Does Your Pet Have a Fever? Here's How to Know — and What to Do About It If He Does

You can use either a digital rectal thermometer or the old-school “bulb” thermometer, where you shake down the mercury. Digital thermometers give you a reading more quickly, so they may be the better choice with a fractious feline or cantankerous canine.


If you’re using a bulb thermometer, shake it down until the temperature reads 98.6 degrees. Lubricate it with KY-Jelly or petroleum jelly. If necessary, have an assistant distract your pet at the front end with a wooden spoon coated with peanut butter while you lift the tail and do the dirty deed. Gently insert the thermometer 1 to 2 inches (depending on the size of the pet) into the rectum, twisting as it goes in. Leave the thermometer in place for three minutes, which will seem like a lifetime to you and your pet. Remove it, wipe it off and read the temperature.

For a digital thermometer, read the manufacturer’s directions, then proceed as directed. In most cases, you’re going to insert it as described above.


If your pet’s temperature is higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit, he has a fever. Never give over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen to try to bring down a pet’s fever. Over-the-counter NSAIDs made for humans can be toxic and even deadly to cats and dogs. Instead, take your pet to the veterinarian right away.

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