How to Take a Dog's Temperature

Monitoring your dog's temperature can help you determine when the dog has a medical problem.
thermometer 4 image by stassad from

Taking your dog’s temperature can be a vital step in determining the status of the dog's overall health. A high temperature can indicate a fever or heat stroke, while a low temperature may be a sign of shock. If you call your veterinarian with questions about your dog, often the first question the vet will ask, to help her in assessing the animal's condition, is what is your pet’s temperature. While people often feel uncomfortable with the process of taking a dog's temperature at first, the task is a quick procedure that is easy to learn.

Rectal Temperature

Step 1

Wipe off the rectal thermometer with a cotton ball saturated in alcohol. This removes germs and contaminants, and ensures that the thermometer is clean and ready to use.

Step 2

Shake down a mercury thermometer until the mercury is below 96 degrees. This will allow you to get an accurate reading of your dog’s temperature. If you are using a digital thermometer, turn it on.

Step 3

Place a small dab of petroleum jelly on the end of the thermometer. This lubricates the tip and makes the thermometer easier to insert.

Step 4

Stand your pet on a solid surface where you are comfortable holding him. Large dogs do best on the floor, but you may want to have a small dog stand on a table or other raised surface to make it easier for you to work with him.

Step 5

Hold your dog loosely but securely to prevent him from moving away or sitting. In many cases you don’t need to grip the dog tightly; rather, you should steady the dog and be ready to hold him in place if he tries to move. This step is much easier if you have a second person available to hold your pet so that your hands are free to take the dog's temperature.

Step 6

Lift your dog’s tail and gently slide the lubricated thermometer into the dog's rectum. It may help to twist the thermometer slightly as you insert it. Slide it in about an inch and hold it in place until the temperature has time to register. Leave a mercury thermometer in for two minutes, or hold a digital thermometer in place until it beeps.

Step 7

Remove the thermometer, wipe it off and read the results. A normal reading is between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If the dog's temperature is below 99 degrees or over 104 degrees, take him to a veterinarian immediately. If his temperature is just slightly outside of the normal range, call your veterinarian and ask for advice on how to proceed.

Ear Temperature

Step 1

Wipe off the tip of the ear thermometer with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol, or put a clean cover on it.

Step 2

Insert the tip of the thermometer into the dog’s ear canal. Keep the thermometer in the horizontal section, and don’t force the tip down into his ear.

Step 3

Wait for the thermometer to indicate that the reading is complete. Remove it and check your dog’s temperature. The ear reading should be between 100 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • If you think your dog is seriously ill, is in shock or may have heat stroke, seek veterinary help immediately. Such conditions can be life-threatening; any delay in treatment could result in a negative outcome.


  • You can use thermometers made for humans, but a pet ear thermometer has a slightly longer tip and is generally easier to use on a dog than the human version.

  • If you are just starting with an ear thermometer, take your dog’s temperature both rectally and in his ear several times. The results should be about the same. If there is a big difference, check your technique to see if you are doing something wrong. You can ask your veterinarian to show you how to take your dog’s temperature if you aren’t sure what the problem is.

Items You Will Need

  • Alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Rectal thermometer
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Pet ear thermometer


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