Can You Use Pet Thermometers on Humans?

Dog and Thermometer 2

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Searching for a pet thermometer in my house made me wonder about being able to save a little money and using the same thermometer I use on my dogs and vice versa. Is it safe? Would the results be accurate? 

Yes, it’s safe to use pet thermometers on humans as long as you haven’t previously used it on your pet. Though these thermometers would accurately take temperatures for humans, safety indicates never using a thermometer that has been previously used on your pet, especially if used rectally. And NEVER use a thermometer orally that has previously been used rectally (on you or your pet).


Why Are Humans Able to Use Pet Thermometers?

Many pet thermometers were originally designed for humans, so using pet thermometers to take human temperatures is not unthinkable. Again, just be sure you are not using the same thermometer (only the same type) on pet and human.

In unusual circumstances, like 2020’s Covid-19, when many supplies are limited and people may be unable to obtain a human thermometer, pet thermometers may be more available and work just as well for taking temperatures. Just buy a new one if you’re planning to use it on human subjects and be sure to put the human-use pet thermometer in with the human first aid supplies. Mark it “human-use” if there’s a chance it might get mixed up with your pet-use thermometer just to be safe.

Where Does a Human Apply a Pet Thermometer?

Pet thermometers are generally made to be used in-ear or rectally. A never-used pet thermometer can be used on humans orally, rectally, or in the armpit. Once a thermometer had been used rectally, it must be used that way from then on. NEVER use a thermometer orally that was previously used rectally (on man nor beast) as this can transfer bacteria no matter how much you disinfect it. Be sure to clearly mark “Pet-use ONLY” and store thermometers separately for human and animal use so cross-contamination does not occur.

Rectal thermometers are considered the gold standard for temperature-taking as this way provides the most accurate temperature readings. However, temperatures can also be obtained orally, in the ear, on the forehead, or by non-contact infrared depending on the type of thermometer being used. There are pet thermometers that have large screens, so if vision is an issue that may be your best pick. Be sure to get the type of thermometer which will be best for your personal situation. 

Dog and Thermometer

Best Pet Thermometer Brands for Human Use

Prices and types start at $1.50 for reusable and range from $10-12 for a basic rectal thermometer, $30-60 for forehead and ear thermometers, and up to $270 for non-contact infrared thermometers. For human use, the basic type will work fine (unless you’ve got a wild child that won’t sit still long enough for a reading) and can be used orally, rectally or in-ear and some on forehead. 

Below are three different model options that we recommend:

Vet-Temp Rapid Digital Pet Thermometer ($10.95 is considered a reputable brand with an LED screen, and which measures temperatures in 10 seconds or less. Vet-Temp Rapid Flexible Digital Pet Thermometer has a more flexible tip for comfort.

SANPU Digital Thermometer ($15.99 was actually made for babies so is gentle on dogs (and, of course, humans). It has a large digital display, provides readings in just 8 seconds, and is waterproof, 

Pet-Temp Ear Thermometer ($56.99 is easy to hold and comfortable for the dog (or human) and provides fast results. It is only good used in-ear. Since humans have ears too, just be sure if this is your choice that you use as directed in the ear.

What Makes a Good Pet Thermometer for Humans?

What makes a thermometer good with pets is also what makes it good for humans. If taking temperatures with kids, or where concern is high, a quick reading is paramount. We all like things to be easy to use and understand, especially in a health crisis where we may not be able to think clearly and don’t want to have to figure something out before we can use it. We want answers to be clear and easy to read and understand. It’s also important to make sure that the item used is clearly marked for the intended target so that no harm is done while trying to figure out someone’s temperature. We don’t want any cross-contamination so don’t use a thermometer on humans which was previously used on pets, and NEVER use a thermometer in the mouth which was previously used in the rectum as this can be dangerous. Yes, I’ve stated this multiple times because it is highly imperative to everyone’s safety.

  • Quick Tips for good Thermometer Hygiene:
    • Easy to use
    • Works quickly – giving a temperature in less than 30 seconds
    • Has a large, clear display
    • Clearly labeled “Pet-use only” or “Human-use only” and is not cross-species used
    • Is a pet-style thermometer purchased for human use and placed with human first aid items
    • If used rectally, only use rectally thereafter

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