Canine influenza is going around in Ohio and elsewhere, and one of its key symptoms is fever. So how do you know if your pet has a fever? You may have heard the old advice to feel your dog’s nose if you suspect they have a fever. Common knowledge says that if their nose is cool and wet, they’re fine, and if it’s hot and dry, they’re sick. However, dog fevers aren’t that simple!
Fever (an abnormally high body temperature) can be dangerous for dogs. But it’s difficult to tell if your dog has a fever without taking their temperature. Because a dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 99.5-102.5 degrees, they always feel a little warm to us with our base temperature of 98.6 degrees.
The only way to accurately assess your dog’s internal temperature is with a thermometer, making it one of the most important tools in your pet first aid kit.
What makes a good pet thermometer
You may be wondering, can’t I just use a regular thermometer for my dog? Well, you can, but you might not want to.
The most accurate way to take a dog’s temperature is rectally. Yup, you have to stick the thermometer in their butt. And you probably don’t want to turn around and use that same thermometer yourself! Having a dedicated pet thermometer is considered best practices from a cleanliness and health standpoint.
A good pet thermometer will:
- Be easy to use
- Work quickly, giving a temperature within 10-30 seconds
- Have a large, clear display
You can use a human thermometer for your dog (in fact, we recommend a few below). Just make sure to label it for pets-only use, and keep it in a separate place from human first aid supplies.
And now, onto our top picks for the best thermometers for dogs!
1. Bargain Buy: Gear District Clinical Digital Thermometer ($10.85)
This digital thermometer has a soft, flexible tip for maximum comfort. It comes with a supply of plastic probe covers for quick, easy cleanup. Best of all, it’s fast, giving readings in just 10 seconds!
- Super fast, accurate readings
- Large LCD display is easy to read
- Offers Fahrenheit and Celsius readings
- Waterproof and easy to clean
- Loud “beep” may startle sensitive dogs
Most helpful review: “The flexibility and fast reading make it safer and easier than most thermometers.”
2. Best No-Contact Pet Thermometer: Mindsinglong Non-Contact Infrared Digital Thermometer ($29.95)
If you just can’t handle the thought of taking your pet’s temperature rectally, this is the thermometer for you. It works with a “point and shoot” infrared sensor that gives almost-instant temperature readings. Be sure to point the sensor at an area with very little fur, such as inside your dog’s ear or mouth.
Note: because it only takes their external temperature, this type of thermometer is not 100% accurate at detecting fevers. It’s most useful to take a quick scan to assess your dog’s temperature, and help you decide when it’s time to see the vet.
- Comfortable to hold and use (no insertion necessary)
- Backlit LED is easy to read
- Fast, point-and-shoot readings
- Sound can be turned down or off to protect sensitive dog ears
- Must be aimed at areas with little to no fur for most accurate reading
- Not as accurate as rectal thermometers; some reviewers note inconsistent temperature readings
Most helpful review: “My dog doesn’t even notice I’m checking his temperature so much less invasive! I really like how the thermometer can store readings that nice to see trends and changes from day to day.”
3. Best Large Display Thermometer: SANPU Digital Thermometer ($12.99)
This digital thermometer was designed for babies, so you know it will be gentle on your dog! The large digital display is ideal for people with poor vision. And it’s super-fast, offering readings in just eight seconds. Although it’s not marketed for pets, this thermometer is a great pick for taking your dog’s temperature internally.
- Super-flexible probe for comfort
- Waterproof for easy cleaning
- Comes with plastic case for sanitary storage
- This thermometer was designed for humans, so its automatic “fever” red light will show when the reading is above 99 degrees
Most helpful review: “Easy to read and can get results very quick.”
4. Non-Invasive Ear Thermometer: Pet-Temp Ear Thermometer ($37.95)
A rectal reading is the most accurate way to take your dog’s temperature. But for at-home use, an ear thermometer can alert you to a potential fever and help you decide when to go to the vet. This model is designed to fit inside your dog’s ear and measure the infrared heat waves emanating from the eardrum. Reviewers love how easy it is to use!
- Ergonomic design is easy to hold, and comfortable for your dog
- Very fast results
- Some reviews note inconsistent temperature readings
- Limited use, for in-ear readings only
Most helpful review: “I knew that being able to take my dog’s temperature was important, but in the past, I have often not done so due to the hassle of using the old fashioned, rectal, thermometer. This works great. Very easy to use.”
5. Best Bulk Buy: Generation Guard Clinical Digital Thermometer (3 for $24.86)
This digital thermometer boasts the same features as our other top picks, but you can buy it in sets of three. Keep one in your at-home pet first aid kit, one in your vehicle, and one as back-up just in case!
- Advanced microchip and highly sensitive sensor tip for fast, adccurate readings
- FDA and CE approved, free from BPA, lead, and mercury
- Soft, non-slip bendable tip
- 100% water resistant for easy cleaning
- Some reviewers question the accuracy
Most helpful review: “Our puppy actually didn’t seem to mind our using this thermometer at all. The readout was extremely fast, within 10 seconds, which is important when using it on our dogs, most of whom don’t like rectal thermometers.”
What to do if your dog has a fever
Whichever thermometer you use, if your dog has a temperature of 103 or higher, you should go to the vet right away. Fevers can be signs of infection, inflammation, or an adverse reaction to ingesting something toxic.
Your vet will conduct a physical exam, and potentially order lab tests such as urinalysis, blood count, or biochemistry profile. Fevers are common, and not always serious, but having a thermometer on hand will help you make the best healthcare decision for your dog.