Quite often I’ll be discussing the symptoms of a dog or cat, and the owner tells me, with very much concern, that the nose feels dry. Or that their nose is warm. Basically, if the nose deviates from cool and wet, it’s cause for the owner’s concern.
I’d like to relieve any anxiety and dispel an old wive’s tale. The feeling of a dog’s or cats nose is not a reliable indicator of health. At all. Sure, some dog’s with high fevers or even heat stroke can have warm, dry noses. I’ve also treated dog with high fevers whose noses were cold, wet, and “normal” feeling. Conversely, I’ve had many normal dogs (and cats) with warm, dry noses that were very happy and healthy.
So if that is not reliable indicator of a pet’s body temperature or health, what is? The most reliable means to assess temperature is the old-fashioned way – with a thermometer and some lube… up the bum. And yes, pay a little more for a 6 second or 10 second thermometer. When you’re holding it in your (wiggly) pet’s butt, you’ll be amazed how long 10 seconds is… trust me.
So if you’re worried about your pet and you manage to successfully take their temperature, what does it mean? Dogs and cats run warmer than people. Normal temperature ranges from 100 to 102.5 degrees fahrenheit. Then you have the “grey area” of 102.5 – 103.5. It’s a little higher than normal. It could be a low grade fever. Or I’ve had many bouncy, excited dogs jumping around the exam room with temperatures in this range. High intensity aerobics can do that. Not sure? Try doing jumping jacks for 5 minutes and see if your temperature goes up – I’m sure it will!
What makes me very concerned is when the pet’s rectal temperature is 104 or higher. I call those the “for reals” fevers. Another cause of elevated temperature in this range can be heat stroke. Either way, call your veterinarian right away if you get this reading on your pet. Ignore the nose, trust the measured temperature.
So if you’r dog’s nose is not cold and wet and you’re worried, sometimes a simple (or not so simple) rectal temperature check can ease your mind… or bring a serious condition to your attention!