The normal temperature of a dog is higher than a human. It is not surprising considering dogs and humans differ a lot in terms of bodily functions. For instance, where humans can digest all kinds of meats and vegetables, dogs can’t. And it is these differences that make them hotter than us, both literally and figuratively.
Okay, bodily functions are responsible for this rise in temperature but how do we measure it? And more importantly, what is a dog’s normal body temperature? Just scroll a wee bit more to find out.
What Is a Dog's Normal Body Temperature?
The normal temperature of a dog lies somewhere between 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are blessed with the metric system, that comes out to be 38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius. That said, the normal temperature varies between different dogs. This can happen due to the difference in diets, activity levels, and breed types. So, don’t worry if your dog is slightly colder or hotter than the temperatures mentioned here.
However, if your dog’s temperature increases beyond 104F (40C) and decreases below 99F (37.22) visit your vet, asap. Plus, it is not always possible to manually measure your dog’s temperature. So, keep an eye out for the following signs:
- Dogs suffering from low body temperatures have reduced energy levels. They also shiver
- Dogs that have an abnormally high temperature can also display low energy levels. These dogs pant and breathe heavily in a bid to lower their body temperature
These signs are not associated with high and low body temperatures alone. But they can serve as a good indicator that something is not right, and that it’s time to call the vet.
How Can I Take My Dog's Temperature?
Taking your dog’s temperature is not easy. So, it is best to leave it to professionals. With the disclaimer out of the way, here is how you can do it:
- Take a rectal dog thermometer and calibrate it by shaking it. After that, hold your dog down, lubricate the tip of the thermometer and slowly insert it into the rectum of your dog. Leave it there for two minutes. Now, slowly pull it out, wipe it clean, and note the temperature
- Start the thermometer and let it calibrate itself. After it has done calibrating, place the tip of the digital thermometer inside the ear canal of your dog. Once the meter is done taking a reading, get it out, and check the temperature
While using a digital thermometer is easy, the temperature it reports isn’t always accurate. The rectal thermometer is much more accurate. However, it is difficult to use, and your pet won’t like it that much either. All in all, using a thermometer is the only way to measure the temperature of your dog. And it is a difficult process. Therefore, it is best if you leave it to your vet.
What Causes a Dog's Temperature to Be High or Low?
The appearance of Hypothermia (low temperature) and Hyperthermia (high temperature) in dogs has many possible causes. Temperature changes are almost always in response to some external agents. These agents can be extreme weather conditions, vaccines, bacteria, and change in activity levels.
Vaccination is a procedure that almost every pet dog goes through. Through the introduction of weakened diseases causing germs, a vaccine prepares your dog against future infections. While there is no doubt that vaccines work, vaccines are essentially germs that your dog’s immune system tries to fight against. And this can have mild side effects.
One of the major side effects of vaccination is an uptick in your dog’s temperature. However, you shouldn’t be afraid of this rise in temperature as this indicates that your dog’s immune system is doing its job. The fever returns to normal after a few days if not hours. That said, you should reach out to your vet if the fever persists beyond a few days.
For the most part, a dog’s immune response works just like ours. That means, whenever a foreign particle/agent tries to invade the body, the immune system works to deal with it. Sometimes this involves raising the temperature of the body.
Toxins such as Garlic can cause such a reaction in your dog’s body. So, if your dog’s temperature suddenly rises, chances are quite high that he ate something bad. For instance, low-quality dog food can contain toxins such as onion powder to enhance the flavor. Now, you know why feeding a low-quality diet is a bad idea.
Exposure to Extreme Weathers
This need not be said but: Protect your dog from extreme weather conditions. More often than not, Hyperthermia and Hypothermia are the results of irresponsible pet-parenting. When you allow your pet to roam outside when the weather is not kind, expect him to suffer. And it doesn’t take a lot for dogs to suffer.
For instance, Huskies can develop hyperthermia if the temperature is above 0F. So, a Husky can overheat pretty much everywhere. Think, what a heatstroke in summer will look like to your dog? You need a way to keep your dog safe from the harsh weather. The simplest way to do that is to keep him indoors. But how do you keep a dog that loves to go out indoors? You use dog flaps.
Dog flaps make it easier for your dog to get inside the house if things go bad outside. This way you won’t have to worry about leaving your dog outside as he can always get in. Plus, dog flaps come in a variety of shapes and sizes. So, for the people who are hesitant to install a dog flap due to possible security risks, you can choose something smaller and thus harder for people to break in through.
Another, mild but possible, cause of hypothermia is Hypothyroidism. It is a condition in which the thyroid glands don’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones maintain several important bodily functions such as metabolism. A lack of thyroid hormones can result in low energy levels which coincide with cold temperatures.
Additionally, due to the reduction in metabolic activity, a dog suffering from Hypothyroidism won’t be able to generate enough heat. This lack of heat can result in hypothermia.
Hypothyroidism can also be due to thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer, although rare, does affect dogs and it is something you shouldn’t overlook. In short, if you notice your dog has a low temperature and is lethargic, let your vet know.
Just like a human body, the fluctuations in temperatures in your dog’s body can be the result of an infection. Here is why your dog’s body heats up during an infection:
When a virus or bacteria attacks the body, the immune system raises the temperature to kill these pathogens. Because these pathogens can’t survive at elevated temperatures, a fever makes the job of the immune system easier.
Most fevers that are the result of infection will subside on their own. But if your dog still has a fever even after a couple of days, call your vet about the situation. Your vet will most likely prescribe your dog some fever medicine. Don’t worry if your dog has a fever. Just be vigilant.
What to Do if a Dog's Temperature Is Abnormal?
The first thing you need to do in case of an abnormal temperature is to double-check the temperature. Sometimes your dog’s abnormal temperature is temporary. In such cases, the body regulates the temperature on its own.
However, once you have confirmed that the temperature will not go down on its own, you need to act.
Things to Do in Case of Hyperthermia
Before we dive into this, remember: If your dog has an abnormally high temperature for more than two days, you need to get him to a vet asap. However, when the fever is not high, and it has only been a short time, you can try to decrease your dog’s temperature at home. Here are a few things that you can do:
- Wet his paws and ear with cool water. You can use a towel or a washcloth for this
- Try to make him drink some water. Water will help cool his body down
You can stop with the water when the temperature reaches its normal level.
Things to Do in Case of Hypothermia
Hypothermia is arguably more dangerous than a fever. In cases where a dog has a severe case of hypothermia, the damage can be permanent.
That said, you can prevent these severe cases by making sure your dog stays warm when battling a mild hypothermic condition. Here is what you can do when your dog is feeling cold:
- Warm him with blankets
- Steadily warm your dog by using hot water bottles
Remember that severe hypothermia is lethal. If you notice excessive shivering and temperature that won’t go down, no matter what you do, it is time to pay a visit to the vet. Failing to get proper medical attention, in this case, can result in irreversible damage to your dog.
Does a Dog's Temperature Vary With Age?
A dog’s temperature varies with age. For instance, a newborn puppy can have a normal body temperature ranging between 95F and 100F. The temperature reaches the adult-normal after about four weeks. However, age plagues us all, and dogs are no exception.
Dogs get weaker and lethargic as they age. They no longer have the energy of a young pup. Their immune systems also suffer. And due to a weak immune system, dogs can’t survive viral and bacterial attacks as well as they used to. This is also why even the slightest temperature changes can leave your aged dog shivering or panting.
In short, dogs require much careful temperature monitoring and management as pups and as senior dogs. It is at these points when you need to be vigilant about the temperature changes in the climate around you.