Dogs come in many different shapes, sizes, and coat types. A dog's coat regulates its body temperature. The soft fluffy undercoat acts as insulation from heat and cold. The outer coat protects the dog from weather, environment, and in the wild, underbrush, and predators.
Our dog's wellbeing is our responsibility as owners. They are often considered members of the family, and therefore their comfort and wellbeing are important to us. Ensuring your dog is not exposed to extreme weather (too hot or too cold) will keep them healthy, happy, and less stressed and ensure a healthy, happy life.
Dogs can sweat through their paws, but it is not very efficient. They will pant to relieve themselves in hot weather and will find a cool place to lie down to cool off naturally.
We have an average body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 37 degrees Celsius) with an average range of 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 to 37.2 degrees Celsius).
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a dog's average body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius), so dogs naturally have a warmer body temperature than we do.
What is a high temperature for a dog?
A dog's temperature exceeding 103 degrees Fahrenheit or greater is considered high. A temperature exceeding 106 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to organ failure and even death. Accurately measuring your pet's temperature will help you know what to do and whether it is necessary to seek veterinary advice.
Taking your dogs temperature
Taking the temperature of your dog cannot be accurately measured by touching their body, nose, ears, or paws. Always take your dog's temperature when they are at rest before any meals or exercise.
A rectal thermometer is the most accurate method to take your dog's temperature. There are many digital dog thermometers available, including those with a soft tip that can give a reading within 10 seconds. Get assistance from another person to hold your pets head. Lubricate the thermometer bulb with baby oil or petroleum jelly. Insert the petroleum jelly covered bulb about once inch into the anus. Remove as soon as the reading is done. The one advantage to these thermometers is they are quick, so discomfort is minimal.
Suppose you think performing a rectal thermometer reading might be stretching the friendship or do not have anyone around to assist you. In that case, there are digital dog thermometers available that are not entirely accurate but may suffice.
Digital dog thermometers used to measure via the ears work by measuring the infrared heat waves emitted from the area around the dog's eardrum. Insert the thermometer deep into the horizontal ear canal and wait for a reading. If your dog has sensitive ears, you may need to perform a rectal reading. Always read the directions of your thermometer.
Do not use digital human thermometers - they are not recommended for pets.
If you get your dog acquainted with the thermometer over time, it will make them easier to handle. You will also be able to get an idea of their average temperature.
What Can Cause A Dog To Have A Fever?
The most common reasons why a dog may suffer from a fever include:
- Exposure to extreme temperatures for a prolonged period, including over-exertion in hot weather.
- Infection - bacterial, fungal, or a virus - check ears, body, and mouth (teeth) for infection, abscess, or a possible injury that has been hidden from view, e.g., between toes.
- Vaccination - it is common for dogs to have a 24-48 hour reaction to vaccinations - consult with your vet if this is the case.
- Toxins/poisons - consider if your dog has consumed a plant in the garden, nuts, chocolate, or medication. Consult your vet if this is a likely reason.
How Do I Treat A Dog With A Fever?
If your dog is suffering from hyperthermia (high body temperature exceeding 103 degrees Fahrenheit), try cooling them down as quickly as possible. Have them stand in water, cool them with a hose and wet towel (neck and chest), cool the ears with a damp cloth, and place them in front of a fan to speed the process. Encourage them to drink. Do not use ice to cool your pet as it may constrict blood flow and worsen the condition. Monitor them carefully until they return to their average body temperature, and the fever does not return.
If you find you are unable to reduce the fever or get them to respond to treatment or if they are displaying lethargic behavior, disorientation, impaired balance (cannot stand or walk), and enlarged/rolling eyes, vomiting, or diarrhea, seek immediate veterinary advice.
What causes a dog's temperature to be low?
Dogs without a thick fur coat may suffer in winter, particularly if you live in a cold climate where snow and ice are all part of your environment. This is particularly true of Italian Greyhounds, Whippets, and Greyhounds. These breeds have very little body fat to keep them warm. Their naturally short coats do not offer adequate protection from cold weather. A dog coat will provide some protection when they are exposed to extremely cold temperatures.
The most common cause for low body temperature (Hypothermia) in dogs occurs if they have had an extended period of exposure to excessive cold, snow, ice, or water, or may have even suffered a traumatic incident or fright (shock).
If your dog has been exposed to extreme cold, they need to be helped to return them to their normal body temperature. If wet, dry them off and warm them up by sitting them near a slow, low heat source. If using an electric heating pad, heated dog bed, or hot water bottles, remember to place a buffer between the heat source and the dog with blankets or towels to avoid hot spots or possible burns.
If using any electric aid, use the lowest setting, and monitor your pet closely. Make sure you do not leave it on for too long. Check their temperature regularly until the dog has an average body temperature. Remember, dogs have a typically higher body temperature than we do, so don't overheat them. If in doubt, seek veterinary advice.