Fever in dogs is something many pet owners will encounter at one point or another. Even though it’s relatively common, it can still be scary to see your furry friend feeling ill.
A fever is a sign that something is wrong with your dog’s body and can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, ranging from infections to cancer. It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s temperature and other symptoms, as a fever can be a sign of a serious illness that requires prompt medical attention.
What is a Fever in Dogs, and How Do You Check?
Fever is the elevation of body temperature in response to infection or inflammation. The normal temperature range is 100-102.5, so anything above 102.5 is a fever.
The most accurate way to check your dog’s temperature is rectally. You will want someone to help you with this, as some dogs will not tolerate this at home. Lubricate the end of a digital thermometer (they make special dog ones) and insert about one inch into the rectum. You do not need to check your pup’s temperature unless you think they are ill.
Ear thermometers are available, which might be more tolerable for you and your dog, and they are pricier but might be worth the investment for ease of use. Make sure to read all included instructions, and never use glass thermometers.
Symptoms of Fever in Dogs
There can be various ways a dog will give clues that alert you that something is wrong. The below symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on how high the fever is and the type of infection.
- Shivering-make sure you can determine the difference between normal shivering and shaking vs. shaking during a seizure.
- Loss of appetite
- Warm, dry nose
- Warm ears
Why Do Dogs Get Fevers?
There are a variety of conditions and illnesses that cause a dog’s fever to spike. Some are internal, and some are external. Sometimes, when there is no explanation for the fever, it is called a “fever of an unknown origin.”
- UTI (urinary tract infection)
- Ear infection
- Abscessed or infected tooth
- Kidney or lung infection
- Viral disease
- An infected scratch, bite or cut
If your furry friend ingested a poisonous material, they could also develop a fever. Such dangerous items include:
- Human medications
- Harmful houseplants
- Foods that are toxic to dogs, particularly those with the ingredient xylitol
It is essential to call poison control right away if you believe your pet has ingested a toxic substance.
It is common for dogs to have a fever 24-48 hours after receiving vaccination shots, and their immune system is being stimulated to fight against several different diseases. These fevers are typically low-grade and are not of concern; however, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your dog should the fever not go away or worsen.
These diseases attack the immune system and cause a temperature rise. Some examples of auto-immune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and uveitis (a serious eye condition).
When Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?
Once you have determined your dog has a fever, a trip to your veterinarian is recommended. An emergency would be a fever over 104.5, blood in the stool or vomit, lethargic, or stopping eating. Your pet care provider has access to your pup’s medical records, vaccination history, allergies, surgeries, and any illnesses that have occurred in the past. They might order blood work, urinalysis, or other tests to determine the cause of the high temperature.
How To Reduce Dog’s Temperature
As tempting as it may be to give your dog an over-the-counter fever reducer, human medication can be severely toxic to your pet and result in serious harm or even death. Try to get your furry friend to drink small amounts of water more frequently to stay hydrated. Don’t force them to drink if they are unwilling to consume liquids.
Use a towel or cloth soaked in cool water and apply it to the ears and paws. Or you can try a dog cooling vest, available wherever you buy pet products. When the fever drops below 103, you can stop applying the cool cloth. But keep monitoring the temperature to ensure the fever is gone.
You can also give a tepid bath, not ice-cold water, just a little cooler than lukewarm water. Place your dog in the water and use a sponge or cloth to dab cool water on the ears, paws, abdomen, and chest. This is not a normal bath time, so you do not need to add soap, and the purpose is to reduce body temperature. When you’re done, make sure to towel dry the fur well, so your pup does not get a chill. You can use a hair dryer at a low temperature, do not put it on high, or you will risk burning the skin.
How Are Dog Fevers Treated?
Your pet care provider will likely run various tests to determine the cause of your dog’s fever. Once a diagnosis is given, they will provide a treatment plan that best suits your pup and its condition.
Antibiotics may be prescribed for animals with infections. With more serious diseases, there isn’t just one type of treatment prescribed. Medicine is given to treat the symptoms until the pain is gone. These treatments can take days to weeks, depending on the illness’s severity.
If the high temperature is due to cancer, radiation or chemotherapy is given depending on the type of cancer. Each dog will respond differently to the treatments, and it’s not always a given that they will work.