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Fever in Dogs: Symptoms & What to Do

If your dog develops a fever it may come on suddenly and you may not always be aware that it is a fever. Today, our Stockton vets discuss what the symptoms of fever are in dogs and how to help reduce any fever they may have.

What is a dog's normal body temperature?

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. If your pup's temperature reaches 106 F, your dog has a very high temperature and is at risk of serious, possibly fatal complications. 

When is a temperature considered high?

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 properly use 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 are some of the common causes of fever in dogs?

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

In some cases, your vet may not be able to determine the cause of your dog's fever, this is often referred to as 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.

What are some of the common symptoms of high fever in dogs?

If you notice a significant change in your pup’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 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.  

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 to quickly reduce your dog's fever

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 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 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 exhibits any additional symptoms (as well as a high temperature) such as shivering, panting or vomiting, it's time to contact your vet.  

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.

Are you concerned that your dog may be experiencing the symptoms of a fever? Contact our Stockton vets right away. 

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American Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Stockton companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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