I do so many things at home to keep my dog healthy. I choose her dog food and treats carefully, reading ingredients labels incessantly and being cautious about where they are made. I add healthy vegetables, fruit, eggs, fish and fish oil to her food. I give her heartworm, flea and tick medication. We get lots of exercise. We visit the Veterinarian regularly and keep up with required vaccinations.  I make sure she's brushed, ears are clean, and her nails are in good shape.  But I recently realized that I have never taken my dog's temperature at home. In fact, I had no idea how to take a dog's temperature myself! 

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How to take a dog's temperature


When my beloved little girl Phoebe was deathly ill and fighting for her life, the Vet constantly took her temperature. I knew it was vital that her fever remain within normal range. If she ran a fever it usually meant infection. Although her illness was severe and her vitals needed constant monitoring, it never occurred to me to take her temperature myself at home.  It was always something the Vet did.

Recently, my Husky Icy injured her paw very badly. We thought she had been stung by a bee (she's obsessed with honeybees in our yard!), but after nearly a week it was considerably worse. She apparently stepped on something that punctured a hole in between her paw pads! She was limping, not eating much, and seemed listless. I was angry with myself for assuming it was a bee sting, and angry at myself for not getting her to the Vet immediately.

Icy's paw incident happened only 3 months after Phoebe's lengthy, horrible illness and subsequent death due to a raging infection. I began to panic thinking Oh my God, Icy could have an infection because of her paw injury!  At that moment I wished so badly that I could see if she was running a fever.  It took hours for an emergency veterinary hospital to see Icy and check her temperature. 

Thankfully, she didn't have a fever. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and vowed to get a home dog thermometer so I wouldn't have to go through that uncertainty the next time she has an injury or illness. 

Icy is a Siberian Husky. We are very active with her and take a lot of long road trips, so minor injuries are kind of unavoidable! I have a great dog first aid kit, but for some reason I never thought to include a dog thermometer in it! Needless to say, now I do have a thermometer for dogs in our pet first aid kit, and I know how to use it. 

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If your dog appears ill, it helps if you know how to take a dog's temperature

A dog's normal body temperature (taken rectally) is 101 to 102.5 degrees Farenheight, a cat's normal body temperature is the same.  If your dog's temperature rises as high as 104 F, or falls to 99 F degrees or lower contact your Veterinarian right away.


There are a couple of methods of taking a dog's temperature.  The most accurate, and the one most Veterinarian's seem to prefer, is rectally. Taking a dog's rectal temperature is considered to be the most accurate way to measure a dog's body temperature. 

I'm far too squeamish to stick a thermometer in a dog's anus myself, so I chose a different option to see if my dog has a fever.

If you decide to take your dog's temperature rectally (rectal thermometer), follow the instructions on the pet thermometer's package carefully. You may also want to search on YouTube for videos on how to do it properly. Generally the steps to taking a dog's temperature with a rectal thermometer look like this:

Make sure your dog is in a calm state and not agitated. If your dog is stressed and jumping around it will be difficult to get her to hold still. You may want to have a second person there to help you keep your dog calm and steady.

 Be sure to use a lubricant on the lower 2 inches of the thermometer, such as petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) or baby oil before you insert it into your dog's anus. 

 Insert the thermometer slowly, about 1 inch into your dog's anus.  

➤ Wait the required time and read the temperature results. It should just take a few seconds to get results. 

When you purchase a dog thermometer, look for a digital pet thermometer that will show results quickly and has a audible beep when the dog's temperature is recorded.


If, like me, you don't have the stomach for the dreaded rectal thermometer to take your dog's temperature, you can take your dog's temperature under her arm. This is known as an axillary (armpit) temperature reading. 

You can take an axillary temperature reading with a digital thermometer. It won't be quite as accurate as a rectal thermometer but it should tell you whether or not a dog has a high fever. You can find an axillary thermometer for dogs at online pet supply stores.


I also found  non-contact Digital Thermometers for Dogs online at Target and Amazon. A contactless dog thermometer sounds like a great option to look into.


It's possible to take a dog's temperature in the ear, but most dog ear thermometers need to be inserted deep into the ear, which is as scary for me as using a rectal thermometer!  However, you can use a couple of the non contact digital thermometers to take a dog's temperature by ear.  You can find one of these online as well.


Very Important! A human thermometer would technically work on a dog, but it's not recommended. 

First of all, many human thermometers are glass and you should Never use a glass thermometer on a dog! For reasons that should be obvious, if your dog makes a sudden move or is able to Sit down on the thermometer while it's in the rectum, it could break. Broken glass in or near a dog's rectum could cause serious injury - and Ouch! it would be painful.  I shudder just thinking about that.  I suggest only using a thermometer specifically made for dogs (or pets).

Never try to take a dog's temperature orally! I don't know of any dog that can sit for even several seconds with a thermometer under her tongue. They would surely bite it, which would not only cost you money to replace, but far more importantly a dog could ingest dangerous mercury that might be inside an older thermometer. Mercury fever thermometers started being banned in 2001, but I know my Mom still had hers in 2016! Your dog could also choke on small pieces of a broken glass or plastic thermometer. 

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I'm so glad I chose to add a dog thermometer to my pet first aid kit! I think a pet thermometer is an important addition to my dog's first aid kit. 


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How To Take A Dog's Temperature

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FiveSibesMom said...

I would have been so nervous, too, with Icy hurting herself so close to dear Phoebe's passing. I sure hope her paw is healing well. I always had an ear thermometer in my First Aid Kit. Love all your tips here. I will be sharing! Big hugs to beautiful Icy! xo

Kamira Gayle said...

As a pet parent I had no idea you had more than 2 options to take temperature. In the past, I've seen my vet take my cat's temperature the traditional way (back door) and also using an ear thermometer. However, I was unaware of the armpit method and the touchless method. I think it's great there are more options now. Plus, I know our pets will be happy too. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips!

Kamira Gayle said...

As a pet parent I had no idea you had more than 2 options to take temperature. In the past, I've seen my vet take my cat's temperature the traditional way (back door) and also using an ear thermometer. However, I was unaware of the armpit method and the touchless method. I think it's great there are more options now. Plus, I know our pets will be happy too. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips!

LaylasWoof said...

I have like you a first aid kit but no thermometer and the last time I was at the vet they used a contactless one in her ear, i seriously need to invest in one especially as she is aging. Great post and reminder

Tail Wag Wisdom said...

This is terrific information on taking a dog's temperature at home. I am like you and would opt for the armpit option. I would've been a nervous reck as well with Icy being ill so soon after sweet Phoebe. I'm glad Icy is doing better. I'm adding a dog thermometer to Henry's first aid kit. Thanks for this information. I'm sharing it with my dog friends!

Beth said...

Our dog Sophie has a hot spot and I'm concerned about her. I'm monitoring now and if she stays the same I'll call the vet in the morning. (Obviously if she gets worse, I'll be calling the emergency vet.) I wish I had a contactless thermometer right now for her.

Britt K said...

This is so important! Your dog's temperature is often an early warning sign - of both minor illness and much more serious issues. By checking it regularly, learning your dog's 'normal' and noticing any changing trends, you can be far more proactive with your dog's care.

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