Everything You Need to Know About a Dog’s Temperature

Everything You Need to Know About a Dog’s Temperature

Fevers in dogs are notoriously difficult to recognize. There’s a wealth of myths and misinformation out there about optimum dog temperatures. A healthy dog may often have a cold, wet nose but a warm and dry one doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem.

The bottom line is that dogs have a normal body temperature that’s higher than humans. So, what’s the best way to check whether your dog has a fever, and if they do, what could it mean? Read on to find out. 

What Is the Average Body Temperature of a Dog?

The normal body temperature for dogs is typically between 38.3 to 39.2°C (101° and 102.5° F). That’s about 1°C higher than for humans. It’s possible that your dog might feel feverish to you even though their temperature is normal.

Fevers tend to happen when inflammation or infection raises the body temperature. If a dog has a temperature of more than 39.3°C, then we would normally consider that they have a fever. However, the temperature could reach 39.3°C should a dog get stressed or very excited.

If your dog has a temperature that falls below 37.2° then you should seek the help of a vet immediately.

If a dog gets a high temperature due to a hot environment or over-exercise, they may be suffering from heat stroke or hyperthermia. If their temperature gets too high, the consequences can be very severe and even fatal.

What Are the Symptoms of Dog Fever?

There’s often nothing specific that would guarantee a hyperthermia diagnosis. However, ​​if your dog shows any of these symptoms, it might indicate that they have a fever:

  • Lethargy or a mood that appears depressed
  • Shivering and loss of appetite
  • Vomiting, coughing, or nasal discharge
  • Excessive panting and gums becoming dark red

Any of these symptoms could crop up due to a variety of medical issues – and many of them signify an emergency situation! However, it is often difficult to say with certainty if a dog is hypo/hyperthermic simply by looking at them, for example. The only fail-safe way is to take their temperature. 

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How Do I Take My Dog’s Temperature?

First – it is important to say that if you dog seems unwell – or displaying any of the signs listed above – the safest option is always to immediately contact a veterinary professional – either via phone, video call, or physical visit. If your dog is truly suffering from heat stroke, you don’t want to spend time trying to take their temperature at home – you need to go straight to a vet clinic. Additionally, remember that trying to take a dog’s temperature can be a very stressful procedure for the dog.

If you do wish to find out if your dog has a raised body temperature with accuracy, you will have to take their rectal temperature. Most vets suggest using a digital thermometer specially designed for rectal use in dogs. This is going to give you the most accurate reading.

Aural or ear thermometers are a possibility but they tend to be less reliable. This is because of the difficulty in inserting them properly due to hair and wax build-up. It can also be hard to keep a dog still for long enough. And, a fever could also be due to an ear infection making insertion painful for the dog. 

Taking a dog’s temperature tends to be a 2-person job. One person takes the temperature. The other person can hug the dog to give comfort and restraint at the same time. 

They can hold smaller dogs on their laps with one arm under the dog’s neck and their hand holding the head snugly against their body. They can place the other arm around the abdomen to keep the dog still. 

You can try the same procedure with larger dogs but on the floor instead of the lap.

Important: Always remember that if your dog is struggling or you are having difficulty performing this procedure – don’t keep trying. Just visit a veterinary professional.

Preparing the Thermometer

When taking your dog’s temperature, put a coat of lubricant or baby oil on the outside of the thermometer. This will make it easier to insert the thermometer and more comfortable for the dog. It also helps to remove the thermometer should your dog clamp on to it with their sphincter.

Gradually insert the thermometer about 2cm into your dog’s anus and wait for the required length of time to get the results. If there appears to be a stool inside the rectum, place the thermometer around it and not straight through it, if possible. This helps avoid a potentially false low-temperature reading.

The majority of thermometers sold for this kind of purpose will take around a minute or so to give an accurate reading.

What Causes Dog Fevers?

You may never discover the reason for a fever – despite extensive tests. Anything that stimulates the immune system can lead to a high temperature. 

For instance, it is quite common for dogs to get a low-grade fever after getting vaccinated. This is due to the stimulation of the immune system to protect the body from a variety of illnesses.

Fungal, bacterial, and viral infections as well as cancer might all stimulate an immune response and lead to a fever too. An example of a cause of fever due to inflammation is pancreatitis. This can cause diarrhea, vomiting, a painful abdomen, and anorexia. 

Autoimmune diseases can stimulate the immune system to attack parts of the body. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and uveitis. All these diseases can lead to fevers in dogs. 

What Should I Do if My Dog Has a Fever?

If your dog seems unwell, the safest option is always to seek advice from a veterinary professional.

Never give your dog over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen in an effort to bring the fever down. These medications are potentially toxic and dangerous to dogs – and can lead to serious problems and even death. 

Getting a diagnosis for a dog’s fever as quickly as possible will give them the best chance of recovery. It will allow your vet to decide the best course of action.  

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the fever. For example, if your dog has an infection, the treatment may typically include a course of antibiotics or antifungal medications. 

Cancer may get treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy depending on the type. Autoimmune diseases would require drugs that suppress the immune system so that they stop attacking the different parts of the body.

Talk to a Vet for Advice

If you think your dog may have a fever or if their temperature is too low, you should talk to a vet immediately. We have a team of highly qualified vets on standby ready to speak to you and offer help and reassurance.
Book a time slot right now for immediate expert advice.

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