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Fever in Dogs: Causes & Symptoms

If your dog is suffering from an illness, they may feel warmer than usual, but it can be difficult to know if they are too warm. In this article, our vets Pittsboro Animal Hospital will share some of the signs of fever in dogs, the most common causes of fever in dogs, and what you can do to help your furry friend feel better.

What temperature indicates a fever in dogs?

When dogs are healthy and feeling well, their body temperature ranges between 101°F to 102.5°F, which is significantly higher than the temperature range of humans (97.6°F to 99.6°F). 

If a dog's body temperature exceeds 103°F, it is considered a fever. A dog's high fever is classified as a temperature of 106°F or higher, which can lead to severe and fatal complications.

How do I take my dog's temperature?

Unfortunately, determining if your dog has a fever isn't as straightforward as it may seem. Their body temperature can fluctuate depending on their level of excitement and activity.  Did you know that their internal temperature also changes depending on the time of day? 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.

While many people understand that a dog's nose is critical to determining whether or not your dog has a fever, this is not an accurate indicator that your dog has a fever.

If you suspect that your dog has a fever, the most reliable way to confirm it is by using a rectal thermometer. Some pet stores sell specially designed thermometers for pets, which are recommended. It's advisable to keep a separate thermometer exclusively for your dog and store it along with your dog's supplies.

To take your dog's temperature, first lubricate the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly or a 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 someone help you by holding your dog's hind legs to prevent them from sitting. Wait for the thermometer to register the temperature, then carefully remove it.

What are some of the reasons behind fevers in dogs?

This is not an exhaustive list of reasons why a dog may develop a fever, but some of the most common reasons 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 substances

Sometimes, it is not possible to determine the reason behind fever. Such a situation is commonly known as a fever of unknown origin or FUO. In such cases, the fever may be caused by underlying disorders of the immune system, bone marrow issues, or cancer.

What are the symptoms of a fever in dogs?

Chances are that you will notice unusual behavior before you notice a change in your dog's temperature. 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 typical symptoms of fever in dogs include:

  • Red or glassy-looking eyes
  • Warm ears and/or nose
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Runny nose
  • Decreased energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting

How To Reduce a Fever in Dogs

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 higher, 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. Also, running a fan near your dog can help. Once your dog's temperature drops below 103° F, stop applying the water. Remember to keep a close eye on your dog and monitor their temperature to make sure the fever doesn't return.

It's important to encourage your dog to drink small amounts of water to stay hydrated. However, don't force your dog to drink.

Never give your dog human medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as they can be poisonous 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 for urgent care.

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.

Have you noticed that your dog is showing signs of a fever? Contact our Pittsboro Animal Hospital vets for urgent veterinary care.

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