If your dog or puppy is ill, you cannot rely on guesswork. As with humans, you need to be sure. Like young children, dogs cannot talk. They cannot tell you how they feel. One of the best ways to determine the severity of the illness is to take the temperature of the dog.
You cannot rely on feeling a dog’s nose or ears; you need an accurate measurement of the dog’s temperature before you can decide what to do next. Dogs will get sick from time to time, but you cannot rush to the vet every time your dog looks a little unwell. The only way to know for sure if it is really serious is to take the dog’s temperature.
Before you take the dog’s temperature, you need to know what the normal or standard temperature for a dog is. A healthy, happy dog will have a temperature between 100.5° and 102°F. This is slightly higher than the healthy temperature of a human.
A number of factors can cause a dog’s temperature to rise or fall. You need to be concerned and consult a vet quickly if your dog’s temperature goes above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) or drops below 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 degrees Celsius). At these levels, the threat is serious.
You need to get an accurate, internal temperature to know if your dog has a fever or not. Do not believe the story that you can determine the health of your dog by feeling its nose to see if it is wet or not. This is an old wives’ tale. The most reliable and accurate way to take a dog’s temperature is with a rectal thermometer. A digital thermometer is best, as it is much safer than a mercury thermometer.
It is a task that is easier for two people, if possible. One person can hold the dog while the other takes the temperature. If this is not possible, calm the dog and have it lay down on its side.
It is preferable to use a thermometer designed specifically for dogs, but if necessary, you can use a decent-sized human thermometer. They are relatively inexpensive. Shake the thermometer and rub petroleum jelly on it for lubrication. Lift the dog’s tail and insert the rectal thermometer. The depth you need to insert it depends on the size of your dog, but you need to gently push the thermometer in an inch up to a maximum three inches on larger dogs. As you insert it, slowly rotate the thermometer. Once inserted, you need to keep the dog relaxed and leave the thermometer in for one to two minutes or until it beeps if your thermometer has that feature.
When the time is up, remove the thermometer, clean it with a cloth, and check the temperature by reading the height of the silver liquid on the scale or the digital display.
Another way to take a dog’s temperature is to measure the ear temperature using a decent ear thermometer. If used correctly, they are extremely accurate. They are slightly trickier to use and more expensive than a normal thermometer but are less messy. The thermometer must be very carefully placed in the horizontal ear canal, and it is essential the dog is kept calm and does not move.
Often, a dog could have a very high or low temperature simply because of exertion and exposure to the elements. If this is the case, calm the dog and take action to cool or warm your pet and monitor it closely. It should return to normal levels within an hour or two.
If you have taken the dog’s temperature and it is very high or low, check the overall health of the animal. Look out for any of the following symptoms that are also indicative of fever or other illness in your dog: shivering, vomiting, fast heartbeat, lethargy, nasal discharge, heavy breathing for extended periods of time, and loss of appetite.
If any of these symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, consult a vet.
If the dog has a very high temperature, the first thing to do is to give it fresh water and encourage it to drink. Do not force it to do so, but if the dog is not drinking, try and squeeze water into its mouth or administer it using a dropper. Get the dog to a cool place and use a fan if necessary. Put a cool cloth or ice on the dog’s belly, ears, and paws to reduce the temperature if it is dangerously high.
Never give a dog medication designed for human consumption and consult your vet before giving it anything to reduce the fever.
If the dog’s temperature is dangerously low, keep the dog calm and warm it with a blanket.
If the temperature is extremely high or low and the above cooling or heating measures do not produce results, take the dog to a vet immediately. This is especially true if it is showing any other majors symptoms and is in discomfort. If the temperature is only slightly elevated or lowered, take the necessary steps to cool or warm it, keep the dog calm and well-hydrated, and monitor it closely. If after 24 hours the situation is not better, get the dog to a vet for expert treatment.
Once again, do not rely on feeling the dog’s temperature by hand or checking its nose. It is essential you get an accurate measurement using a thermometer. Do not ignore these extremes of temperatures, as it can cause serious and potentially long-term harm to the animal.