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Normal body temperature for dogs is usually taken as the mean of three rectal readings taken in a quiet environment, with a measurement every 15 minutes, beginning in the morning. The rectal thermometer probe should be inserted and then held in the dog's rectum for three minutes. In an ideal body temperature measurement, the thermometer probe should be held against the wall of the rectum so that the mercury will not rise. The thermometer must be left in the rectum for at least 20 minutes to ensure that the mercury has reached an equilibrium. The rectal temperature is then recorded as the body temperature. The normal rectal temperature for a dog is usually in the range between, but may vary by breed and may be as high as or as low as. Rectal temperatures in excess of are rare, but are often associated with illness. Rectal temperatures below can be associated with problems, but are more likely normal or slightly decreased. In young puppies, a normal rectal temperature is generally higher than in older dogs. It is believed that young puppies have a high peripheral blood flow rate, which means that the core temperature is higher than normal.
The dog's normal temperature is maintained in the normal range by the actions of two different mechanisms. In the thermoneutral zone the normal skin temperature of a dog is within the range of, although a normal skin temperature in the range of is sometimes seen. Thermoneutral zone is a term used to describe the temperature at which heat produced by activity is easily dissipated by conduction through the skin and hair coat. The thermoneutral zone can be measured with a thermocouple probe or thermistor, which is a device that measures temperature by using a resistance. The resistance increases as the temperature decreases. The thermocouple is attached to a thermometer probe or thermistor and placed next to the skin. The thermocouple is connected by wires to a recorder. The skin temperature is taken as the average of a series of skin readings, the first taken with the thermocouple probe against the skin, the next with the thermocouple probe at the base of the tail, and the third at the back of the ears. Skin temperatures are usually within the range of
A dog's temperature can be affected by a number of different factors, such as ambient temperature, stress, diet, season of year, disease, and exercise. Many of these factors can be avoided or minimized if the dog is taken to a veterinary clinic for a complete physical examination before starting any new exercise regime.
Heat loss through evaporation occurs when the dog is exposed to air and water, so the most common way to heat a dog up is to expose it to air by running it on a treadmill or putting it into a heated kennel. Heat loss occurs when the dog is exposed to water, when the temperature of the water is warmer than the skin temperature. A water temperature of should result in the skin temperature of a dog being within the thermoneutral zone. The dog's temperature will increase as it is run or walked on a treadmill for a long period of time, but will not be as high as the normal body temperature of a dog. Heat loss through evaporation is much more rapid if the dog is also exercising on a hot day or in an oven-like environment with little air movement. Dogs can also lose heat through sweating, but this is less common and generally requires exercise in the dog's own habitat.
An alternative to heat loss by air and water exposure is to heat the environment in which the dog is housed. This can be done with an air-conditioned kennel or by placing the dog in a heated dog house. The temperature in the dog house can be maintained at a constant temperature with an external thermostat or with a programmable thermostat, which will maintain a set temperature for the dog. The temperature can be adjusted on a weekly or monthly basis according to the weather. The dog can also be given a hot water bath or a bath of warm water to raise the dog's temperature and allow heat to be lost through the skin. This is particularly useful for hot weather when dogs have to be kept in a car or exposed to air conditioning. If a dog's temperature is not kept in the thermoneutral zone, exercise and/or other stressful activities will lead to a rapid rise in temperature. This can lead to an episode of heat stroke or even death.
If the dog is in a hot car on a hot day and the owner leaves the car unattended for more than 15 minutes, the dog can be put into an air-conditioned vehicle or into the shade of a tree. Alternatively, the dog can be left in a safe location until the owner can get to the car and take the dog out for short periods of time every 15 to 20 minutes until the dog's temperature is within the thermoneutral zone. This technique does not work well if the car or other location is air conditioned or if the dog is in an oven-like environment. The owner should try to get out and take the dog out for a short walk to allow it to release heat through sweating, although this is not recommended when the temperature is high or if the dog's activity level is low.
Heat dissipation occurs if the dog sweats on its own. The dog must sweat to lose heat, so if the dog is kept in a place with a low humidity (such as a car, truck, or oven) and no water or salt available, the dog may not sweat as much. If a dog sweats, the heat is lost through the air that it breaths, through its feet, or through the ground on which it is standing. A good way to encourage the dog to sweat is to make a game out of it by having the dog play in an open area or by having it jump through a hoop that is suspended above it. Once the dog is hot, it should be encouraged to exercise in a place where it can be exposed to air and where there is a lot of humidity (such as a grass field, open field, a shaded area near water, or a grassy area next to a dog house).
Thermoregulation in the dog