If your dog has a fever, you may not notice right away without being aware of the signs. Here, our Sacramento vets discuss fevers in dogs, including the causes, signs, and treatment options.
What to Know About Dog Fevers
A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 101° to 102.5°F, which is significantly higher than yours or mine. (Human body temperature ranges from 97.6° to 99.6°F).
If your pup's temperature rises above 103°F your dog has a fever. If your pup's temperature reaches 106°F or higher then you should take immediate action as this temperature range can cause potentially fatal complications.
Causes of Fevers in Dogs
Countless conditions could cause your dog to develop a fever. Some of the most common include:
- An ear infection
- An infected bite, scratch, or cut
- A bacterial, fungal, or viral infection
- Ingestion of a toxin
- Urinary tract infection
- Tooth infection or abscess
In some cases, the cause of a dog’s fever cannot be readily determined, this is often 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.
Taking Your Dog's Temperature
Sometimes it can be difficult to determine if your dog is experiencing a fever as natural emotional responses in your dog such as getting excited can raise your dog's temperature above normal. Also, a dog’s temperature can vary throughout the day and sometimes at night. Therefore it is good to keep a record of your dog's normal temperature with consideration for noting their normal temperature at different times of the day and night.
One of the most common myths going around is that you can tell the temperature of your dog by feeling their nose, with cold and wet usually being ideal. However, this is not an accurate indicator that your dog has a fever.
The most accurate 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.
Signs & Symptoms of a Dog Fever
If you notice a significant change in your dog’s behavior this will be your first sign that your dog is not well. You should keep a careful eye on your dog and take note of your dog's symptoms. If your dog is showing any of the symptoms below then you should take the time to conduct a temperature check.
The most common symptoms of a fever in dogs are:
- Runny nose
- Warm ears and/or nose
- Red or glassy-looking eyes
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased energy
Caring for a Dog With a Fever
If your dog’s fever is 106°F or higher they need to see a vet immediately. Contact the emergency veterinarian nearest you right away.
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. From this point on you can continue to monitor your dog to ensure that the symptoms of fever do not return.
If possible you should try to get your dog to drink and stay hydrated but do not attempt to force them. 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 pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.