Detecting a fever in dogs can be challenging. Here, our Redding veterinarians explain how to detect a fever in dogs, the causes, symptoms and what you can do to care for your pet.
Normal Vs. Febrile (Fever) Temperature For Dogs
A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 101°F - 102.5° F, which is significantly higher than humans, whose body temperature ranges from 97.6° - 99.6° F.
A temperature of more than 103° F is considered a dog fever. When temperatures reach 106° F, serious and fatal complications can occur.
How To Know If Your Dog Has A Fever
Because a dog's body temperature can easily increase when they are very excited or stressed and vary throughout the day, it can be difficult to detect when they have a fever. Therefore, it is important to understand your dog’s healthy temperature, which you can determine by noting your dog's temperature at various times of the day, for several days.
Some people believe that if you feel your dog’s nose and if it’s wet and cold your dog’s temperature is fine, and if it is hot and dry it means a fever. This is not, however, an accurate indicator of a fever in your dog.
The best way to check your dog’s temperature is to use a digital thermometer for rectal use, some pet stores carry thermometers made just for pets. It is recommended that you keep a separate thermometer just for your dog and store it where you keep your dog’s supplies.
Start by lubricating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum or water-soluble lubricant. Then lift your dog’s tail up and to the side and carefully insert the thermometer about 1 inch into your dog’s rectum. If possible, have a second person assist you by holding under the dog’s hind legs to prevent your dog from sitting. Once the thermometer temperature has registered you can carefully remove the thermometer.
Causes Of Fever
There are a variety of infections, illnesses, or conditions that can cause a fever in your dog, including:
- Infection (bacterial, viral, or fungal)
- Ear infection
- An infected bite, scratch, or cut
- Tooth infection or abscess
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Ingestion of poisonous materials (e.g. toxic plants, human medications, or human foods harmful to dogs)
In some cases, the causes of a dog’s fever cannot be readily determined, which is when the condition is referred to as a fever of unknown origin or FUO. In these cases, a fever could be caused by underlying disorders of the immune system, bone marrow problems, or cancer.
Symptoms Of Fever In Dogs
If there is a significant change in the way your dog is acting, this is your first sign that your dog is not feeling well. Keep a close eye on your dog and take note of its symptoms. Any combination of the following symptoms is a good indication that you should check your dog’s temperature.
The most common symptoms of a fever in dogs are:
- Red or glassy-looking eyes
- Warm ears and/or nose
- Runny nose
- Decreased energy
- Loss of appetite
Caring For A Dog With Fever
If your dog’s fever is 106° F or more, get your dog to a nearby veterinary emergency clinic right away, as this could quickly become dangerous.
If your dog has a fever of 103° F or more, you can help to cool your dog’s body temperature by applying cool water with a soaked towel or cloth to your dog's ears and paws and running a fan near your dog. Stop applying the water when your dog’s temperature drops below 103° F. Continue to monitor your dog closely to ensure that the fever doesn’t return.
Try to coax your dog to drink small amounts of water to stay hydrated, but don’t force your dog to drink.
It is important to never give your dog human medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications can be poisonous to your dog and cause serious injury or death.
If your dog exhibits any other symptoms, such as shivering, panting, and vomiting you should consider taking your dog to the vet.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.