Just like us, our dogs can become sick and develop a fever. If you’ve been a pet parent before, this isn’t new information. In this article we’ll take a look at fevers in dogs, how to tell if your dog has a fever and more.
What is a Dog Fever?
A fever is the body’s response to an illness or injury, which temporarily causes an increase in body temperature. It causes the body temperature to go above normal and they seem to be a method to help the body fight off infections and other issues. They tend to go away on their own after a few days. However, a high fever can be a sign of a serious illness or medical condition.
What Causes Fevers in Dogs?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that most canine fevers are caused by infections and inflammation. Fever can be caused by a number of illnesses or conditions including:
- Tick borne disease (Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Babesiosis, Tularemia and others)
- Auto immune diseases (including Lupus)
- Infected bite, scratch or cut
- Ear infection
- Infected tooth (may be abscessed)
- Bacterial or viral infections
- Organ infections (of the kidneys or lungs, for example)
- Metabolic diseases
- Endocrine disease
- Idiopathic (there’s no known cause for the fever—its origin is unknown)
There are some other causes of fever in dogs, too. For instance, by eating certain plants, a dog can develop a fever. Eating or drinking toxic substances, such as antifreeze, can bring on a fever. Some vaccinations can also cause a fever. Or, if your dog ingests your medication, he could develop a fever. And some of our food is toxic to dogs, including xylitol, an artificial sweetener.
What is the Normal Temperature for a Dog?
It’s important to understand that your canine companion’s normal body temperature is warmer than your own. A dog’s normal body temperature runs from 99.5 to 102.5F. So just naturally your dog will always feel warmer to you. If your pup has a fever, however, it will generally be at 104 F or higher. In addition, your dog’s nose is not a good indicator of whether or not he has a fever.
If his nose is warm and dry, this can indicate your fur baby has fever, but you’ll have to take his temperature in order to make sure.
What are the Signs & Symptoms Indicating a Dog Has Fever?
Some dog fever symptoms are similar to ours; here’s a quick list of indications your fur baby may have a fever:
- Warm ears
- Warm, dry nose
- Red eyes
- Lethargy/lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased respiratory rate
- Heavy panting
- Other symptoms (depending on the cause)
How to Tell if a Dog Has a Fever Without a Thermometer
The best way to tell if your dog has a fever or not is to use a thermometer; however, many dogs are not comfortable with a thermometer placed in their back end. If you can’t get your dog’s temperature, you may need to head to the vet. To take your dog’s temperature at home, you’ll need a rectal thermometer. To do this, first coat the end of the thermometer with some petroleum jelly. This make it easier to insert the thermometer into your dog’s rectum. Next, lift his tail out of the way, and insert the tip of the thermometer. Most vets say it takes about 30 seconds to accurately measure a dog’s temperature.
Another method you can use to take your fur baby’s temperature is to use an ear thermometer. Your pup may be more comfortable with this type of thermometer, as it’s not so invasive as the rectal version. These are usually more expensive, but your canine companion may not mind taking his temperature this way. An ear thermometer uses infrared heat waves to measure a dog’s temperature.
To use the ear thermometer, place it deep into the hear canal, but don’t force it. Once you’re finished taking his temperature, be sure to disinfect the thermometer right away.
If you don’t have a thermometer handy, you can still try to determine if your fur baby has a fever or not. Check his:
- Nose: does your fur baby have a dry nose? Does he have any discharge from his nose?
- Groin/armpits: check for any signs of swollen lymph nodes
- Paws: may be very hot to the touch
- Gums: may be red and swollen—they will not be pink
- Back of ears: may also be very hot to the touch
Remember these may not be accurate indicators your dog has a fever. If in doubt, call the vet and take your dog in for a physical exam.
When to Take Your Dog to the Vet
If your fur baby’s temperature goes over 103 F or higher for a day or so, it’s time to call the vet. If your pup’s temperature is 106 F or higher, this is an emergency. A fever this high can damage a dog’s internal organs and be fatal. Be sure to take your pup to the vet before his fever gets this high.
Other symptoms that may indicate it’s time to take your dog to vet include:
- A change in your dog’s behavior. You may notice he’s more tired than usual, for instance.
- Your pup may seem down, and he may not be interested in his favorite activities such as going for a walk, etc.
- A dog with fever may also have glassy eyes and feel warm to the touch (warmer than normal). He may also start to shiver, have a runny nose, lose his appetite, etc.
The vet will do a complete physical exam of your fur baby, and will ask questions about the onset of symptoms, ask what symptoms your pup has experienced, etc. The vet may also ask if your dog has eaten anything strange (such as plants, etc.) or has started on a new dog food, or had any recent injuries. After the exam, the vet may order some lab tests including blood count, biochemistry profile and a urinalysis. These may help with diagnosing what’s causing the fever. Sometimes the vet may order imaging tests, too, depending on what the physical exam shows. Depending the diagnosis, your vet may prescribe medications to deal with the underlying cause of the fever, along with a fever reducing medicine. Be sure to give your pup the prescribed medications as directed the vet and don’t miss a dose. Your dog needs these medications to overcome the illness.
Dog Fever Medicine Name
The vet will determine the best treatment for your dog and what’s causing his fever. The type of medicine will depend on what’s wrong. If an infection is causing the fever, your vet may prescribe a course of antibiotics and possibly a fever reducing medication that’s safe for dogs.
Can I Give my Dog Human Fever Reducing Medications?
The answer is NO. Aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol are toxic for dogs. Occasionally the vet may tell you to give your dog paracetamol and in what dose. The dose will depend on your dog’s weight. Never give your dog paracetamol without your vet’s advice.
Dog Fever Treatment at Home
Once you’re back home from the vet, you’ll need to make sure your dog stays comfortable and quiet as he recovers from the cause of the fever. The fever may last several days, depending on the cause, so you’re fur baby will need to drink water to stay hydrated. If he’s not able to keep down solids, the vet may have suggested a temporary moist or liquid diet or supplement until your fur baby’s back to feeling good again. If his fever is high, it can help to apply cool water to his paws and ears. Another option is to soak a towel in cool water and wrap this around your dog. Sometimes a gently blowing fan can also help to bring down a pup’s fever.
You can also try a short bath with cool—not cold—water. But only try this if your dog doesn’t mind taking a bath. You don’t want to cause him to become too excited and overexert himself while he’s sick. During this time, it will be necessary to keep monitoring your dog’s fever. He won’t be happy with this, but it’s necessary to track the progress of the fever to see if it’s going down or higher, etc. While your fur baby’s recuperating, he’ll need to stay quiet. This means no excitement, no walks or hard exercise, etc. Your vet will have the best advice on activity levels as your dog recovers.
How to Comfort a Dog with Fever
While your dog’s sick, just make sure he’s as comfortable as possible, keep him hydrated and make him rest. Speak to your fur baby with a calm voice to help soothe him if he’s anxious. This will give him reassurance that you’re there to take care of him. It’s important to stay calm around your dog; avoid letting him see that you’re anxious, stressed or scared, etc. The goal is to keep your dog calm and relaxed as he recuperates. During his recuperation, it’s a good idea to keep him home; in fact, most doggie day cares and kennels will not allow you to bring a sick dog to stay. Keep company to a minimum at this time, and make it only people your dog knows and loves.
Give your fur baby lots of attention such as a massage to ease painful joints, etc. Let him know you love him with gentle petting, too. Your pup may also enjoy some soft, calming music as he recuperates. Just make sure that he’s not anxious or scared when he’s sick. Avoid scolding him for making accidents in the house and snuggle with him often. These are all great ways to help soothe and comfort your fur baby while he’s sick. When our fur babies become sick, it can be difficult to determine what’s going on or how ill they are. Fever can be a good indication that your dog is ill; a high fever indicates this is a serious condition that must be seen by the vet as soon as possible. Proper diagnosis and treatment, along with excellent care, will have your pup up and active in no time.
We wish you and your fur baby much health and happiness, and hope this article provides some guidance on how to treat your dog’s fever.