Dogs are just like us in some ways — and I’m not just talking about the fact that sometimes, they look like us. As is the case in human healthcare, a pup’s temperature is a good indicator of their overall health.
But what is a normal dog temperature? Dr. Chris Roth, DVM, from Pets Best Pet Health Insurance, says a dog’s temperature is usually between 100-103 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher or lower may be a sign something is up — 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 might a dog temperature reading be out of range?
We often think about out-of-range temperatures as fevers. And they can be. But sometimes, a dog’s temperature is too low.
“It could be hypothermia…if they have been out in the cold too long,” says Dr. Roth.
If your dog is running a fever, it could be a sign of infection — but the key phrase here is “could be.”
“A dog could be overheated from being in the sun, stressed, overexercised, or confined to a space without adequate circulation,” Dr. Roth says
How to take your dog’s temperature
You can get an idea of your dog’s overall health by taking their temperature. You don’t need to do it every day, but Dr. Roth suggests taking it regularly at first using a rectal thermometer.
“Take it several times, so you know you’re dog’s normal,” he says. “After that, if they are acting normal, healthy and happy, there’s no need.”
What does abnormal behavior mean?
Sluggish behavior is a sign of both high or low temperatures, and rapid breathing is a cue your pup may be running a fever.
“They cool themselves by panting,” Dr. Roth says.
What to do if the temperature is too high or low
So, you took your dog’s temperature, and it’s out of range. Should you panic? Not yet.
Dr. Roth says that you should call your vet immediately if the dog’s temperature is below 98 or above 103 degrees. But if it’s just a touch out of range, try retaking it. That’s what vets do, too.
“You have to take [dog temperature readings] with a grain of salt,” he says. “At the vet, if the dog is stressed or the owners have been waiting out in the sun, the dog may have 102.8 or something. We may want to wait a little bit and let the dog cool down before taking the temperature again.”
If your dog’s temperature is too low, Dr. Roth suggests warming them with a blanket or dog coat. Dogs with temperatures that are high could 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 them down too fast and can cause shock,” he says.
If it’s repeatedly out of range, call your vet for a check-up.