Does my dog have a fever? Signs and what to do

Detecting a fever in dogs can be challenging. Today, our Rocky Mountain Veterinary Cardiology in Boulder explain how to detect a fever in dogs, the causes, symptoms and what you need to know to care for your pet.

What is a normal temperature for a dog and what temperature is a dog fever?

A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 101° to 102.5° Fahrenheit, which is significantly higher than humans, whose body temperature ranges from 97.6° to 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 can I tell if my dog has a fever and how do I take its temperature?

It can be difficult to detect fevers in dogs because their body temperatures can also increase when they are very excited or stressed. Also, a dog’s temperature can vary throughout the day and sometimes at night. Therefore, it is important to understand your dog’s healthy temperature. You can determine this 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. However, this is not an accurate indicator that your dog has a fever.

The most effective method of checking your dog’s temperature is using a rectal digital thermometer for pets, which is carried by some pet stores. Keep a separate thermometer just for your dog away from your human household medical supplies, and store it where you keep your dog’s supplies.

Start by lubricating the tip of the thermometer with plain petroleum jelly 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 moving too much or sitting. Once the thermometer temperature has registered you can carefully remove the thermometer.

Why would a dog have a fever?

A variety of illnesses and conditions may cause a fever in your dog. These include:

  • A bacterial, fungal or viral infection
  • An ear infection
  • An infected bite, scratch or cut
  • Tooth infection or abscess
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Ingestion of poisonous materials, such as toxic plants, human medications, or human foods that are toxic to dogs

In some cases, a dog’s fever cannot be readily determined; this is often referred to as a fever of unknown origin or FUO. In cases like these, they could be caused by underlying disorders of the immune system, bone marrow problems, or cancer.

What are the symptoms of a fever in dogs?

A significant change in your dog's behavior is usually the first indication that they're not feeling well. You should keep a careful eye on your dog and take note of your dog's 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/unfocused eyes
  • Warm ears and/or nose
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Runny nose
  • Decreased energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting

How should I care for a dog with a fever?

If your dog’s fever is 106° F or higher immediately get in touch with your primary vet for urgent care, or to your local veterinary emergency clinic.

If your dog has a fever, 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 dogs ears and paws, and run 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.

Never give your dog human medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications can be toxic to your dog and cause serious illness or death.

If your dog exhibits any other symptoms, such as shivering, panting, and vomiting, contact your vet to make an appointment right away.

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 doctors advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.

Does your dog have a fever? Our Boulder veterinarians are ready to provide your dog with quality, compassionate care. Contact us today.