How to Take Your Puppy's Temperature

How to take your puppy's temperature

Cute puppy
 Holly Hildreth / Getty Images

Your puppy's temperature refers to the body's warmth as measured by a thermometer. An adult dog's normal body temperature ranges from 99 to 102.5 degrees.

But a newborn puppy can't regulate body temperature. Without mom dog's warmth, the pup's temperature may fall between 92 to 107 degrees. A body temperature either higher or lower than these normal ranges can indicate a health problem.

What Is a Fever?

Temperatures higher than normal are referred to as a fever.

Fever is the body's normal defense mechanism to fight infection because a higher than normal body temperature helps fight viruses and bacteria.

Fevers associated with infection may be caused by wide variety of illnesses such as parvovirus and distemper. Skin infections from a bite wound that causes an abscess or hotspot can also prompt a fever.​

A higher than normal body temperature can also be due to overheating during exercise or to exposure to high temperatures. Puppies that get sunburned or that suffer from hyperthermia/heat stroke will have an abnormally elevated temperature.

What Is Low Body Temperature?

Hypothermia is body temperature that falls lower than normal. Newborn puppies that squirm away from their littermates or mom can experience a life-threatening drop in body temperature.

Shock also can cause hypothermia due to a sudden injury. A fall, being hit by a car, or bite wounds are common causes of shock.

A drop in body temperature also happens with prolonged exposure to extreme cold. Hypothermia can kill puppies very quickly if they are not offered protection from cold weather, which also can cause frostbite.

Since normal body temperature varies between individual puppies, it's a good idea to know what constitutes your puppy's "normal." Taking your puppy's temperature at home also gets her used to being handled so that when the veterinarian does this, she won't be scared or object to this normal part of her puppy care routine.

  1. Use a rectal thermometer, either digital or bulb, to take your pup's temperature. Most puppies don't mind the procedure, but if yours protests, be gentle and firm to get the job done.
  2. For bulb thermometers, shake down the thermometer until it reads about 96 degrees. A digital thermometer won't need this but should be switched on.
  3. Use baby oil, mineral oil or petroleum jelly to lubricate the tip.
  4. Your pup will need to remain still for at least one minute, so allow her to choose a comfortable standing or reclining position.
  5. Use one hand and firmly grasp and lift her tail to expose the anus. Your other hand gently inserts the greased end of the thermometer about one inch into the rectum.
  6. Do not release the thermometer while taking the temperature, or it could fall out and in some cases actually be drawn too far into the pup's anus.
  7. Speak calmly to your pup and offer a chew toy or gently stroke her so she won't wiggle away. After the thermometer remains in place for the specified time, remove and wipe clean, and read the temperature.
  8. Clean and disinfect the thermometer after each use with alcohol or a comparable disinfectant.