How to Take a Dog’s Temperature

Increased sleeping and lethargy is a common symptom of a sick dog. Learn how to assess your dog by taking his temperature! (Camila Dequech Photo)
Increased sleeping and lethargy is a common symptom of a sick dog. Learn how to assess your dog by taking his temperature! (Camila Dequech Photo)

If you’re wondering, “Is my dog sick?”, taking the pet’s temperature is one of the first things the dog owner should do. By taking the dog’s temperature, you will be able to gauge the potential severity of the problem and it can help you if you’re wondering if you should take the pet to your normal veterinary clinic or rush the dog to an emergency veterinary clinic.

Also, by recording the temperature readings, you can effectively monitor your dog’s progress; you’ll know whether your dog is getting sicker or improving.

Preparing to Take a Pet’s Temperature

Firstly, you’ll need a thermometer (ideally, a digital thermometer) for taking the dog’s temperature rectally. Ear thermometers tend to be less accurate in dogs and the readings tend to be approximately two degrees lower than the pet’s true body temperature. Also, avoid old mercury thermometers. If the dog startles and moves suddenly, the thermometer may snap, releasing mercury and glass into the pet’s rectum — a bad situation that must be avoided at all costs! (Your dog is already sick! You don’t need to pile this issue on top of it!)

Remember to mark the pet’s thermometer as such, so family members won’t accidentally utilize it for an oral temperature reading. Simply write “Dog Thermometer” on a piece of masking tape and attach it to the case, or write a label on a small piece of paper, cut it out and tape it to the thermometer case with some clear tape.

Also, purchase a package of disposable thermometer sleeves and store them with the thermometer in your pet’s medical kit. These small plastic covers slide over the tip of the thermometer (though I still recommend disinfecting the thermometer tip after use.)

If you don’t have any thermometer sleeves, wrap a bit of plastic wrap over the tip. Don’t have any Saran wrap on hand? You can use plastic from a sandwich bag instead.

Steps for How to Take a Dog’s Temperature

Once you’ve placed a fresh thermometer sleeve over the tip, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly over the plastic sleeve to make the actual temperature-taking process a bit more comfortable for the pet.

When you take a dog’s temperature rectally, the pet will react by attempting to lower his tail between his legs and he will try to lower his rear end in an attempt to sit. Therefore, you will need to position the dog in a manner that will prevent him from sitting.

Sit on the floor (for a large dog) or on the couch (for a small or medium dog) and position the dog so you’re facing his side. Position the dog so your leg is between his front and rear legs; gently raise your leg if the dog tries to sit.

Turn on the thermometer and insert it rectally. Be prepared that your dog may startle. It can help to have a second person available to comfort and soothe the pet. Remove the thermometer when it beeps to indicate that it has obtained a reading.

Discard the plastic sleeve and disinfect the thermometer with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. You can also wash the thermometer tip while you’re washing your hands with antibacterial soap, though you must use caution to avoid getting water on the base of the thermometer.

Remember to praise your dog and offer a small reward. Also, record the dog’s temperature in your pet’s health notebook. Indicate the date and time that you took the temperature too. Take a reading every six hours if you’re monitoring your pet’s condition.

A normal dog temperature is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Notably, when you take the dog’s temperature is important and it can dramatically affect the reading. Read PetLvr’s related article titled “What is a Normal Dog’s Temperature?” for more information.

Photo Source: Camila Dequech via

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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