How to Take Your Puppy's Temperature

Female veterinarian holding a thermometer with a dog.

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Your puppy's temperature refers to the body's warmth as measured by a thermometer. A puppy's normal temperature is a few degrees lower than that of an adult dog until the age of four weeks. Learn how to take a puppy's temperature and when to be concerned about it being high or low.

Normal Body Temperature in Puppies

newborn puppy can't regulate body temperature and needs the warmth of its mother and littermates to stay at a stable temperature. The normal temperature for a newborn pup is between 95 to 99 F. A temperature lower than 92 F or higher than 106 F can indicate a health problem.

During the second and third weeks, a puppy's body temperature will range from 97 to 100 F. In the fourth week, a puppy will have the usual normal body temperature of an adult dog, from 99.5 to 102.5 degrees F.

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 the dog used to being handled so that when the veterinarian does this, your puppy won't be scared or object to this normal part of its puppy care routine.

Fever in Puppies

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 a wide variety of illnesses, such as parvovirus and distemper. Skin infections from a bite wound that causes an abscess or a painful hot spot 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.

You should seek a veterinarian's care when your dog's temperature is 106 F or higher. At that level, a high fever can damage the dog's internal organs and could even prove to be fatal. You can help reduce a dog's fever by placing a cool water-soaked washcloth around the dog's paws and ears. Don't give your dog any human fever-reducing medications unless directed by your veterinarian.

Low Body Temperature in Puppies

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. An orphaned newborn puppy should be kept in an environment of 85 to 90 F for the first few days, 80 F until day 10, and 72 F after the fourth week.

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 quickly if they are not offered protection from cold weather, which also can cause frostbite. If your dog has a low temperature, rewarm your pet slowly over the course of an hour.

How to Take Your Puppy's Temperature

You will need a human rectal thermometer to get a good reading. Ear temperature is unreliable in dogs, and checking the nose is simply an old myth.

  1. Use a rectal thermometer, either digital or bulb, to take your pup's temperature. Most puppies don't mind the procedure, but if your dog protests, be gentle and firm to get the job done.
  2. For bulb thermometers, shake down the thermometer until it reads about 96 F. 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 of the thermometer.
  4. Your pup will need to remain still for at least one minute, so allow your dog to choose a comfortable standing or reclining position.
  5. Use one hand and firmly grasp and lift the dog's 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. In some cases, it can be drawn too far into the pup's anus.
  7. Speak calmly to your pup and offer a chew toy or gently stroke the dog so it won't wiggle away. After the thermometer remains in place for the specified time, remove it, wipe it clean, and read the temperature.
  8. Clean and disinfect the thermometer after each use with rubbing alcohol or a comparable disinfectant.