“My dog feels hot when I touch him, I’m pretty sure he has a fever.”
The above statement is one of the most frequently heard statements from an owner in the veterinary world. As a technician, I chuckle slightly on the inside when I hear it, mostly because the statement is made as an overreaction of the owner to their dog’s condition.
To start, there is no set temperature that is noted as normal for a dog. In the veterinary field, we usually utilize a reference range of what we consider to be normal. The normal range of temperature for a dog is usually 99.5oF to 102oF. With that being said, there is also a range of considerations that must be taken into effect to properly assess your dog’s temperature. Aspects like age, size, outdoor temperature, current or previous medical conditions and stress (along with a laundry list of other things) can actually affect your dog’s internal body temperature. Being that the range of normal temperatures for a dog is higher than our normal body temperature, they will always feel warmer to the touch than we do.
“So if they always feel warmer, how will I ever know if my dog has a fever?”
Well, to assess an appropriate temperature on your pet, we will often times take a rectal temperature and yes, I meant rectal. Unlike humans, a dog will not hold a thermometer under their tongue (they would mostly like to either chew or eat it!). This leaves us to resort to the rectum, just like most human doctors do with infants. This procedure can even be performed at home, if you dare to try.
To take a rectal temperature, you will need:
- A digital thermometer (please not glass or mercury thermometers, because if broken while in use, they can potentially cause serious harm to your pet!)
- A small amount of lubricating jelly or petroleum jelly (if you have neither, wetting the tip of the thermometer with olive oil or water is also applicable)
- A napkin or paper towel for clean-up
- To start, someone will have to hold your dog. This is just to ensure that he will not wiggle or sit down while you are attempting to take the temperature.
- Next, raise your dog’s tail and gently slide the thermometer tip into his or her rectum. DO NOT FORCE THE THERMOMETER, but you will need to insert the thermometer as far as you can (sometimes up to the end of the thermometer “neck”).
- Lastly, wait for the thermometer to read and then remove the thermometer from the rectum. Use the paper towel or napkin to clean any residue left on the rectum. Use dish soap and water to clean the thermometer after each use!
That’s all there is to it! It may seem scary at first, but if you can get over the initial thought of what you are doing, this can be utilized by you to check your dog’s temperature if you think there is an issue with his health. (Please note, that even with a normal temperature, a dog can still be ill for another reason.)
*If you go to take your dog’s temperature and you cannot advance the thermometer, two things can be happening. Either your dog has to defecate (go poo) or he/she is very nervous and clenching their bum. You can attempt to walk them and see if they relieve themselves, or just try again in a few minutes. If you still cannot advance the thermometer, you should seek veterinary advice.
*If you take your pets temperature and the temp is lower than what is considered normal, do not get anxious just yet. If feces (poop) were noted on the tip, your pet has a stool in the lower part of their colon and this will artificially lower their temperature. You can attempt to walk them and if they defecate, you can take the temperature again to see if it has changed.
If at any point, the temperature seems very high or low, your pet seems sluggish or not themselves, you should seek veterinary advice or care. We would rather answer a million questions a day for an over protective doggie mom or dad, than have to perform life-saving medical services on pet that was showing the symptoms, but no one noticed.
Remember, you know your dog better than anyone else! So if you feel there is something wrong, there usually is.