Fever in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Care

Detecting a fever in dogs can pose a challenge. Our veterinarians in Seattle have provided a comprehensive guide on how to identify fever in dogs, its underlying causes, symptoms, and crucial information you need to care for your furry friend. 

What is a normal temperature for a dog?

Did you know that a dog's normal body temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit? This is considerably higher than the temperature range for humans, which is 97.6 to 99.6 F.

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

Detecting fever in dogs can be challenging as their body temperature can increase due to stress or excitement. Additionally, a dog's temperature may fluctuate during the day and night. Therefore, it is crucial to know your dog's healthy temperature.

To determine this, monitor your dog's temperature at various times for several days. Contrary to popular belief, touching your dog's nose and feeling it wet and cold does not accurately indicate if your dog has a fever.

Instead, use a digital thermometer designed for rectal use, which can be purchased at some pet stores. It is recommended to keep a separate thermometer dedicated to your dog and store it in the same place as their supplies.

To use it, coat the tip of the thermometer with petroleum or water-soluble lubricant, lift your dog's tail, and carefully insert the thermometer about an inch into their rectum. If possible, have someone hold the dog's hind legs to prevent them from sitting. Once the thermometer registers the temperature, remove it carefully.

Why would a dog have a fever?

Numerous conditions and illnesses can cause a fever in your dog. These include:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Ingestion of poisonous materials such as toxic plants, human foods or human medications that are toxic to dogs
  • An ear infection

There are various reasons why a dog may have a fever such as a fungal, viral, or bacterial infection, tooth infection or abscess, or an infected cut, bite, or scratch. However, in some cases, the underlying cause of the fever cannot be easily determined, which is known as a fever of unknown origin (FUO). This could be due to underlying issues with the immune system, cancer, or bone marrow problems.

What are the symptoms of a fever in dogs?

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 high 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 Reduce Fever in Dogs

If your canine's temperature reaches 106 F or above, it's essential to take them to a local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. In case your dog has a fever of 103 F or higher, you can help lower their body temperature by applying cool water using a soaked towel or cloth to their ears and paws while keeping a fan nearby.

Once their temperature drops below 103 F, stop applying water. Keep a close eye on your dog to ensure the fever doesn't return. Encourage them to drink small amounts of water to stay hydrated, but avoid forcing them to drink.

Remember, never give your dog human medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen as they can be lethal. If you observe any other symptoms like shivering, panting, or vomiting, it's best to take them 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.

Does your dog have a fever? Our vets at Madison Park Veterinary Hospital are here for your pet during your regular hours in case of a veterinary emergency. Contact us today.