Dogs are just like us in some ways – and I’m not just talking about how they look like us sometimes. As with healthcare, a puppy’s temperature is a good indicator of their overall health.
But what is a normal dog temperature? Dr. Chris Roth, DVM at Pets Best Pet Health Insurance, says a dog’s temperature is typically between 100 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher or lower can be a sign that something is wrong – though not always. Dr. Roth discussed all things dog temperature, including what it means and what to do if the reading is out of range.
Why can a dog temperature reading be out of range?
We often think of out-of-range temperatures as a fever. And they can be. But sometimes a dog’s temperature is too low.
“It could be hypothermia … if you’ve been out in the cold for too long,” says Dr. Roth.
If your dog has a fever it could be a sign of infection – but the key phrase here is “could be”.
“A dog could be overheated from standing in the sun, stressed, overwhelmed, or confined to a room with insufficient blood flow,” says Dr. Roth
How to Measure Your Dog’s Temperature
You can get an idea of your dog’s overall health by taking their temperature. You don’t have to do it every day, but Dr. Roth suggests taking it regularly with a rectal thermometer first.
“Take it several times so you know you are a normal dog,” he says. “If you then behave normally, healthy and happy, there is no longer any need.”
What does abnormal behavior mean?
Slow behavior is a sign of high or low temperature, and breathing quickly is an indication that your puppy may have a fever.
“You cool off by wheezing,” says Dr. Roth.
Photo: Getty Images
What to do if the temperature is too high or too low?
So you’ve measured your dog’s temperature and it’s out of range. Should you panic? Not yet.
Dr. Roth says you should call your vet right away if the dog’s temperature is below 98 or above 103 degrees. But if it’s just a touch out of reach, try again. Veterinarians do that too.
“You have to take that [dog temperature readings] with a grain of salt, ”he says. “If the dog is stressed out at the vet or the owners have been waiting in the sun, the dog may have 102.8 or so. We may want to wait a little and let the dog cool down before taking the temperature again. “
If your dog’s temperature is too low, Dr. Roth suggests warming him up with a blanket or a dog’s coat. Dogs with high temperatures can benefit from a room temperature bath and plenty of fluids. You can also blow them with a fan. Avoid giving your pup an ice bath.
“It cools you down too quickly and can cause shock,” he says.
If it’s repeatedly out of range, call your veterinarian for a checkup.