Your pet dog can run a fever occasionally, like a human member of the family. Just like in humans, fever in a dog should be a cause for concern.
Unlike with humans, though, it can be hard to tell if a dog has a fever, or if it’s just naturally high body temperature. It’s very important to tell the difference between the two.
Some diseases that cause fevers in dogs can be life-threatening.
Read ahead to learn how to tell if your dog is ill with a fever:
Symptoms of Fever in Dogs
As with humans, dogs show signs of having a fever. There are no clear physical indications of fever in dogs. However, you can tell there’s something wrong if you notice any of the following symptoms in your dog:
- Lethargy or lack of usual energy
- Depressive Mood
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
- Red eyes
- Warm Ears
- Warm or dry nose
If you notice at least one of the above signs in your dog, your pet may be suffering from a fever.
Note that symptoms between dogs may differ. Your dog may show a symptom not listed above.
Some of the above symptoms overlap with what people experience when they have a fever. However, don’t conflate the two species as they undergo different experiences.
The above signs are just that, signs. They only indicate that your dog might be sick. To accurately diagnose a fever, you need to check your dog’s actual body temperature.
Hot Snout Doesn’t Equal Fever in Dogs
There’s a common belief among pet owners that you can tell whether a dog has a fever by touching its snout. If the snout is cool and wet, then the dog is fine. But if the snout is hot or dry, then the dog has a fever. This is not a medically accurate way to diagnose a dog’s fever at all.
Dogs may sweat through their snouts, but you can’t tell how high their temperature is simply by touching their snout. It’s similar to how you can’t tell a person’s temperature by touching the bridge of their nose.
Dog fevers have a tendency to go undetected because of false beliefs like this. It can be especially hard for an owner to tell if a dog has a fever because a dog’s body temperature is naturally higher than a human’s. So if your dog does feel hot to the touch, it could just be because the doggie’s skin is warmer than yours.
It’s important to understand the normal temperature for a dog to diagnose a fever accurately. In all breeds, a dog’s normal temperature runs somewhere between 99.5 and 102.5 Fahrenheit degrees. In humans, it’s between 97.6 and 99.6 degrees, which is lower.
If your dog has a temperature above the normal range, then it has a fever. You must take its temperature properly to diagnose your dog.
How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature
You can take your dog’s temperature using a thermometer, just like with little kids. However, dog thermometers have to be inserted either anally or in the ear.
The most common and recommended method to take a dog’s temperature is by using a rectal thermometer. Use a digital thermometer. It can take a reading in 60 seconds or less, making the experience less unpleasant for both you and the dog.
Use a thermometer specifically designed for dogs. You can find these in any pet shop or online. Do not use thermometers designed for humans on dogs.
Do the following to take your dog’s temperature anally:
- Coat the pet thermometer with a safe lubricant.
- Gently insert the thermometer into your dog’s anus. It should go in about an inch only.
- Wait for the thermometer to register the results.
Take note of the results. Now you can compare it to the dog’s normal temperature. This is the most accurate and legitimate way to check if a dog has a fever.
You can alternatively use an ear thermometer to get a fever reading. These devices measure the heat waves coming from the eardrums of a dog.
Ear thermometers are more expensive than anal thermometers. Still, some pet owners may prefer this type. The experience won’t be any less uncomfortable for your dog, however. Their ears are just as sensitive.
If using an ear thermometer, here’s what you should do:
- The thermometer should be placed deep in your dog’s ear.
- It should go into the horizontal ear canal to measure the heat waves coming from the eardrum.
- Wait for the results.
You should read all the instructions that come with the package before using an ear thermometer. Purchase a high-end, dog-specific ear thermometer. Avoid thermometers made of glass.
Bringing Down Your Dog’s Fever
Your dog certainly has a fever if the thermometer notes 103 degrees or higher. You can take several readings to confirm a fever.
When you know your dog has a fever, you should immediately take steps to reduce it. Here are some things you can do at home:
- Use a soaked towel to apply cool water around your dog’s ears and paws. (Be careful not to get water inside the ears.) The cool water would absorb the heat from the body.
- Slightly dampen your dog’s fur on the sides. Use a fan to cool it off. Do this carefully as not to bring down your dog’s temperature too fast.
As you try the above, monitor your dog closely. Take its temperature as you try to bring down the fever. The cooling methods must stop once the temperature is down to 102 or 103 degrees.
If you notice that your dog has a fever of 106 degrees or above, then it’s an emergency. You must immediately take your dog to a veterinarian.
Here’s what you should NOT do to bring down a dog’s fever:
Give it human medicine like Aspirin or Tylenol.
Do try to get your dog to drink some water as you cool it off. The dog may be reluctant when it is sick. But remember, when your dog loses body temperature, dehydration is also a risk.
What Causes Fever in Dogs
There are several reasons why your dog may get a fever. The most common is an infection. A fever is a natural response from your dog’s immune system to fight off an infection.
Here are some of the common types of infections in dogs that cause fevers:
- Viral infections like the common flu
- A bacterial infection
- A fungal infection
Your dog can get a fever from an infected wound, like a bite or a scratch mark. Ear infections and severely infected teeth can also cause fevers. You might want to check if your dog has a urinary tract infection (UTI) or an abscess anywhere in the body.
Other than infections, poison also causes fever in dogs. Here are some things in your home that can be toxic to a pet dog:
- Human medication
- Certain human foods, such as macadamia nuts or snacks sweetened with xylitol
- Antifreeze and similar chemicals
- Toxic plants like sago or mistletoe
Dogs suspected of consuming poisonous substances must immediately be taken to an animal hospital or a clinic. Contact your local pet poison hotline without delay if you suspect that toxins are the cause of your dog’s fever.
In some cases, your dog may get a fever after receiving a vaccination. Monitor your dog for fever within 24 to 48 hours after receiving a vaccination. This type of fever is not dangerous and should subside within a day or two.
Treating Your Dog’s Fever
Some causes of doggie fever go away on its own. For example, if your dog has a fever from a viral infection, it should clear away on its own.
In other cases, treatment should be administered on time. Your dog would need antibiotics if it has bacterial infections and antifungals if it’s a fungal infection.
An infected wound needs to be cleaned and treated with disinfectant. Your dog might need antibiotics until the wound heals.
Determining the exact cause of a dog’s fever can be tricky. Vets usually take blood or urine tests to ascertain this.
When to Take Your Dog to the Vet
Ideally, you should get your dog checked by the vet if you notice a fever. Or else, wait a day or two to see if the fever subsides without intervention.
You must check your dog’s temperature to ensure that the fever does not increase throughout the day. If this is the case, rush your dog to the vet as it may have a serious illness.
Very high temperatures, 106 degrees or above, are considered life-threatening. Don’t delay going to the vet if this is the case.
Going to the vet is the best thing to do if your dog shows signs of a fever. Your vet is the most qualified person to prescribe a treatment plan.
Do not substitute a visit to your Vet with any information contained on this page.