Andy Bowen, Josh Stilwell, Mason Romero, DVM , and Erica Bowen, DVM
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savvy shopping

The 3 best dog thermometers, according to vets

Updated May 29, 2020

Created By

Coral Drake, , Andy Bowen
We asked our vets which thermometers they use every day, and why. Turns out, the rectal method is best 😬 — as long as your dog can handle it.

🚨Anytime a dog’s temperature is over 104 or below 99 degrees Fahrenheit, it is an emergency and you should bring them to the veterinarian immediately.

At a glance: Our favorite dog thermometers

The essentials

  • Choose the type of thermometer that will work best for your pet. The best thermometer for you and your pet depends on your pet’s personality and other medical conditions such as ear infections.
  • Be cost-conscious. There is no reason to overspend on the most expensive thermometer. Just make sure that the thermometer that you choose can obtain an accurate reading, and you are comfortable using it.
  • Regularly monitor your dog’s temperature, so you have a baseline. The first time that you take your dog’s temperature should not be when you think there is something wrong. You should regularly monitor your dog’s temperature so that you understand the baseline of what is normal for your dog.

The two types of thermometers worth buying

Rectal thermometers — the gold standard

Vets use rectal thermometers because they’re accurate. Unfortunately, your dog literally cares zero — and most absolutely hate getting a temperature check. Never force your dog to accept a rectal thermometer.

Digital ear thermometers — the next-best thing

Digital thermometers take a reading from inside your dog’s ear. They aren’t as accurate as a rectal thermometer, but some dogs just can’t handle a probe in their rectum. If your dog has an ear infection or excessive debris in the ear, the reading won’t be accurate at all.

What about non-contact and infrared thermometers?

While it’s possible for these thermometers to give you useful information about a dog’s baseline temperature compared to an abnormal temperature, the reading isn’t nearly as accurate.

The features that matter

Let’s be real: shopping for a thermometer isn’t rocket science. But when we asked our vets what they consider before they buy a thermometer, they shared a few logical tips:

Resistant to breaking. Your dog may wiggle while you are taking their temperature, so it is important to choose a thermometer that is resistant to breaking so that there is little chance that the thermometer will break off while in use. Some thermometers even have flexible tips.

Temperature history. If you need to keep track of your dog’s temperature over time, you may keep a little book with the various readings, but it can be nice to choose a thermometer that automatically remembers reading so that you can compare without having to keep separate notes.

Works with disposable covers. Using a thermometer can be kind of gross. Furthermore, if you need to use a thermometer for multiple pets, you don’t want to spread potential diseases between them. Disposable covers are useful so that you don’t have to worry about sanitizing the thermometer between uses.

The normal temperature range for dogs

👉 A normal dog body temperature ranges from 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit

Some dogs maintain a temperature that is above or below this average, so it is important to know your dog’s individual baseline temperature in order to tell if their temperature is unusually low or high.

Signs of abnormal temperature in your dog

Abnormally low temps. A dog with an abnormally low temperature will generally be lethargic and not as responsive as usual. There’s also a good chance that they will shake, shiver, or tremble no matter how many blankets you put around them.

Abnormally high temps. Dogs whose temperature is too high also have a high probability of being lethargic and less responsive than usual. They might pant or lie on a cool surface to try and cool off. Dark red gums are also a sign of fever.

Any of these symptoms may occur in dogs for a variety of reasons, not just abnormal temperature, so it is important to use a thermometer to take a reading to determine what is going on with your pup when they aren’t acting normally.

What to do if your dog has a fever

If your dog’s temperature is abnormally high or low, re-check to make sure that you did not do something wrong while taking the reading. Slightly low temperatures may be managed at home by raising your pet’s temperature using warm towels or blankets and hot water bottles.

Slightly high temperature can be brought down using cool cloths on the paws and by giving your dog cool water or ice chips. If the temperature remains abnormal or if it is in the emergency range above 104 or below 99, bring your dog to the veterinarian.

How to take your dog’s temperature 

Rectal technique

  1. Hold your dog in a secure position or have somebody help you. If your dog has an appetite, distract them with a delicious treat like peanut butter. Dogs are not thrilled with this activity and generally will squirm.
  2. Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly.
  3. Slowly advance the thermometer about an inch for smaller dogs or as much as two to three inches for larger dogs into the rectum. Some dogs clamp down on the muscles in their sphincter, which means that you can cause pain or even injury if you keep pushing in. If you wait, most dogs will relax the muscles. Distracting them with a delicious treat can help.
  4. If you feel stool, try to move the thermometer around it rather than pushing it through.
  5. Leave the thermometer in place for 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the thermometer and wipe it clean, and then read your dog’s temperature.
dog temperature check

Digital technique

  1. Using a brand new probe cover, slide the thermometer into the horizontal ear canal, holding the base of the ear out at a 90-degree angle to your pet’s head
  2. Most dogs do not resist having the thermometer put in their ear except for perhaps to wiggle a bit, but if your dog has an ear infection, then the insertion of the thermometer will be very painful. Furthermore, dogs with ear infections will produce inaccurate readings

Vaccinations and dog medication can cause false readings

Many dogs develop a fever after regular vaccinations.  Your veterinarian should warn you that a fever is possible. Generally, monitoring the fever is sufficient and it will go away on its own, but bring your dog to the vet if your dog’s temperature is in the danger zone.

Regular medication can impact a dog’s temperature. Many dogs experience a slight fever after being treated for fleas and ticks with oral medications like Trifexis. The fever should go away on its own but monitor it carefully to make sure it doesn’t reach dangerous levels.