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What is a dog's normal temperature? How to detect fever?

It is common to wonder if your dog has a temperature, especially when he seems down, has watery eyes or if he presents various more or less worrying symptoms. But in fact, what is the normal temperature of a dog and how to measure it?

The dog's body temperature

In dogs, a temperature between 38 and 39°C is considered normal. Throughout the day, it can vary without causing any concern as long as it stays within this range. Factors that influence temperature variations are, for example:
  • Weather conditions: the temperature is slightly higher when it is hot and lower when it is cold.
  • The activity of the animal: the body temperature of the dog increases during an effort and decreases at rest.
For different reasons, it can become abnormal (illness, intoxication, heat stroke). It is then either below 38°C or above 39°C. However, there is not always a reason to worry if the dog's temperature rises to 39.2 or 39.3°C or, on the contrary, falls to 37.7°C. It is enough that the dog has fallen asleep on a heated floor or on an icy tile floor for his temperature to be outside the normal range.

It is therefore always useful to look for associated symptoms that could lead to the suspicion that the dog is ill. In addition, it is essential to take his temperature at different times of the day in order to compare the results and draw the appropriate conclusions.

Hypothermia, hyperthermia, fever: what is the difference?

When the dog's temperature is below 38°C, it is called hypothermia. When it is above 39°C, it is either fever or hyperthermia, depending on the cause of the rise in temperature.

Thus, the term hyperthermia is used only when the accumulated heat is exogenous, i.e. produced by a cause external to the body. The term fever is used when there is an accumulation of endogenous heat, i.e. heat that comes from within the body.

Detecting fever in dogs: different methods

To obtain the most reliable results in 6 or 7 seconds at the most, we recommend taking a rectal temperature with a simple thermometer or with a digital device. It is simply a matter of inserting the tip of the thermometer into the dog's anus. For this, it is better to be two people to hold the animal because, although not painful, this act is quite uncomfortable. If the dog struggles, there is a risk of injury.

For nervous or aggressive dogs, it is preferable to use one of the following thermometers:
  • Ear thermometer: this device allows you to take the dog's temperature in the ear. The best model has an articulated arm that is perfectly designed to fit the dog's bent ear canal. The infrared waves emitted by the eardrum are then captured by the thermometer probe and converted in a single second. It is necessary to count approximately 50 $ for this type of device.
  • The infrared forehead thermometer: it indicates the temperature instantly. To do this, simply place it on the dog's forehead. This area being hairy, the result obtained is not extremely accurate.
  • The infrared thermometer without contact: it allows to take the temperature of the dog at a distance and memorizes the last 30 readings. You just have to point it towards the least hairy part of the animal's body or towards an ear to get a more reliable result. This thermometer costs around 60 $.
As a last resort, if the owner does not want to take the rectal temperature of his dog and does not have any other model of thermometer, he can ask the veterinarian to check during the consultation if the dog's temperature is normal or not.