It can be difficult to know for sure if your dog has a fever. In today's blog, our Santa Cruz vets explain how to detect a fever in dogs, as well as what symptoms you should be on the lookout for.
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.
Can I take my dog's temperature somehow?
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.
The most accurate way to check your dog’s temperature is to use a digital thermometer for rectal use, 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.
Start by lubricating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum 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.
Are there particularly common causes of fever in dogs?
There are countless conditions that could cause your dog to develop 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, the cause of a dog’s fever cannot be readily determined, this is often referred to as a fever of unknown origin - or FUO. In these cases, a fever could be caused by underlying disorders of the immune system, bone marrow problems, or cancer.
What signs of fever would my dog demonstrate if they were running warm?
If you notice a significant change in your dog’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 dog's symptoms. Any combination of the following symptoms is a good indication that you should 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 can I help to reduce a fever in my dog?
If your dog’s fever is 106 F or higher they need to see a vet immediately. Contact our emergency veterinarians right away for an appointment.
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 other symptoms, such as shivering, panting, and vomiting you should consider taking your dog to the 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.