Dog Body Temperature - What is Normal?
09:15 - 17 January 2020
Sometimes our pet’s body can feel warmer than usual at a touch, but this does not necessarily mean fever. How do we know if everything is all right or it’s time to visit the vet?
A dog’s normal body temperature is generally slightly higher than ours: it falls between 38-39°C ( ~ 100.4 - 102.2 ℉ ). Just like in our case, dogs body temperature can change from time to time, caused by various reasons:
- breed, age
- the amount of physical activity
- the level of excitement or aggression
- changes in the outer temperature
- infection, shock, inflammation, vaccination
- accidental poison consumption and digestion
Apart from accidents and diseases, we usually don’t need to get worried, in fact, we might not even recognize that something is out of the ordinary with our dog. Nevertheless, we should pay attention to any changes as they could mean a problem. If the dog’s body temperature falls below 37.5°C (99.5℉) or it crawls above 40°C (104℉), do not hesitate to pay a visit to the vet! These changes could be a sign of a serious health concern.
A dog's body temperature can move in two direction out out normal values:
Hypothermia – when the body temperature falls and the body is simmering down. Below 35.5°C (95.9℉) there is little chance for complete recovery. Symptoms:
- cold shivers
- lethargy, languor, enervation
- tense muscles
- decreased activity level
- the dog feels could when touched
Hyperthermia – the body temperature increases. 40°C (104℉) means a severe case of fever and when it exceeds 41.1°C (105.98℉), there is a chance for the dog to pass out, the heat can put a serious damage on vital organs, which can be fatal. Symptoms:
- excessive panting
- widened eyes
- dark red or blue-purple, dry gums
- dense saliva, vomit
- confused behavior
- the dog lies down, has no power to get back on his feet or the dog collapses
- the dog seems hot when touched
How can we measure a dog's body temperature?
Urban legend has it, that just by touching the dog’s nose, we can determine its actual temperature. If his nose is wet, it could still mean that something is wrong. Likewise, if the nose is dry, we can’t state that he has fever. The only secure way to measure a dog’s body temperature is by taking it with a thermometer.
A good start is to purchase a digital thermometer at the local pharmacy. Try to choose the one with short measurement time (10 or 30 seconds, maximum 1 minute), the type with a flexible sensor on the end. Avoid mercury-in-glass thermometers as they can brake within the dog’s body at a sudden, unexpected move, leaving a serious damage behind.
When taking a dog’s body temperature, putting the thermometer into the ear can lead to false results. We’d have to push the tool way down to the ear-drum, the spot which gives a more punctual measure. Moreover the tiniest dirt or short hairs on the inner ear will also influence the result.
Practical advice to body temperature measurement
Call your dog to you using a calm tone. Place him in front of you, he could either stand or lie down – choose a position that makes him feel comfortable. Ask a family member to hold the dog’s head and neck gently but firmly. Put some vaselyne or soft skin cream on the metal sensor of the thermometer and place it carefully into the dog’s anus. The depth depends on the dog’s body size, so a few millimeters in case of a small dog or a puppy, and a centimeter or so in case of a large dog. Hold the dog and the thermometer still during the measurement time – beeping means, we are ready! Pull the tool gently out of the dog’s bum, read the temperature on the screen and write it down to remember it. Always disinfect carefully the thermometer before putting it back into its box.
What to do if a dog’s body temperature got higher than normal?
If the dog’s body temperature is slightly above the normal but it’s value does not fall into the danger zone, give the dog water to avoid dehydration. Do not force him, let him drink as much as he feels happy with. Never give your dog humane antipyretic pills as they can contain components toxic for our four-legged buddies.
In case our dog’s body temperature has risen due to the weather conditions (eg. summer heat) or exhausting physical exercise, act immediately! Try to cool his body down to avoid heat stroke. Take him to a shady and breezy area, lie him down and grab a wet towel. Wipe his legs, paws, ears and neck to help his temperature slowly decrease. The cooling process should always be done gradually! If a heated body senses sudden cold, its protective reaction will only lift the body temperature up and thus put the dog in a possibly life-threatening situation.
Our dog might seem happy, lively and pleasantly tired after a nice walk in town or the woods. However, it is a good idea to measure his body temperature every now and then to determine that he’s doing fine. Any troubling change could be warning sign to take him to the vet: a slight but permanent low fever can be a symptom or an infection or a chronic illness that’s been going on for a long time, like an autoimmune problem, cancer or tickborne Lyme Disease.
Guessing what’s wrong with our dog’s health is rather a waste of time – always ask for professional help when it comes to examinations and treatment options.
Index image source: kutyatanya.hu
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