How to Use a Dog Thermometer

If you feel your pet is sick, you may want to learn how to use a thermometer.

Knowing how to use a dog thermometer can be important to identifying overheating or illness. By: Kenny.S/Flickr

The dog days of summer are getting earlier every year. If you are outside with your dog for any length of time, be prepared by bringing extra water and a thermometer to check your pet’s temperature if necessary.

Certain dogs cannot tolerate heat well, while even larger, outdoor dogs can even become overheated by exercise or exposure.

What are pet thermometers, and how do you use them? If you feel your pet is not feeling well, you can use a thermometer to find out the actual temperature, and this will be very useful information that your vet can use for proper diagnosis.


Purchasing a Dog Thermometer

There are many options, and many are more affordable than the mercury thermometers of old. A quick search (affiliate link) shows many digital thermometers under $10, ear thermometers ranging from $20 to $40, and even infrared and no-touch thermometers available. Whichever you choose, consider a few important factors:

  • The thermometer should be easy to use.
  • Discomfort to your pet should be minimal to nonexistent. With affordable digital thermometers, you shouldn’t have to consider holding a mercury thermometer inside the dog for minutes at a time.
  • Results should be accurate.
  • Make sure the tip is flexible and safe.
  • Ensure the thermometer is designed for pets or safe to use on pets. If you plan to use it rectally, check the label to make sure it is either designed or safe for rectal readings.
  • Check the battery and replacement options or warranty for longevity.
  • If the thermometer will be used rectally on the dog, label the case and thermometer so it is not accidentally used on humans.

A normal temperature for a dog is between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog is running a fever (has a temperature that is higher than 102.5), see your veterinarian to determine the reasons for it and get the appropriate treatment. A fever over 106 degrees is a medical emergency.

On your way to the clinic or hospital, keep a washcloth soaked in cool water applied to your dog’s ears and feet.

Causes of dog fever may include infection (pneumonia, encephalitis or fungal disease) or toxins. A low fever is also common after dogs receive vaccinations. Other causes of fever in dogs may be immune system disorders, bone marrow problems or cancer.

The best thermometer for dogs is a digital rectal thermometer.

How to Take the Temperature

Wondering how to use the thermometer and take your dog’s temperature?

Keep in mind, most dogs may not like to have their temperature checked through a rectal procedure. You will need to calm your pet first. Hold the body of the dog firmly, with help from a friend or family member. Having a person assist you in keeping the dog steady and calm is important so the dog doesn’t move, struggle or sit while the temperature is being taken. This movement can cause distress or internal injury.


Apply petroleum jelly or lubricant with a water base on the thermometer. If you are out with your pet and do not have any type of lubricant, water or human saliva can be used if necessary. Lift the tail and slowly insert the thermometer into the rectum. Make sure to insert only the tip or a metal-covered portion of the thermometer. This section will record the temperature; placing the thermometer too far in may cause injury to your pet.

Hold the thermometer in place until you hear it beep. If you do not hear a beep after 30 seconds, you may need to reset the thermometer and try again (or check the battery). If you are still unsuccessful, try another thermometer or bring your dog to the vet for examination.

This video shows a veterinarian demonstrating how to take a rectal temperature:

Ear Thermometer

You can also check your pet’s temperature using an ear thermometer. The ear drum is among the best places for this purpose as it will give correct brain blood temperature. Use an ear thermometer that is specifically made for use in canines.

It may be a good idea to use both a rectal and an ear thermometer to check the temperature initially, so that you are able to determine the correct reading. If you find that the temperature is above normal, take your pet to the vet. Also, contact your vet if the temperature falls below normal. Both situations are an indication that your pet may be suffering from illness.

Knowing how to use a dog thermometer is the first step you can take toward figuring out what’s wrong with your pet. Keep in mind that not all pets will endure or allow this type of examination. If you experience aggressive behavior from your dog while trying to take the temperature, try another method (such as the ear thermometer or no-touch), or have the vet’s office check it.


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