It’s natural to worry if your pet is off-color. After all, he can’t tell you what’s wrong. You can only go by the symptoms he is displaying. Of course, your first port of call if you think your dog is unwell is your veterinary surgery. But in the meantime, you may want to gather evidence to give your vet as full a picture of his symptoms as possible.
One sure sign that something’s up with your canine is if his temperature is above normal and he’s running a fever. Here, we look at the five best thermometers for dogs that you can buy on the market, as well as offering some handy tips on what to look for; when and how to use a thermometer; and how to treat a fever at home until you can get to your professional’s surgery.
Best Dog Thermometers Buying Guide & FAQ
There are a few aspects to bear in mind if you’re looking for the right thermometer to take your precious pet’s temperature when he’s under the weather.
- Naturally, check the thermometer you’re thinking of buying is suitable for pets. Animals have a different ‘normal’ body temperature than humans, which we’ll go into in more detail below. Many cover both animals and humans; although for hygiene reasons, it’s suggested to have a separate unit for each species, at least!
- Take account of your pet’s nature and choose a thermometer that will cause him as little distress as possible. This may mean using a non-touch thermometer rather than one with a probe if he’s fussy about the type of contact you have with him!
- A waterproof design and backlit display are often popular options. The former prevents accidental damage and allows for best hygienic cleansing; the latter makes it a little easier to take a reading if you have a pet that’s struggling to get away.
- If you’re a professional in animal welfare, you will require a higher degree of accuracy than perhaps a pet owner will. Choose your thermometer accordingly.
With those factors in mind, we’ve rounded up the pick of the products in this category on the market.
What is a Normal Dog Temperature Range?
A dog’s normal temperature will fall between the range of 99.5oF (37.5oC) and 102.5oF (39.2oC). It’s important to remember that this is higher than humans’ average range, which for reference is between 97.6oF (36.4oC) and 99.6oF (37.6oC).
Any reading that you take that’s over 103oF (39.4oC) indicates that your dog has a fever. And if his body temperature is 106oF (41.1oC) or above, it’s vital to note that this could well be life threatening and emergency treatment should be sought from your vet. Excessively high temperatures can cause damage to the internal organs.
What are the Symptoms of a Dog With A Fever?
- There is truth in the old wives’ tale that a dog with a temperature will have a dry nose. The nose will also feel warm to the touch.
- Your dog’s ears may also feel warmer than usual.
- He may be listless, lethargic and lacking in his usual bounce. He may also be off his food.
- His eyes may look red-rimmed.
- Other symptoms commonly include dehydration, excessive panting, rapid heart rate, shivering, coughing and vomiting.
Different Types of Dog Thermometers
Standard glass human thermometers are not suitable for use on dogs, because they are not built to give accurate readings of canines’ higher temperatures. They can also be dangerous, if your dog suddenly reacts adversely to the process and the thermometer snaps while inside him. There are two main types of thermometer designed for use with dogs, which you can find online or in your local pet store.
- Thermometers with a probe that is inserted into either the anus (rectal thermometers) or ear (auricular thermometers). These are generally considered to offer the more reliable results, but can be intrusive and cause the dog to feel stressed.
- Infrared thermometers that work by being placed in close proximity to your pet, for example by their skin or the ear.
Thermometers are then described as being for rectal, axillary and/ or auricular use. The rectal thermometer will usually be the cheapest and is the most traditional option. It’s wise to have a friend or family member whom the dog likes to help with the process, as he may struggle. This is not only distressing, but can affect the reading.
Axillary thermometers take a reading from the dog’s armpit. They’re a fair option for dogs that won’t allow rectal temperatures to be taken, but will not offer as precise a reading.
Auricular temperature readings are taken from the ear canal. As they use an infrared beam to measure the temperature by bouncing off the dog’s eardrum, which is a fair way down the ear, you will need to buy a thermometer specifically designed for dogs for this purpose. Ones suitable for use in humans will not have a suitably long probe. This makes them the most expensive of the three options, but many owners may prefer this to causing their dog any distress by attempting rectal measurements.
The accuracy of the temperature taken depends very much on the correct positioning of the thermometer, though, making the rectal option – though the least pleasant – still the most reliable of the three.
What Makes a Good Pet Thermometer
The common features of a good pet thermometer are as follows:
- Taking a reading should be as fast as possible, to avoid upsetting your pet.
- The thermometer should be easy to clean, for hygiene reasons. It must be capable of being disinfected thoroughly before each use and afterwards as well, so that viruses, germs and bacteria are not transmitted onward.
- Accuracy, of course, is a critically important feature. This usually rules out older thermometers and makes digital thermometers the best choice. Older style, analog ones tend to offer less accurate readings, and when you’re talking about the difference between less than one degree in terms of sickness and health, results need to be as exact as possible.
Durability may also be a factor for you if you want to use the thermometer frequently, in the long term and/ or are in the canine business – a breeder or groomer, for instance.
Finally, you should take into account your own temperament and that of your pet before purchasing a thermometer and use that to inform your choice. Some dogs will absolutely not tolerate you taking a rectal temperature; some owners may be squeamish and unwilling to do it that way too! In that case, an auricular or axillary thermometer may be the better option.
Emergency Fever Reduction For Dogs: What to Do With a Fever
As noted above, if your dog’s temperature is 103oF (39.4oC) or above, it’s highly likely he has a fever. Consulting a vet as a matter of urgency is a must, but there are a few things you can do to try and bring his temperature down in the meantime:
- Dampen a washcloth with cold water and wring it out. Use the cloth to gently wipe the pads on his paws and his ears.
- Wrap an ice pack in a towel (so it’s neither too cold nor will burn his skin) and position it against his chest and abdomen.
- Place a fan in the vicinity. The cool air it emits will help.
Additionally, try and ensure he keeps drinking, as far as possible – place his water bowl within easy reach if he’s not moving around much.
Can I Use Human Medicines Such As Aspirin To Bring Down My Dog’s Temperature?
No, human medicines should never be administered to canines. In particular, aspirin and acetaminophen (analgesics such as Tylenol) are toxic in dogs.
Why and When Do We Need a Dog Thermometer?
As in humans, fever in dogs is usually caused by infections and inflammations. A raised temperature is a sign that your pet’s body is trying to fight off the invading germs, which cannot survive at higher temperatures. The infection or inflammation may be external, such as a bite, cut or scratch that has become infected; or internal, like a Urinary Tract Infection (a UTI). Other possible infections include:
- An abscessed or infected tooth;
- An infection in the ear or ears;
- An ongoing disease, whether viral or bacterial; or
- An infection of the organs – the lungs or kidneys, for instance.
In some cases, eating something your dog shouldn’t have ingested can also result in fevers. The types of substances that might be poisonous in dogs include:
- Particular human foods, especially those that contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener;
- Human medications;
- Toxic plants or plant-related material, indoors or outdoors – for instance, Lily of the Valley, Holly, castor beans, raisins and grapes, and tobacco; and
- Chemicals such as antifreeze.
However, this list is not exhaustive and you should make a note of anything out of the ordinary you have caught your dog eating recently and tell your vet.
Fevers are also among the side-effects of some pet medications. Moreover, they can occur after some vaccinations, usually lasting no longer than 48 hours. However, your vet will usually advise when prescribing medicines or administering injections if fever is likely to occur as a result.
- Do You Have To Take My Pet’s Temperature Rectally?, Pet MD
- Ear Thermometer Vs Rectal for a Dog, Daily Puppy
- Fever in Dogs: Causes, Signs and Treatment, American Kennel Club