When a dog is well, its body temperature normally hangs out around 101° Fahrenheit. A dog’s body temperature can fluctuate a couple of degrees in either direction and still be normal. For instance, if a dog has been out in the sun for a while, his temperature could rise to 102 or slightly higher.
Dogs have mechanisms that work in their bodies to keep their temperatures as close to a constant normal as possible. While they do not sweat like humans, they do shiver and pant to control their temperature.
A dog can become overheated or overly chilled based on its environment. Age, infections, and disease can be to blame if a dog’s temperature is too high or too low.
Minor temperature fluctuations can often be handled at home by owners. If your dog’s body temperature rises or drops dramatically, a visit to the vet is warranted. Should you notice any major changes to your dog’s temperature, talk to your vet right away to avoid any serious and fatal complications.
How Do Dogs Regulate Their Temperatures?
A dog’s body, just like a human’s, is designed to keep the right temperature. The main mechanism that controls overheating is panting.
Panting causes the breath to quicken, which instructs the heart to beat a little faster. Through the process of evaporation, heat is transferred to the air, and the blood causes the body systems to cool down. Dogs do sweat, but only through the pads of their feet. Unfortunately, sweating through their paws does little in the way of cooling a dog down.
On the other hand, dogs also have an internal mechanism that helps to warm them up when their body temperature is dropping too low. The hypothalamus of the brain causes the muscles to begin to contract rapidly, which leads to shivering. As the dog shivers, heat is released as a byproduct, causing the dog’s temperature to rise.
What Is the Normal Temperature Range of Dogs?
Your dog’s normal body temperature is around 101°, but it is also normal for it to rise a little over 102°. Your dog’s temperature should go no lower than 99°F. Going outside the normal range of 99° to 102.5°F means a dog is ill or their environment temperature is too extreme.
What If Your Dog Gets a Fever?
Your vet will likely tell you to call if your dog develops a temperature over 103°F, no matter the dog breed. Often, temperatures above 103°F mean a dog is fighting an infection, whether viral or bacterial.
Your dog may also spike a fever after vaccination or eating certain dog food. Many dog owners are surprised to learn macadamia nuts can cause an elevated temperature in dogs.
Dog fever will often start with panting. Your dog may become lethargic and refuse to eat or drink. If their temperature goes up too high, a dog may start to vomit.
What If Your Dog’s Temperature Drops Too Low?
A dog is considered to have hypothermia if its internal temperature goes below 99°F. If the body temperature of your dog is 82-90°F, this is considered to be moderate hypothermia. Temperatures below 82°F mean the dog is severely hypothermic.
Your dog may develop hypothermia from being in a cold climate . Hypothalamus disorders can also cause problems with body heat regulation. Puppies are prone to have dropped temperatures because they cannot yet regulate their body temperature.
Mild hypothermia will only cause shivering and stiffness. Moderate to severe hypothermia can lead to problems, such as reduced heart rate, reduced breathing rate, dilation of pupils, organ failure, coma, and eventual death.
What Is the Proper Way to Check Your Dog’s Temperature?
Checking body temperature is not uncomfortable for dogs, but they may not like it much. A dog’s temperature should be taken rectally. For the best results, use a digital thermometer because they work faster.
Rectal temperature is the most accurate way to diagnose fever in dogs. Lubricate the probe with petroleum jelly and insert the thermometer about an inch into your dog’s anus. Hold the thermometer in place until the digital unit beeps.
Pet your dog and offer praise throughout the check. Make sure to give your dog a tasty dog treat when you have finished taking his temperature. If your dog has a fever or his temperature is too low, act quickly.
How to Treat Mild Temperature Changes at Home?
Mild cases of hypothermia or fever can typically be treated at home with careful moderation of your dog’s temperature, symptoms, and behavior. Knowing what to do will help to bring your dog’s normal body temperature level back.
If your dog is overheated and running a fever, bring him into a cooler area. If outside, spray him gently with a water hose. Putting a dog in a lukewarm bath can help to bring down his temperature. If the temperature starts to rise and your dog runs a high fever, call the vet right away .
If your dog has a chill and his temperature has dropped, bringing him in and wrapping him in blankets is usually all that is needed. If your dog is wet, dry him with a hairdryer on a low setting. Keep a check on him to ensure your dog gets warm as fast as possible.
Signs a Dog Has a Fever
Dog owners must know the signs to look for when their dog has a fever. If you notice the following signs, check your dog’s temperature right away.
- Vomiting & Diarrhea
- Loss of Appetite
How Will Your Vet Treat a Fever?
If your dog’s fever is over 103°F, he needs to be taken to the vet right away. Because most high dog fevers are caused by illness, your vet will likely carry out diagnostic testing that includes bloodwork. Your pet can be treated with many antibiotics, including Clavacillin for dogs.
Do Not Panic
A dog’s fever or mild hypothermia is not always alarming. If you notice your dog has a fever, try not to panic. Monitor your dog’s temperature, and take the steps above. Call your vet if you are concerned and have questions.
FAQ Questions About Your Dog’s Temperature
Dog owners often have a lot of questions about their dog’s temperature and worry about health issues. The following are some of the top questions regarding a dog’s temperature.
1. How do you take a dog’s temperature?
To take a dog’s temperature, use a pet thermometer. Lubricate the probe and insert it into your dog’s rectum about an inch. You will need to make sure to hold the thermometer in place for one to two minutes until the thermometer reaches a final temperature. Make sure you do not insert the thermometer too far into the rectum.
2. How do you know if your dog has a fever?
Aside from checking your dog’s temperature with a thermometer, there are other ways to tell if he has a fever. Dogs that have a fever will often become lethargic. They may pant or shiver. Dogs with fevers may also develop vomiting or diarrhea if they are ill.
3. Can you use a human thermometer on a dog?
Although it is recommended to use a thermometer for animals, you can use one for humans. The same steps are involved whether the thermometer is a human or pet model. If you use a human thermometer, make sure to label it as the dog’s, and keep it separate from other thermometers.
4. Can you take a dog’s temperature with a forehead thermometer?
If the thought of inserting a thermometer into your dog’s rectum upsets you, there are other options. Some forehead thermometers work well at taking a dog’s temperature. Vets often use infrared forehead scanners for pets.
Keep a Check on Your Dog’s Temperature
Keeping track of your dog’s temperature is important, especially if it is showing signs of a fever or hypothermia. If your at-home efforts do not produce a change in your dog’s temperature, a call to the vet is warranted.