How to Take Your Dog's Or Cat's Temperature

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Pet parents are more invested in the health of their pets than ever before, with many wanting to learn how to take a dog's temperature and how to take a cat's temperature. Veterinarians are delighted to see more pet parents actively engaging with the health of their pets, and most are more than happy to help them acquire this simple skill. Learning how to take a dog’s or cat's temperature is pretty easy.Let's look at the best way to take the temperature of your furry family members.

Why You Should Learn To Take Your Pet's Temperature

 

Cay lying beneath pink blanket next to a window with a wintery scene outside.

Just like with humans, the body temperature of a dog or cat can tell us a lot about their overall health.Although their normal body temperatures are higher than ours, it's easy enough to tell what's too high or too low.According to the Merck Veterinary Manual’s rectal temperature reference guide, the normal ranges are 38.1-39.2°C for cats and 37.9-39.9°C for dogs. A fever, or a temperature above the normal upper range, can inform pet parents of issues like heat stroke, infections or systemic inflammatory diseases.Meanwhile, a temperature below the normal lower range tells us they've lost too much body heat.They may be hypothermic (e.g. from exposure to the elements in winter) or possibly suffering from shock, low blood sugar, malnutrition or another severe system-wide disease.And if your pet is expecting, a modest drop in temperature can even let you know she’s getting ready to give birth to her babies!

When To Take a Pet's Temperature

Whenever your pet is lethargic, quieter than normal, or exhibiting a change in appetite or other normal behaviours, temperature-taking can be helpful.This is especially true for cats, who are notorious for hiding most signs of illness.However, it’s important to note that plenty of illnesses can present without changes in body temperature.Thus, you should only take your pets temperature if you are planning to promptly contact a veterinarian and discuss your concerns about your pets health.Taking your pet’s body temperature can help you decide if and when to contact your vet (an elevated temperature should always warrant a call). The temperature reading can also provide your vet with useful information about your pet’s condition.

In fact, at-home temperature-taking is so beneficial that it has become a common teaching point for vets and their teams. If you haven’t yet had a chance to learn and you feel you need to take your pet’s temperature, ask your vet for guidance beforehand This is for the safety of both you and your pet. If you are interested in learning this skill ask your vet about getting a tutorial as most are happy to teach you how to manage this safely at home.

 

How To Take a Dog's Temperature

Taking a dog's temperature is easy. Just follow these simple steps:

Person holding the head of a Jack Russell terrier lying on a deck.

  1. Buy the right tool: You’ll need a digital rectal (not oral) thermometer made from plastic to take your dog’s temperature.You can use thermometers designed for humans, which you can usually find at your local pharmacy for under £10.
  2. Restrain properly: Most pet parents will find this to be a two-person job. One person can hold their pet's head and keep their body still while the other holds up their tail. Some dogs avoid the procedure by sitting down, so you might need a third person to keep the dog standing. You can also use treats and toys as distractions.
  3. Take the temperature: After applying a pea-sized of petroleum jelly to the business end of the thermometer, insert it into the rectum (an inch is far enough). Then, wait for the beep (or for the digital readout to stabilise) and you're done!
  4. If your pet becomes distressed or you can’t restrain them safely, it’s better to leave the temperature-taking to the vet. Although this information is helpful, it shouldn’t come at the expense of safety and wellbeing – yours or your dog’s.

Looking to learn how to take a cat's temperature?It’s just as easy. The only hard part is getting your kitty to behave. Because cats are generally smaller and more resistant to restraint, cat caretakers may need to try a variety of inducements or restraint techniques. It might be helpful to have your veterinary team demonstrate the best methods for your cat’s individual size and temperament.

Things to Keep in Mind When Taking Your Pet's Temperature

When learning how to take a dog's temperature, or a cat's temperature, having the right equipment is essential. For example, glass thermometers can break and expose your pet to mercury and glass, and some older thermometers can take quite a long time to get to temperature. It's also critical that pet parents take their pet's body temperature from the rectum.

Although vets yearn for a less invasive way to take their patients' temperatures, non-rectal methods can be more difficult to interpret.

When learning how to take a cat's temperature, restraining your cat may take some time and patience. Watching online videos on properly restraining your cat can be helpful, but having your veterinarian show you how to do this for your specific cat remains your best course of action.

It's also important to note that some pets' body temperatures are naturally higher or lower than the majority. Even if your pet’s temperature seems normal, you should still contact your vet to discuss your concerns. Finally, it bears repeating that not all pets can be trained to accept this procedure. If it causes significant stress or compromises the safety of you or your pet, leave temperature-taking to the vet.

 

Contributor Bio

Dr. Patty Khuly

Dr. Patty Khuly

Dr. Patty Khuly is an award-winning veterinarian known for her independent thinking, her spirited pet advocacy, her passion for the veterinary profession, and her famously irreverent pet health writing.

Dr. K is an honours graduate of both Wellesley College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She received her MBA at The Wharton School of Business as part of the prestigious VMD/MBA dual-degree program. She now owns Sunset Animal Clinic, a veterinary practice in Miami, Florida.

But that's not all. Dr. K is a nerdy reader, avid knitter, hot yoga fanatic, music geek, struggling novelist, and indefatigable foodie. She lives in South Miami with four dogs, countless cats, two rescued goats and a hilarious flock of hens.

You can follow her writing at DrPattyKhuly.com and at sunsetvets.com.

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