, there are times when you may need to do this at home. Especially with an older dog or one suffering from a chronic illness, knowing the steps and having the equipment at home can be a helpful part of your dog's care.

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How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature