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Introduction to How to Tell If Your Dog Has A Fever? What To Do If He Does?
You may have heard that you can tell whether your dog has a fever by feeling their nose cool and wet is good, hot and dry means fever but it’s not true.
In fact, dog fever often goes unrecognized or undetected.
One reason it can be difficult to detect fevers in dogs is that their normal body temperature is naturally higher than in humans.
It can be hard to tell when your dog has a fever. Unlike people, dogs can’t say that they’re not feeling well.
And even when you know something’s not right, figuring out what’s causing your pet’s discomfort may be a guessing game.
Dog fevers are defined by having a higher-than-normal body temperature, and they have a variety of causes.
So how can you tell if your dog has a fever?
How do you take their temperature, and what’s considered a fever in dogs?
What causes dog fevers and how do you treat them?
How to Tell if a Dog Has a Fever?
Dog fevers can be very difficult to detect at home and are often discovered at the veterinary clinic.
This is because a dog’s temperature is naturally higher than a human’s, and it is almost impossible to detect a fever by touching a dog’s skin.
- Loss of appetite
- Shivering (not caused by stress or pain)
- Lethargy / not wanting to move
If you notice anything out of the norm for your pet, he’s probably feeling unwell.
How Do You Take a Dog’s Temperature?
The only way of accurately knowing if your dog has a fever is to take their rectal temperature with a digital thermometer.
This is done by lubricating the tip of the thermometer and inserting it into the rectum approximately 1 inch.
It is important to have another person holding your dog’s head while you do this, as some dogs may not be tolerant of this at home.
If a dog does not seem ill, there is no benefit to taking your dog’s temperature at home on a regular basis, because it can also go up with overactivity or if your dog has been outside in a warm environment.
What Is a Dog’s Normal Temperature?
Unlike people, who have a normal temperature range of 97.6–99.6F degrees, your dog’s normal temperature is higher: the range is between 99.5 and 102.5F degrees.
So now that we know what is normal, let’s look at the signs that tell us if our dog is out of range and running a fever.
What Temperature Is Considered a Fever in Dogs?
The normal range for a dog’s body temperature is between 100ºF and 102.5ºF. Anything above 102.5ºF is considered a fever or hyperthermia (overheating).
A true fever is the body’s response to a disease process, whereas hyperthermia is caused by exposure to excessive heat or overheating from overexertion.
What Are Some Symptoms of Dog Fevers?
Dog fever symptoms can vary from mild to severe depending on how high the temperature is and what disease is causing it.
A change in your dog’s behavior will be your first sign that he’s coming down with something.
You know what it feels like to have a fever, and your dog feels much the same way.
My first clue that Ty’s not feeling well is that he gets mopey.
“Chillaxing” is his preferred speed, but when he doesn’t want to go for a walk or come running when we make a move for the kitchen, I know something is amiss.
Glassy-looking eyes and feeling warm to the touch are the next hints.
You can also watch for shivering, panting, runny nose, loss of appetite, decreased energy, and depression.
Any combination of these symptoms means it’s time to get out the thermometer.
What Causes Dog Fevers?
There can be several different causes of dog fevers, but they generally fall into one of these categories:
In some cases, despite extensive diagnostics, a cause is not found.
This is called “fever of unknown origin.”
Anything that can stimulate the immune system can cause a fever.
For example, it is not uncommon for pets to get a low-grade fever after being vaccinated.
This is because the immune system is being stimulated to protect the body against different diseases.
Bacterial infections, fungal infections, or viral infections can all stimulate an immune response and cause a fever as well.
Cancer is another disease process that usually stimulates the immune system, resulting in a fever.
The most common cause of fever from inflammation is pancreatitis.
This is an inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and a painful abdomen.
The cause is not clear and thought to be different in dogs than in cats and humans.
Autoimmune diseases are a group of diseases that can stimulate the immune system to attack a part of the body with no underlying cause.
Examples of autoimmune diseases include lupus, uveitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
These diseases can also result in dog fevers.
It’s not uncommon for pets (and humans) to experience a low-grade fever 24–48 hours after vaccination.
This is usually not dangerous and resolves after a day or so, but monitor the situation.
What to Do if Your Dog Has a Fever?
If you feel that your dog may be ill, taking their temperature at home is a good start if you can do so.
If your dog has a fever above 102.5ºF, that warrants a visit to the veterinarian.
It is considered an emergency if your dog is extremely lethargic, has blood in their stool or vomit, stops eating, or has a fever above 104.5ºF.
It is extremely important to never give your dog over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, to reduce the fever.
These medications are toxic to pets and can result in serious harm or death.
Getting a diagnosis for dog fevers as soon as possible and instituting treatment will usually result in more favorable outcomes.
Most causes of fever can be treated if caught early.
How Are Dog Fevers Treated?
Treatment of fever in dogs is largely dependent on the cause of the fever.
Oftentimes several diagnostics, such as bloodwork, radiographs (x-rays), and ultrasound, are necessary to determine the cause.
In some cases, a cause cannot be identified.
In dogs that have infections, the treatment is usually a course of antibiotics or antifungal medications. In other diseases, such as pancreatitis, there isn’t one anecdotal treatment, and medications are given to alleviate the symptoms until the inflammation subsides.
This can take days to weeks and will depend on the level of severity.
Cancer is treated with either chemotherapy and radiation therapy depending on the type of cancer that is diagnosed.
Some types of cancer respond well to these treatments, where others may not respond as well or at all.
Autoimmune diseases require drugs that suppress the immune system so that it stops attacking the different areas of the body.
Most of these diseases are manageable but not usually curable.
How to Reduce a Dog’s Fever?
To help reduce a pet’s fever 103 degrees or higher first apply cool water around his paws and ears.
You can use a soaked towel or cloth.
Continue to monitor his temperature, and when it drops below 103, you can stop applying the water.
See if you can coax him into drinking a bit of water.
You will still need to monitor your dog closely, to make sure his fever doesn’t return and consider taking him to the vet if he exhibits other symptoms.
Remember: Better safe than sorry.
Never give your dog human medication, such as aspirin or acetaminophen.
These are extremely toxic for pets.
When to Bring Your Dog to the Vet?
A dog is considered to have a fever when its temperature reaches 103 degrees or higher.
If it does, it’s time to head to the vet’s office.
A temperature of 106 degrees or higher can damage a pet’s internal organs and can be fatal, so never wait until it gets to that point.
According to PetMD, once at the vet’s, diagnosing the underlying cause can be tricky.
Your vet probably has a record of your dog’s medical history, with information about vaccines, surgeries, allergies, medications, and past illnesses.
But the vet may also need to know of any recent physical injuries, ingestion of plants or other toxins, insect bites, and so on. It will also be helpful to note when you first noticed the fever.
After conducting a physical exam, your vet may order routine laboratory tests, such as urinalysis, blood count, or a biochemistry profile.
They can offer up useful information about an underlying condition or infection.
In the case of infection, your dog may be prescribed medication.
More specific testing may also be required.
Sometimes the root cause of the fever can’t be determined.