Taking a horse's temperature

Types of thermometers

Two types of thermometers are available:

  • Mercury bulb thermometer – cheap but easily broken
  • Electronic thermometer – more expensive but longer lasting and easy to read

You can purchase a thermometer from your veterinarian or chemist.


  • Stand to the near side (left hand side of the horse), close to the horse to avoid being kicked. Make sure the horse knows you are there.
  • Lubricate the end of the thermometer with soapy water.
  • If using a mercury thermometer gently shake the mercury down to the bottom of the tube.
  • Lift the tail and gently insert the thermometer into the horse’s rectum. Make sure the tip of the thermometer rests against the rectal wall (i.e. make sure it is not inserted into dung).
  • Hold the end of the thermometer to stop it disappearing up the rectum.
  • If you are using a mercury thermometer wait at least 60 seconds before removing the thermometer and reading it.
  • Electronic thermometers will ‘beep’ when an accurate reading is obtained.

Clinical signs of equine influenza are usually a sudden increase in temperature (38.5°C or higher).

Recording temperatures

A temperature chart (PDF, 46KB) for recording the temperature of a horse or donkey twice daily is available.