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Many pets have warmer body temperatures than humans. When you pet your dog, you may think they have a fever because they feel much warmer. So what's a normal temperature for dogs? Typically, dogs have an average temperature of 101F. If you believe your dog is unwell, you can take their temperature at home to determine whether it's time to see your vet.
Knowing your dog's temperature can help you monitor them when they're sick. Remember, a fever is your dog's way of fighting off illnesses. However, if your dog's temperature gets too hot or cold, it could indicate a serious medical emergency.
That said, what should your dog's temperature be, and how can you take your dog's temperature at home to determine if they're sick? Keep reading to find out.
- Average Dog Body Temperature
- Unsafe Body Temperatures For Dogs
- Taking Your Dog's Temperature
- When To See Your Vet About Abnormal Body Temperatures
- Final Notes
Average Dog Body Temperature
So what’s a dog’s normal temperature? Typically, a dog's normal temperature hovers around 101F. However, the average temperature range falls between 99.5F to 102.5F.1Anything higher or lower than this signals a serious medical emergency. A fever — a temperature above 103F — can indicate infection, inflammation, disease, and even cancer in dogs.2
The dog's brain helps regulate their body temperature, acting as a thermostat to maintain a consistent temperature when they're healthy. However, it can also influence heat production, including heat loss and gain.2 For example, several factors can impact a dog's body temperature, including hypothermia, illness, heat stroke, and more.
Unsafe Body Temperatures For Dogs
Unsafe dog body temperatures are anything that falls outside the normal temperature range of 99.5F and 102.5F. Even a single degree above or below could indicate serious illness. Most dogs have a normal temperature between 100.2F and 102.5F.3
However, a dog's normal temperature ranges depending on their activities. For example, a dog lying in the sun may have a slightly warmer internal temperature. Because there's such a wide range, it's usually best to take your dog's temperature when they're healthy to determine their average. Some dogs may run naturally warmer than others, so what's considered a fever in one dog isn't in another.
High body temperatures
High body temperatures, also known as fevers, includes any temperature above 103F.3 Unfortunately, your dog can't tell you when they have a fever, so it's often one of the most inconspicuous symptoms associated with illness. That said, if your dog has a fever, it's highly likely they're experiencing other symptoms, such as:
- Warm ears
- Loss of appetite
- Behavioral changes
- GI issues3
Unfortunately, there are several causes of fevers in dogs, so you won't know why your dog has a fever until you take them to the vet for examination. For example, a fever may indicate an ear infection, upper respiratory infection, or urinary tract infection (UTI).3 It can also be a sign that your dog has ingested poison.
Additionally, your dog's symptoms may depend on the underlying cause. For example, if your dog is drinking a lot of water, it could be due to their fever or the underlying issue of a UTI. Conversely, if your dog is scratching their ears more than usual, it could indicate an ear infection.
Low body temperatures
Low body temperatures are any that drop below the normal dog temperature. There are several levels of hypothermia — mild, moderate, and severe — which can tell you when it's time to take your dog to the vet. However, all types of hypothermia can be dangerous, especially if your dog's body temperature drops below 99F.4
There are several potential causes of hypothermia, some more obvious than others. For example, cold weather can force your dog's temperature to drop too low. Puppies, seniors, and dogs with thin coats are the most susceptible to hypothermia due to cold weather because they can't regulate their body temperatures as effectively. Other potential causes of hypothermia in dogs include anesthesia and blood loss or health conditions that make it more challenging for dogs to regulate their body temperatures.
If your dog's temperature drops too low, they may experience physical symptoms of hypothermia, such as:
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of consciousness
If your dog is conscious and you believe they may have mild hypothermia, the best thing you can do is wrap them in a warm blanket and place a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel next to them before contacting your vet for the next steps.4 However, if your dog's body temperature dips below 97F, it's usually best to consult a vet immediately because they either have moderate or severe hypothermia, which can result in death.4
Moderate hypothermia can be treated with an external heat source, while severe hypothermia requires invasive core warming like warm IV fluids.4 If you're worried your dog is hypothermic, the best thing you can do is take them to the nearest emergency vet clinic as soon as possible for treatment.
You can prevent hypothermia in dogs by following a few winter pet tips. First, you should use your best judgment when taking your dog outside in the winter. If it's too cold for you, it's probably too cold for them. Instead, let them do their business and bring them back inside as soon as possible. You should also invest in a pet coat or sweater to help them regulate their body temperature more effectively.5
Taking Your Dog's Temperature
Taking your dog's temperature at home can help you determine if they're suffering from a fever or hypothermia, which could be a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, many pet parents think they can accurately assess their dog's temperature by touching their noses or ears. However, touching your dog anywhere on their body cannot give you an accurate measurement of their internal temperature, so it's always best to use either a rectal or ear thermometer.
We recommend a rectal thermometer because it's the most accurate. Here's how to tell if your dog has a fever or hypothermia:
- Grab your supplies: Apart from the rectal thermometer, you need a fragrance-free, water-soluble lubricant, towel, and tons of treats. We also recommend having a helper with you to hold your dog while you insert the thermometer.
- Add lubricant: When you're ready to begin, coat the tip of the thermometer with lubricant.
- Prepare your dog: Your dog will likely try to resist the thermometer, so you should hold them snugly with an arm under their belly to gently press them against your body. If you have a helper, they can hold the dog for you.
- Insert the thermometer: Gently lift your dog's tail and insert the thermometer about an inch into the rectum.
- Read the results: If you're using a digital thermometer, it will beep when it's done. However, if you're using a glass thermometer, you'll need to wait until the time is up before reading and removing it.
- Wash your hands and treat your dog: After the process is complete, wash your hands and reward your dog.
When To See Your Vet About Abnormal Body Temperatures
A fever is considered anything that falls outside the average dog temperature range.
Typically, anything above 103F is considered a mild fever, and you should consult your vet as soon as possible for diagnoses and treatment. If your dog's fever reaches 106F or higher, it's considered a serious medical emergency because that temperature can cause internal organ damage and be fatal.3 You should never wait for your dog's fever to rise that much. Instead, take them to the vet as soon as you realize their temperature is higher than normal because it could indicate a severe infection that requires treatment.
Hypothermia is a little more serious than a fever. Even a small drop in your dog's temperature can be dangerous to them if it's not treated as soon as possible. Therefore, if you notice a dip in your dog's temperature, it's always best to consult a vet instead of trying to warm them up at home because their symptoms can worsen quickly.
Contact your vet any time you're worried about your dog's temperature, whether it's high or low. Only a vet can tell you whether your pet's temperature is normal and when to bring them in for diagnosis and treatment.
In addition to your dog's temperature, you should consider their other symptoms. Sometimes dogs can get sick without a temperature change, so you should look for other signs of illness, such as:
- Lack of appetite
- Change in behavior
- Loss of consciousness
Remember, any temperature below 99F or above 103F requires vet intervention. Once your dog is at the vet's office, they'll try to diagnose the cause of the temperature change, which may include blood, urine, and other types of testing. Your vet will ask you questions about your dog's health, including recent injuries, ingestions of toxins, and so forth.
After your vet diagnoses the underlying cause of the fever, they'll create a treatment plan, which will vary depending on what's making your dog sick. For example, if your dog has an ear infection, your vet will send you home with medicated ear drops to treat the underlying cause and eliminate the symptoms.
Meanwhile, if your dog has hypothermia, a vet will determine its severity. Severe hypothermia may require hospitalization for a few days; this allows your vet to give the dog supportive care through warm fluids and monitor them throughout the process to ensure they're getting better.
Knowing the normal temperature for dogs can help you determine if your dog is under the weather and when to take them to the vet. A fever may indicate a serious underlying issue, like a contagious virus that can affect other pets in your household, while a drop in temperature may signal life-threatening hypothermia.
Every dog is different, and their daily activities may impact their body temperature. For example, your dog's body temperature will change when they're more active. A fever is a symptom, and it's usually associated with other symptoms. Conversely, hypothermia is a serious illness that requires immediate medical attention.
Don't wait to get your dog the care they need when they're sick. Worried about your dog's temperature? We can help diagnose and treat a variety of underlying causes of fevers in dogs and advise you on what to do when your pet's temperature changes. Try Dutch today.
Fielder, Susan E. "Normal Rectal Temperature Ranges - Special Subjects." Merck Veterinary Manual, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/special-subjects/reference-guides/normal-rectal-temperature-ranges.
Allen, Andrew J. "Fever of Unknown Origin in Dogs - Dog Owners." Merck Veterinary Manual, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/metabolic-disorders-of-dogs/fever-of-unknown-origin-in-dogs.
"Fever in Dogs: Causes, Signs, and Treatment." American Kennel Club, 26 Dec. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-fever-and-temperature/.
"Hypothermia in Dogs: How Cold Is Too Cold?" American Kennel Club, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/hypothermia-in-dogs-how-cold-is-too-cold/.
"Keeping Your Furry Friends Safe during Winter Weather." Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 23 Nov. 2021, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/20210129/keeping-your-furry-friends-safe-during-winter-weather.