Knowing how to take your dog’s temperature correctly and safely can be a useful skill to have as a dog owner. Being able to monitor their temperature helps you understand if they might be feeling ill or unwell and flag up to you any urgent need to make a visit to the vets’.
Table of contents
1. Preparing a thermometer
You might have heard that feeling for a dog’s extremities and ears is a way to gauge their temperature. While there is some element of truth to dogs who feel cold having colder ears and paws or vice versa, this is not an accurate method in determining their body temperature. Other advertised ways such as infrared thermometers or ear thermometers are also not ideal and should not be relied upon.
The best way to measure temperature, used routinely by vets, is to use a digital thermometer rectally.
IF YOU’RE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THIS, STOP NOW AND CONTACT YOUR VET!
There are a wide range of pet-specific digital thermometers sold on the market which you could invest in. Alternatively, most standard digital thermometers will also work just fine. As long as you label it clearly, so no one in the family inadvertently uses it for themselves!
Just a word of warning about old fashioned rectal thermometers which contain mercury inside glass casing; these could potentially be dangerous if you’re using it on your dog. This is because the thermometer could get broken if your dog starts struggling. Both glass and mercury may cause some serious injury.
2. Finding a suitable time and location
Having prepared the thermometer, make sure that the rest of your environment and setup is also ready for taking the temperature. This is key in making sure the temperature taking process runs smoothly and without upsetting any pooches! Choose a quiet area in the house where your dog will feel more relaxed, such as near their bed. Sit with them on the floor for a while if they are feeling excited or playful, until they calm down. It is also a good idea to ask someone else to help you out when you take the temperature, to help gently restrain and soothe the dog.
3. Taking the temperature
Once you are happy that everything (and everyone, including the dog) is ready, it is time to take the temperature itself. Have your dog in a comfortable position, standing or laying down, and your assistant able to stop them moving too much. Put a little petroleum jelly on the tip of the thermometer and switch it on. Lift the tail and push it gently but firmly through the anus into the rectum. Until about an inch of the thermometer is inside if it’s a small dog, or two inches for a larger dog. Wait until the thermometer beeps or indicates that the temperature has been taken, then remove the thermometer.
4. Next steps
Note the reading on the thermometer and write it down somewhere so you won’t forget it. A normal temperature for dog is between 38-39°C; if the temperature you’ve taken is higher or lower than this, it might be good to repeat the process and take another reading; to determine if this is a true abnormality or a false reading.
The temperature reading is just a guidance for if your dog might be feeling unwell, not a definitive way for you to tell if they need the vet or not! It is important to also look out for other signs of illness and decide if they are doing well on the whole, or need further professional attention.
For example, if they are showing a slightly elevated temperature with no other signs after a walk on a hot day, this may just be due to the exercise. You could try cooling them down with some cold fresh water and resting in shade. On the other hand, if your dog is showing signs of illness such as lethargy, inappetance or vomiting, this calls for a trip to the vet’s. Even if their temperature appears normal.
We always recommend taking your pet to see a vet if you are unsure about their health!