Has your dog lost their appetite? Are they shivering or coughing? Or are they just acting a bit 'off'? It could be due to a fever. But how do you know if your dog has a fever, and what should you do? Our Vancouver vets explain.
Normal Body Temperature in Dogs
A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 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. 106 F is a very high fever in dogs and is an indication that your pet is very sick and at risk of serious, possibly fatal complications.
How To Tell If Your Dog Has a High Temperature
Detecting fevers in dogs can be challenging because their body temperatures can 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.
Many 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. It is also the case that no-touch thermometers designed for people do not give an accurate reading of your dog's temperature.
This means that taking your pooch to the vet if you suspect they have a fever, or carefully taking your dog's temperature using a veterinary rectal thermometer are your most accurate options for determining whether your pup has a temperature.
How To Take Your Dog's Temperature With a Veterinary Thermometer
Start by washing the thermometer with soap and water, rinsing then drying it on a clean towel. Next, you should lubricate the tip of the thermometer with 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 sitting. Once the thermometer temperature has registered you can carefully remove the thermometer.
What Could Be Causing Your Dog's Fever
As with people, there are numerous conditions that could result in your dog developing a fever. Some of the most common 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
If your vet is unable to determine the cause of your dog's fever, they may diagnose your pet as having a fever of unknown origin (FUO). In these cases, a fever could be caused by underlying disorders of the immune system, bone marrow problems, or cancer.
Signs of High Fever in Dogs
Any notable change in your dog's behavior or demeanor is a sign that your dog may not be feeling well. You should keep a careful eye on your dog and take note of your pet's symptoms. Any combination of the following symptoms is a good indication that you should check your dog’s temperature or contact your vet right away.
If your dog has a fever you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Red or glassy-looking eyes
- Warm ears and/or nose
- Runny nose
- Decreased energy
- Loss of appetite
Ways to Help Reduce Fever in Dogs
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, 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 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 in order to keep them 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 has a fever and begins to exhibit any additional symptoms such as shivering, panting or vomiting, contact your vet right away or call your nearest animal emergency hospital.
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.