Best Dog Thermometers & How To Use Them – Shih Tzu Expert

Best Dog Thermometers & How To Use Them – Shih Tzu Expert

Chances are, if you are viewing this article, you may suspect you have a sick dog, or you are researching overall dog care.  Either way, good job on being a good dog parent!  This article will cover the why, when and how of dog thermometers including reviews of the best thermometers and our recommendations.

First, why do you even need a dog thermometer?  Well, the short answer is probably: you have a dog.  But most likely you may be trying to weight the pros and cons of the expense of a thermometer.  Do dogs even get fevers?  Wouldn’t I just take my dog to the vet if they were sick?  And these are great questions.

The primary reason you should have a dog thermometer is because it is an important tool to help you determine the health of your dog and any changes in their well being over time.  Just as with humans, fevers can occur in dogs.  Monitoring a fever can help you determine if an animal is getting better or worse, or whether they need additional medical attention.

When To Use a Dog Thermometer

It really isn’t all that different than determining when to take your own temperature.  When you have a fever you will feel, well, sick.  The biggest difference is that your dog won’t tell you they don’t feel well.  In fact, animals will almost never “complain” about their illness the way humans do.  All this means you will need to be able to read the signs that your dog is feeling under the weather.

Here are some symptoms that will help you determine if your dog is sick:

Like many animals, dogs tend to appreciate routine and with consistent attention, exercise, and diet, their bodies will self-regulate.  Therefore, if any behavior changes occur, pay close attention.

Now that you’ve noticed that Mr. Rufferton is sneezing in between his longer-than-usual bouts of naps, you may need another way to tell if this is a sign of something more serious.   This is where the dog thermometer becomes a helpful tool.  By taking your dog’s temperature, you are able to determine the severity of the illness.  If they have no fever, maybe it is just a slight cold.  You may not even need to take them to the vet – simply monitor their health until they get better.

On the other hand, you may find that the cold your puppy is facing is a little more serious and has resulted in a fever.  A fever, while a natural immune response, can also be life threatening if prolonged.  It is important to seek the advice of a veterinary professional any time you are faced with a feverish dog.

How To Take a Dog’s Temperature

A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 and 102.5ºF (degrees Fahrenheit).  A human temperature range, by comparison, is 97.6-99.6ºF.  It is important to note this difference when searching for a dog thermometer because some of the more advanced digital thermometers may be pre-programmed to register human ranges.

The process of taking a dog’s temperature varies based on the type of thermometer used.  There are two primary ways to take your dog’s temperature: through the ear canal (in-ear) or through the rectum.

A note about calming your dog

Whether inserting a thermometer through the ear canal or rectally, it may still cause some distress to your puppy.  This is, after all, an unusual experience.  You can make sure you have the best success with taking a temperature by following these steps:

In-Ear Dog Thermometers

If you are using an in-ear thermometer, the good news is that it is less invasive and may be easier to use because of your dog’s comfort level.  However, it isn’t as accurate of a reading as a rectal thermometer, so you will need to follow directions closely.

Typically, an in-ear thermometer is a digital thermometer (vs. mercury).  Some digital thermometers need to be “calibrated” first – meaning, they need to be able to read the temperature around them prior to being inserted or used on the dog.  Typically these types of thermometers will use a laser or other digital reader to determine the temperature in vicinity or through an opening.

Once a digital thermometer has been calibrated, follow the directions for that thermometer.  In most cases, this involves inserting the thermometer into the ear of your dog.  Don’t use in-ear thermometers rectally!  They are not meant for this purpose and can provide an inaccurate reading, be difficult to clean properly, and cause injury to your dog.

Insert an in-ear thermometer into the ear canal of your dog and hold it there for the designated amount of time (this will usually be indicated with a beep).  While there is the argument that in-ear readings are not always as accurate as a rectal thermometer, the reading can be improved by following these directions:

  1. Calibrate the thermometer prior to insertion.
  2. Take your dog’s temperature inside, or in a warm space.  Avoid taking a temperature outside in cold weather as the dramatic change in temperature may result in an inaccurate reading or the necessity to keep a thermometer in place longer.
  3. Make sure the thermometer is fully inserted, but not pushed so far that you feel resistance (this could damage your dog’s precious hearing).
  4. Keep the thermometer in place correctly for the duration of the necessary time to take the reading.
  5. Take the temperature of your dog regularly, in intervals of 2 hours (especially if a fever is detected) to compare the results and rule out inaccurate results.

Once a temperature has been reached, write the temperature down so you can refer to it during the course of care.  If you register a fever (or if your dog is hypothermic, below normal) call your vet.  If your dog has a normal temperature but is still showing signs of illness, continue to take their temperature every few hours until they show signs of feeling better.

Once a temperature has been reached, write the temperature down so you can refer to it during the course of care.  If you register a fever (or if your dog is hypothermic, below normal) call your vet.  If your dog has a normal temperature but is still showing signs of illness, continue to take their temperature every few hours until they show signs of feeling better.

Pros and Cons of an In-Ear Dog Thermometer

Looking to decide if this thermometer is for you?  Here are some pros and cons for a digital in-ear thermometer.



Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons, if you are interested in an in-ear thermometer, here are thermometers we recommend.

Pet Clinic iCare Pet Infrared Thermometer

This thermometer is an ear thermometer, but can also be described as a non-contact thermometer because it does not have a protrusion that sticks into your pet’s ear.  Instead, this thermometer is held close to the ear canal and an infrared light measures the temperature.  It is a truly non-invasive way to take you dog’s temperature, without having to disturb them.

Consider this thermometer:

The drawbacks:

Pro Tech Care Digital Thermometer – Ear and Forehead Thermometer

While not listed as a dog-specific thermometer, it will still work for your needs.  This thermometer uses an infrared laser to gauge the temperature, both on humans and pets, and can be used in the ear or on the forehead with different attachments.  We recommend an in-ear reading for two reasons: 1) in-ear readings provide better accuracy because they are internal and 2) forehead readings are difficult to discern with a pet with fur – the fur will block the skin exposure needed to take an accurate reading unless your dog is very feverish.

Reasons why this thermometer is great:

Things to keep in mind:

Vive Precision Tympanic Thermometer – Digital In Ear Thermometer

This is another digital thermometer that doesn’t specify dog use but has all the features you would need to feel comfortable getting a reading from your pet.  This thermometer has an easy-to-use, one-button system with a quick read.  The digital reading on the front of the product has a blue backlight, which makes it especially easy to read in darker spaces or corners with less light.  It also comes with a zippered case for safe storage.

Reasons to consider this thermometer:

Things to keep in mind:

Final note about in ear thermometers

While recommendations for taking the temperature of a human child or baby may lean toward in ear thermometers (especially for babies, as oral thermometers can be dangerous), the common practice for taking the temperature of an animal is still rectally.  The reason for this is because the reading is more accurate.  Therefore, when looking into digital in ear thermometers, you may be exchanging accuracy for convenience.

Rectal Thermometers

A rectal thermometer is exactly as it sounds: it takes your dog’s temperature by being inserted through the rectum.  Rectal thermometers may be digital or non-digital.

Non-Digital / Mercury Thermometers

A mercury thermometer was an old-fashioned type of thermometer where the element mercury resides inside a thin, glass, cylinder, with markings denoting the temperature.  When the temperature rises the mercury expands, filling the cylinder to a marked temperature reading.  Mercury thermometers were fairly accurate when cared for properly, and used correctly.  They don’t require batteries and can be easily sterilized after use.

However, there has been a move away from mercury because if the cylinder were to break, the contents (mercury) is toxic to humans and pets.  If you have a mercury thermometer, we recommend researching how to properly dispose of it in your area.

If you prefer using a glass thermometer, there are mercury-free alternatives on the market.  Make sure that you find a thermometer that is intended to be used either orally (for humans), or rectally (for pets or babies), instead of for lab work or determining liquid temperatures.

Following the same steps above to calm your dog.  Once ready, position yourself at your dog’s hindquarters.

When taking your dog’s temperature rectally, it is helpful to have a second person involved, especially if you have a large dog.  Position one person at your dog’s head, to soothe the dog, and another person at the rear.  Rectal thermometers have small points, and are generally long in shape.  Use a small amount of petroleum jelly to lubricate the tip of the thermometer.  The lubrication is intended to help the tip by gently inserted into your dog’s anus.  Be careful, however, not to use too much or you may alter the accuracy of the reading.

If you are using a non-digital thermometer, shake the cylinder until the liquid is at the bottom of the glass.  If using a digital thermometer, turn it on and follow instructions to calibrate it if necessary.

When you are ready, hold your pet’s tail firmly in one hand at the base.  Be careful not to squeeze the tail, as this could hurt your dog.  Hold the tail out of the way and prevent your animal from sitting down on their butt.  It is preferable if they are already sitting on their feet, stomach, or lying on their side.

Insert the tip of the thermometer into your dog’s anus.  A slight twisting motion while you do this can help it insert gently.  You want to avoid damaging your pet’s rectum, so move slowly.  Insert the tip 1 inch for small dogs and up to 3 inches for large dogs.

If you are using a non-digital thermometer, hold in place for roughly 2 minutes.  Digital thermometers may get a reading more quickly.  This is the part of the process where you will want to keep reassuring your pet, who will likely be very uncomfortable at this point.  Say your dog’s name, stroke their ears and head, and try to keep them comfortable.  The key here is to keep your pet from moving.

Once the thermometer beeps, or enough time has lapsed, slowly remove the thermometer in the same direction you inserted.  Don’t bend as you retract and continue to hold your dog’s tail steady.  Remember: you can damage to your dog’s rectum when removing a thermometer if not careful!

After you have removed the thermometer, record the reading.  If the digital thermometer has the capacity to store the reading, save it, otherwise, write it down.  Writing down the reading is helpful for two reasons: our capacity to remember numbers is not as great as we like to assume; and you will want to take multiple readings and compare them.

Finally, release your dog if they have been hoping to get away and wipe off and clean the thermometer.  You know where it has been, after all.  Digital thermometers may come with instructions on how to clean, but we recommend wiping down, possibly rinsing, and using rubbing alcohol.  Consult instructions for details.

Pros and Cons for Rectal Thermometers



Looking for rectal thermometers?  Here is what we recommend:

Aurynns Pet Thermometer

Listed as a highly recommended pet thermometer, this device is specifically calibrated to meet the range of both pets and livestock, going up to 109° F.  While larger than most digital thermometers, this device is ergonomically designed to fit in your hand, giving you the ability to grip firmly and not worry about fumbling or losing position.  The bend in the design means you can hold onto the device securely with plenty of room for insertion.  Best of all, the reading is quick for a digital thermometer and you can be done in under a minute.

Why we recommend this thermometer:

Keep in mind:

iProvèn Thermometer (DT-K117A) – Suitable for Pets

Accurate and easy to use, this thermometer meets all the basic requirements you might look for in a pet thermometer.  It has a wide range of temperatures, perfect for capturing pet ranges.  It has a versatile design that makes following instructions (like ours) easy.  And finally, with a high rating, this pet thermometer has proven to be useful for many other pet owners.

Things we love about this pet thermometer:

It doesn’t include:

We hope these instructions and recommendations have been helpful for you in identifying how to use a thermometer on a dog, as well as which dog thermometers are the best fit for your household.

This content was originally published here.

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