How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature
As a pet owner, being able to take your dog’s temperature at home is a simple and valuable knowledge to possess.
A dog’s normal body temperature is between 99.0 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Normal temperature may be as high as 102.5 to 103.4 after strenuous exercise or when the dog has been active on a hot day. A temperature above 103.5 is considered a fever.
When temperatures reach 106 or higher, organ failure and death can occur.
Fevers Can Be an Indication of:
- Infection: bacterial, fungal or viral in nature, this infection could be occurring anywhere in the body. Diseases spread by ticks can produce a fever in dogs.
- Toxins: A fever can be a reaction to ingesting common foods poisonous to dogs, poisonous wild and household plants, non-green cleaning products and human medications.
- Unknown Origin: So common veterinarians call it F.U.O for Fevers of unknown origin. These fevers are firstly, infections that can’t be readily be diagnosed but could indicate autoimmune disorders, bone marrow disease or, sometimes, cancer.
- Heat Stroke: Over exertion in hot and humid conditions can result in a heat stroke fever as high as 106 degrees.
Symptoms of fever:
- Collapse (when severe)
- Loss of Appetite
- Dehydration – puffed up third eyelid
- Shaking or shivering
- Runny nose or eyes
You know when your dog just isn’t feeling well, because they don’t act like themselves, they lose that gleam in their eyes and since they can’t talk to us, it’s difficult to know is this serious SERIOUS or is my dog just feeling a little under the weather. Being able to monitor your dog’s body temperature at home is the best way to judge if your dog is in need of immediate veterinary attention.
Being able to take your dog’s temperature also is crucial if you have a dog recovering at home after being treated for fever. If your veterinarian has treated your dog for a high fever, a concern after the dog goes home is that the fever could spike again. This happened to me, my dog was admitted with a 105 fever, they put him on intravenous fluids for a whole day and got the fever down. The vet tech taught me how to take his (under the tail) temperature. The next afternoon, at home, I was terrified to see that it had indeed spiked, back to 104.9.
With medication, home remedies, coaxing him to lap a little water out of my palm every 20 minutes (the only way he would drink for a week!) and taking his temperature, I was able to see when and how much the fever was going down; and, if it did not go down, or if it went up, he would need to go back to the vet immediately. It took about 3 days of all these things and I could see his body temperature slowly going down to normal. What a relief!
Supplies You Need to Take Your Dog’s Temperature:
- A digital thermometer
- A water based lubricant (such as KY jelly)
- Alchohol to clean the thermometer after use
- Treats because it will make the both of you feel better
How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature:
- Read the instructions on the thermometer so that you know how it works. How to reset it to zero, how long it takes to get an accurate read and how many beeps signify it’s finished. Most digital thermometers will trill when they are set to zero, they will beep steadily to let you know the temperature is being read and will signal it’s finished by another trill or series of beeps at the end.
- Veterinarians often take temperatures with the dog standing up and a comfort person holding their heads. Alternatively, you can take your dog’s temperature when he is lying down on his side (lateral recumbency). In most cases, it is often less stressful to the dog if one person gently restrains the dog and the other takes the temperature. However you need to do it to cause least distress to the dog. Some dogs don’t mind one bit because it’s not painful, but every dog is different.
- Swab the thermometer with rubbing alcohol to sanitize it, apply a little lubricant on the metal tip, and, when the thermometer beeps it is ready, insert the silver tip ( tip is approx 8 mm ); you don’t need to insert it past the silver tip. Listen for the end beep and read the results.
Other Types of Thermometers:
Ear thermometers are appealing to dog owners for obvious reasons. I researched these and found that a lot of reviewers said that the temperature given is not as accurate as a rectal reading. Many people found the beeping right in the dog’s ear to be unpleasant for them. They cost a little more than a basic thermometer but all pet owners are welcome to research and find out what the best option is for them.
Treatment for Fever:
A temperature greater than 103.5 in a dog is a medical emergency, and the dog should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. No home treatment should be applied, as the veterinarian needs to (1) confirm the presence and magnitude of the elevated temperature, and (2) perform a complete physical examination before making a decision on likely cause of the fever.
The only exception to withholding treatment until the veterinary visit is for the dog that has been confined in a hot car or other environment, where heat stroke is the most likely diagnosis. In that case, the dog should be cooled immediately by immersing it in cool water, applying a gentle stream of cool water with a hose, and/or wrapping the dog in cold wet towels before transporting it to the veterinarian.
Over the counter medication (such as aspirin or tylenol) should never be given to dogs unless under the express direction of the veterinarian. Aspirin (even buffered aspirin) commonly causes gastric bleeding in dogs, and may mask a fever if given prior to veterinary examination.
Home Remedies to Bring a Dog’s Fever Down:
- Put t-shirts in the freezer and put them over the dog’s abdomen or other hairless parts, put them on his forehead or wrap his whole body in them. Swap the t-shirt out every 15 minutes or so.
- Give your dog an ice cube to lap at, turn on a fan or air conditioner and keep the environment cool.
- Soak a washcloth in rubbing alcohol and lay it over your dog’s abdomen, it has a cooling effect on the skin and through evaporation when you remove the cloth.
Taking your dog’s temperature at home is quick and painless. A thermometer should definitely be part of your canine first aid kit. You never know when you may need to use it.
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