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Fever in Dogs

Fever in Dogs

Detecting a fever in dogs can be difficult. Here, our Lexington vets explain how to detect a fever in dogs, the causes, 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? 

The normal body temperature of a dog is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which is significantly higher than the normal body temperature of humans, which is between 97.6 and 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

A dog fever is defined as a temperature of more than 103 degrees Fahrenheit. When temperatures exceed 106 degrees Fahrenheit, serious and sometimes fatal complications can occur.

How can I tell if my dog has a fever and how do I take its temperature? 

Fever detection in dogs can be challenging because their body temperatures can also rise when they are excited or stressed. Additionally, a dog's temperature can fluctuate throughout the day and occasionally at night. As a result, it is critical to understand your dog's normal body temperature. This can be determined by keeping track of your dog's temperature throughout the day for several days.

According to some, if you feel your dog's nose and it is wet and cold, the dog's temperature is normal, but if it is hot and dry, the dog has a fever. This is not, however, a reliable indicator that your dog has a fever.

The most accurate way to check your dog's temperature is with a rectal digital thermometer; some pet stores sell thermometers designed specifically for pets. It is recommended that you keep a separate thermometer for your dog and keep it in the same location as the rest of his supplies.

To begin, lubricate the thermometer's tip with petroleum or a water-soluble lubricant. Then, carefully lift your dog's tail up and to the side and insert the thermometer approximately 1 inch into his rectum. If possible, enlist the assistance of a second person to prevent your dog from sitting. Once 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

When the cause of a dog's fever is unknown, this is frequently referred to as a fever of unknown origin or FUO. Fever may be caused in these cases by underlying immune system disorders, bone marrow problems, or cancer.

What are the symptoms of a fever in dogs?  

If you notice a noticeable change in your dog's behavior, this is your first indication that he or she is ill. You should keep a close eye on your dog and pay attention to his or her symptoms. Any combination of the following symptoms is cause for concern and should prompt you to take your dog's temperature.

The most common symptoms of a fever in dogs are: 

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

How should I care for a dog with a fever? 

If your dog's fever is 106 F or higher, take him to a local vet emergency clinic immediately.

If your dog has a fever of 103 F or higher, you can assist in lowering 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 applying water. Maintain a close eye on your dog to ensure the fever does not recur.

Encourage your dog to drink small amounts of water to stay hydrated, but avoid coercion.

It is critical to never administer human medications to your dogs, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications are toxic to dogs and can result in serious injury or death.

If your dog displays any additional symptoms, such as shivering, panting, or vomiting, you should consider bringing him 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. 

Does your dog have a fever? Our Lexington emergency veterinarians are specially trained in emergency medicine and triage. Any time that you are unable to reach your primary care veterinarian – evenings, weekends, holidays – we are here to help. Contact us today.

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Bluegrass Veterinary Specialists + Animal Emergency is open 24/7 for emergencies and is accepting patients for specialty appointments. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Lexington companion animals. 

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