Updated February 8, 2022
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 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.
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.
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.
👉 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.
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.
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.
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.