Your dog’s body temperature is one of the most important vitals you should keep an eye on. Whether it’s higher or lower than normal, it can sometimes give you a clue not only as to how your pet is feeling but also if they might have contracted a potentially life-threatening disease.
In today’s article, we’re looking at what the normal body temperature of dogs should be and more, so keep on reading!
The normal body temperature for dogs
While the ideal body temperature does have an average, and that’s what vets and pet owners should be looking for, the fact is that it can vary a lot depending on a number of factors, such as the dog’s age and breed, along with the amount of strenuous exercise that Fido has recently engaged in.
The perfect body temperature of a dog is 101 degrees F (around 38 degrees C). However, the normal range is 99F to 102.5F (37.2C to 39.2C). Anything below or above those limits can be a sign that the dog is suffering from hypothermia or hyperthermia.
How to test your dog’s body temperature at home
There are a number of ways you can find out exactly how high or low your dog’s body temperature is at home. Rectal thermometers have the highest precision and accuracy, and although the process itself is definitely not something to look forward to, this is the method that’s most often recommended by vets.
Of course, if your dog has trouble with this procedure and you simply cannot measure their temperature rectally, especially if you’re all alone at home, you can use an infrared thermometer.
Digital thermometers of this kind should be used just on the inside of the ear, though, because you need to make sure that you’re measuring as much of your pet’s ‘internal’ temperature as possible. Typical auricular thermometers need to be inserted into the animal’s ear as close to the eardrum as possible in order for them to provide you with accurate readings.
If you can use a rectal device, it’s recommended that you take the measurement on the floor and allow your dog to lay on one side (or have a helper keep them or distract them so that they’re still like that for a number of seconds).
What to do if your dog’s temperature is too low or too high
The first and obvious solution is to get to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible. However, if your dog seems to be hypothermic for whatever reason, you should use a heating pad or fill up a few bottles with hot water, cover them with towels, and then place them around your pet’s body. Then, take your dog to the animal hospital.
Fever, especially high fever, can also be considered an emergency, and there’s no safe OTC medication that’s originally made for humans that you can use for lowering a fever in dogs or cats.
Therefore, try to keep your dog cool while you’re getting them to the vet. If your pet is undergoing treatment for an infection and they’re vaccinated, chances are that their fever is going to subside.
Causes of high and low body temperature
High body temperature can be the result of several different factors, and they can be either physiological or pathological. A higher body temperature is normal in the summer or after intense exercise. It is not normal in infections or thyroid pathologies, for example, or when the dog has ingested potentially toxic substances.
Hypothermia is obviously often the result of the dog spending time outside in the cold, but it can also be a sign that they’ve lost blood in the event of an accident, so their body is having a hard time heating them up naturally.
Mild hypothermia is usually treatable at home, but moderate and severe hypothermia almost always calls for veterinary assistance.
Fever and why it is dangerous
Not to be confused with hay fever, fever is associated with a wide range of symptoms, such as lethargy, depression, shivering, and loss of interest in food and water, along with other more specific clinical signs, such as coughing or digestive distress.
The most common cause of a high fever is an infection, but it can also show up in intoxication. Vaccinations can also produce a fever for a period of up to 24 hours, but it is typically milder in comparison to severe infections.
If your dog has a body temperature of more than 103 degrees F, it’s time to see the vet. While a higher body temperature means that your dog’s body is trying to naturally fight off the infection, this can also work to your dog’s detriment.
High body temperatures are incompatible with life, meaning that your dog’s tissues can sustain serious damage if they don’t cool down, and as soon as possible.
Hypothermia and why it’s dangerous
Hypothermia can be categorized as mild, moderate, and severe. As previously mentioned, the first can be treated at home, while the second and the third require medical assistance.
Some signs that your dog is hypothermic, besides the obvious drop in their body temperature, range from paleness of their mucous membranes or dilated pupils to an increased heart rate and depression or unresponsiveness.
Severe hypothermia can be treated with warm intravenous fluids and radiant heat. If your dog is out in the cold for too long, they can develop frostbite, and they can lose their toe pads, fingers, and in severe cases, even part of their legs. Frostbite can happen in the extremities whenever a dog’s temperature drops below 32 degrees F.