strategist investigates

Can Humans Use Thermometers for Animals? (The Answer, Say Vets, Is Yes.)

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Fully stocking a medicine cabinet is no small task at any time, let alone after a global pandemic wipes out the shelves of most pharmacies. While we have found that thermometers marketed to humans are sold out basically everywhere, we have noticed that thermometers marketed to pets — which look a lot like ones their owners would use — seem to be in plentiful supply. Dog owners have told us that, in a pinch, they’ve used human thermometers on their pets, which made us wonder: Could the reverse be true?

The answer, according to Dr. Stephanie Liff of Pure Paws Veterinary Care, is yes. “These thermometers can definitely be used for people,” she says. Typically, pet thermometers are either rectal or in-ear, but Dr. Jamie Richardson, the chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary, says that rectal ones are “the gold standard.” And even though they’re labeled as rectal thermometers, they will detect an accurate temperature administered orally to humans — just don’t use the same pet thermometer on Fido that you use on yourself, because that can spread parasitic or bacterial infections, according to Dr. Rachel Barrack, the founder of Animal Acupuncture. (Buying a brand-new animal thermometer for yourself, of course, would eliminate that risk.) And if just the thought of putting something meant to go in an animal’s butt in your mouth skeeves you out, Dr. Sara Ocho, a veterinary consultant for Doglab, says rectal thermometers marketed to pets will also give an accurate reading from a human armpit.

This digital thermometer from Vet-Temp, which Richardson calls a “reputable brand,” has an easy-to-read LED screen and can measure your temperature in ten seconds or less.

This Vet-Temp thermometer has a more flexible tip for added comfort.

This thermometer for horses will digitally read a temperature in just six seconds and saves your prior reading, in case you forgot to write it down.

While a little more expensive, this kit includes a thermometer as well as gauze and other first-aid items.

This kit, which comes in a handsome, water-resistant canvas bag, also includes a thermometer.

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Can Humans Use Animal Thermometers? (Vets Say Yes.)