3 Easy Methods to Take Your Dog’s Temperature at Home

Feel confident taking your dog's temperature safely and quickly with our simple step-by-step guide.

Updated April 5, 2023
jack russell terrier laying in bed holding thermometer

There are times you may need to take your dog's temperature at home. Especially with an older dog or one suffering from a chronic illness, knowing the steps to check your dog's temp and having the equipment at home to do so can be very helpful in managing your dog's care. In many cases, knowing how to take your dog's temperature could even save their life.

How to Take a Dog's Temperature

Taking your dog's temperature at home might seem intimidating, but it's a very straightforward process with only a few easy steps. There are two types of thermometers you can use: one is inserted rectally, and the other goes in the ear. No-contact thermometers that you might use on your own forehead aren't effective on dogs and you should never place a thermometer in a dog's mouth.

It's best to have two people present when taking a temperature so one can focus on the thermometer while the other keeps the dog distracted. If this isn't possible, you can use treats and give head pets with one hand while maneuvering the thermometer in the other.

Quick Tip

Your safety is important, too. If your dog becomes aggressive or attempts to bite you while you're taking their temperature, abort mission and head to your vet.

Method 1: Rectal Thermometer Steps

  1. Use a thin layer of petroleum jelly or a water-based lubricant on the thermometer to help it slide in easily.
  2. Gently insert the thermometer inside your dog's anus. If it doesn't glide easily, do not force it. Insert no more than an inch of the thermometer into the rectum.
  3. 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 when it's ready.
  4. Remove the thermometer gently and disinfect it with an anti-bacterial cleaning solution.
Using a Rectal Thermometer
Fast Fact

Taking a dog's temperature rectally will give you the most accurate results.

Method 2: Ear Thermometer Steps

  1. Sit or kneel next to your dog and lift up their ear flap.
  2. Place a digital thermometer tip - just the tip - inside your dog's ear, offering praise while you do this.
  3. Hold it at a 90-degree angle to your dog's ear canal. The thermometer will alert you with a reading in a few seconds.
Quick Tip

Most dogs won't tolerate having something stuck in their ear for very long, and most non-digital thermometers take a minute or two to product a reading. Stick with digital thermometers for this method.

Method 3: Other Options For Taking a Temperature

If you're having a hard time getting the thermometer in the rectum or ears, another method is to place the thermometer in your dog's armpit. Just know, this method isn't nearly as accurate as taking a rectal or ear temperature and your dog could still have a fever even if their armpit temperature reads as normal.

  1. Move your dog's fur aside and place the clean thermometer against their skin between your dog's chest and front leg (as in their "armpit").
  2. Keep it there for one to two minutes with a traditional thermometer, or until it beeps for a digital thermometer.

What Temperature Is Normal?

A dog's normal temperature is between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Every dog is different, so it's possible some could naturally run a bit cooler, and others might be warmer. Their stress level could also impact their temperature.

For example, nervous little dogs tend to be on the higher end of the normal range. If you take your dog's temp and it reads anywhere below 99 degrees or above 104 degrees, it's important to see your vet right away.

What Causes a Fever in Dogs?

Many things can cause a fever in dogs. An infection or inflammation somewhere in the body are the most common reasons a dog will have a higher body temperature than normal.

An infected tooth, infection from a bite wound, parvovirus, pancreatitis, immune-mediated disease, or even cancer can all cause a fever. Being out in warm weather and developing heatstroke can also raise a dog's temperature to dangerous levels. Along with a high temperature, you might also see these symptoms accompanying a fever in dogs:

What to Do if Your Dog Has a High Temperature

If your dog's temperature is high, it's important to get to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible. A high internal body temperature can lead to internal organ damage or even death if it's not treated promptly. On the way to your vet, you can begin cooling your dog down with these tips:

  1. Apply cool (but not cold) water to your dog's feet, limbs, and body.
  2. Offer your dog cool water to drink, but don't force them.
  3. Continue taking your dog's temperature and stop cooling methods once it drops down to 103 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them from getting too cool.

At-Home Care Can Include Taking Their Temperature

While it's easier to have your veterinarian take your dog's temperature, there might be times when you need to do this at home. Pregnant dogs and those with ongoing health conditions might need their temperature taken regularly, or you may need to take it as an emergency measure. Report a fever or any signs or illness to your veterinarian for further guidance.

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3 Easy Methods to Take Your Dog’s Temperature at Home