Recognizing a fever in dogs can be challenging. Our Fort Collins vets explain how to detect a fever in dogs, the causes, and 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 best way to check your dog’s temperature is to use a digital rectal thermometer. 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.
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 these cases, a fever could be caused by underlying disorders of the immune system, bone marrow problems, or cancer.
What are the symptoms of a fever in dogs?
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. 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
How should I care for a dog with a fever?
If your dog’s fever is 106° F or higher, immediately take your dog to a local veterinary emergency clinic.
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 veterinarian.
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.