A healthy dog’s temperature will be between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result of the two-degree normal temperature range for dogs, it’s important to know your dog’s baseline — his temperature when he’s healthy. This will make it much easier to determine if your dog is sick.
For instance, if your dog’s normal temperature is 100.5 degrees, a reading of 102.5 degrees may be indicative of a fever (typically associated with an infection or virus). A temp of 102.5 falls in the “normal” range for dogs in a general sense, but if an individual’s “normal” is 100.5, this two degree rise can be significant. In short, knowing your dog’s baseline will enable you to detect illness much sooner; the sooner you begin treatment for an infection or illness, the faster the pet will recover. Prompt treatment is also associated with less costly vet bills.
Note the dog’s baseline temperature in the pet’s health notebook or in another location where it can be easily accessed if you’re concerned about your dog’s health. Take the pet’s temperature reading several times over the course of a few days to ensure that the baseline is accurate.
Tips for Determining Your Dog’s Normal Temperature
Keep the following points in mind when taking your dog’s temperature:
- Avoid taking his temperature after exercise. This will result in an artificially elevated reading.
- Don’t take the dog’s temp immediately after rest or sleep. His body temperature will drop slightly during sleep or extreme relaxation, resulting in artificially lowered temperatures.
- Take the temperature reading rectally. Ear thermometers are less effective in dogs and the typical reading will be a few degrees lower than the rectal reading.
Also keep in mind that certain conditions can affect the dog’s normal or baseline temperature reading. One example is pregnancy. A pregnant dog’s baseline temperature reading will vary according to where the dog is in the gestation period. In fact, virtually all female dogs will experience a 2 degree drop (or greater) when labor is imminent.
Age can also impact a dog’s temperature. Specifically, puppies tend to have a slightly lower normal temperature. A reading of 96 or 97 degrees Fahrenheit is typical at birth. The puppy’s temperature will gradually rise to the typical range of 100.5 to 102.5 within the first few weeks of life.
Since the most accurate temperature readings are taken rectally, it’s best to purchase a thermometer that can be used specifically for your pet. Purchase disposable thermometer covers. These thin plastic sheaths are placed over the tip of the thermometer and they can be discarded immediately after use. If you don’t have thermometer covers available, use a bit of plastic wrap or plastic from a sandwich bag to cover the thermometer tip. Wash the tip of the thermometer with soap and water immediately after use.
To make the process easier, use a bit of petroleum jelly to coat the end of the thermometer. See PetLvr’s related article for more tips and info on how to take your dog’s temperature.
For more information on how to determine if your dog is critically ill, read Should I Take My Dog to the Emergency Room?
Image Source: Andrzej Pobiedziński at Sxc.hu.