Yesterday a friend called my up because she was concerned that Lucy her Bichon was not acting right.

What is your dog's temperature?

I too have visited the vet’s office with my dogs with no other health symptoms than ADR or Ain’t Doin’ Right malady. I know my dogs and so does Lucy’s owner. Something wasn’t right.

“What’s going on?” I asked Barbara, Lucy’s owner.

“She’s just lying around and didn’t eat her breakfast this morning,” Barbara explained.

“Does she have a fever?” I inquired.

“I don’t know. Her nose is wet,” Barbara said.

“Take her temperature,” I advised, “and get back to me.”

“How do I do that?” Barbara wanted to know.

“With a thermometer,” I responded.

“What kind? How do I do that? I have a people one that you put under your tongue,” a frustrated Barbara asked.

Barbara is not alone. Most pet parents have never taken their dog’s temperature, would not have a clue as to properly do so, and do not own a safe rectal thermometer. Yes, I said rectal. For the squeamish there are digital dog ear thermometers available.

A digital dog ear thermometer

I happen to have a glass non-mercury traditional looking thermometer for my dogs. But for the novice I really recommend a rectal or ear digital device.
Everyone who has pets should have a thermometer. And, you should go out and purchase one and learn to use it before there is a need. It’s good to know what your dog’s ‘normal’ temperature is. A dog’s normal body temperature ranges between 100.5 Fahrenheit (38.1°C) and 102.5 Fahrenheit (39.2°C). Learn what your dog’s temperature is when your dog is healthy. Take the dog’s resting temperature a few times during the day so you can get some samples. Don’t take a dog’s temperature after exercise, when it is 95 degrees outside or after the UPS man has been knocking on the door. When you have established what your dog’s ‘normal’ temperature is write it done in your dog’s health records. Don’t have a little notebook to record vitals? Get one because my next few blogs will explain the collection of other vitals like the pulse rate and capillary refill time.

Let’s go over how to take a dog’s temperature…rectally that is. I believe the ear thermometer is fairly easy for dogs who are not ear sensitive. One of my dogs had severe ear infections when she was younger and now really does not like her ears fussed with though her ear condition has been resolved. So we do the rectal route.
Whatever type of thermometer you go with the first thing you should do is label it – with big letters somewhere K9 Thermometer. The reason for this advice should be obvious, especially if there are other people in your household.

Read the instructions on your thermometer. Save the instructions. Sometimes you may not find a reason to use it for a long time.

Always have on hand rubbing alcohol and cotton balls to keep the thermometer clean. And, if you are using a rectal thermometer, you will need petroleum jelly…known to most by the brand named product Vaseline.

There are a few techniques when it comes to taking a dog’s temperature rectally. If you have never done this before or your dog is snappy or skittish about being handled, you may want to have your vet show you how. It helps to have assistance if your dog is not used to the procedure. Choose an assistant who already knows your dog or an experienced dog handler. The assistant handles the front end of the dog and may be armed with some yummy treats to keep the dog’s attention on the taste buds instead of the back end. With the dog standing or lying down, lift the tail and insert the thermometer. Do this in a well lit area. I often use a headlamp so I have use of both my hands and a well lit back end.

Here is your procedure:
• Clean the thermometer with alcohol. Wipe off excess with a cotton ball.
• Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to the head or bulb of a rectal thermometer. Just enough to lubricate the tip.
• Slowly slide the thermometer into the dog’s rectum about 1 inch deep.
• Wait 2 minutes for a gradient thermometer or until the digital thermometer beeps.

Remove slowly and read the thermometer. Shake down the thermometer (or shut off a digital) and clean it with alcohol after every use.

If the temperature is 103º (39.4º C) or over, call your veterinarian as your dog could be beginning to have a serious problem.

A dog’s temperature below 99º Fahrenheit (37.2°C) and temperatures above 104º Fahrenheit (40°C) are considered extremely serious and your dog should be brought to a veterinarian immediately.

Barbara’s Bichon? Turns out she discovered that the kids gave Lucy an over abundance of forbidden treats the night before. As always I told her to call her vet for advice. Lucy was back to herself today after a fast.

Semper Fido,