Detecting a fever in dogs can be difficult. Here, our Harris Parkway Animal Hospital veterinarians 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.
Begin by lubricating the thermometer's tip with petroleum or a water-soluble lubricant. Then, carefully lift your dog's tail to the side and insert the thermometer about 1 inch into your dog's rectum. To prevent your dog from sitting, have a second person assist you by holding under the dog's hind legs. After the thermometer has registered the temperature, carefully remove it.
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 is difficult to diagnose. This is known as a fever of unknown origin, or FUO. A fever in these cases could be caused by underlying immune system disorders, 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 is your first indication that he is ill. You should keep a close eye on your dog and take note of any symptoms. Any combination of the following symptoms should prompt you to 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 higher, you can help to cool his body temperature by applying cool water to his ears and paws with a soaked towel or cloth and running a fan near him. When your dog's temperature falls below 103° F, stop using the water. Continue to keep an eye on your dog to ensure that the fever does not 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.