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High Fever in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & What to Do

It can be difficult to know for sure whether your dog has a fever. Today, our vets in Central Illinois discuss how to detect fever in dogs, in addition to symptoms, causes and what to do if your pet has a fever. 

What is a dog's normal body temperature?

A dog's normal body temperature ranges from 101° to 102.5° degrees Fahrenheit - significantly higher than in people (human body temperature ranges from 97.6° to 99.6° F). 

If your pooch's temperature rises above 103° F, your dog has a fever. A temperature above 106° F means your pup's temperature is in dangerous territory. He is at risk for serious, potentially fatal complications. 

How can I take my dog's temperature?

It can be difficult to detect fevers in dogs since their body temperatures can rise if they are very stressed or excited. Also, a dog's temperature can vary during the day and sometimes even at night. 

That's why it's important to understand your dog's body, and what their temperature typically is when they are healthy. This can be determined by noting your dog's temperature at various times of the day over several days. 

Many people believe that if you touch your dog's nose and it's cold and wet, your dog's temperature is fine, and if it is hot and dry it means they have a fever. However, this is not an accurate indication of fever. 

The most accurate way to check your dog's temperature is to use a digital thermometer for rectal use. Some pet stores sell thermometers specially made for use with pets. We recommend keeping a separate thermometer just for your dog and storing it with your dog's other supplies. 

Begin by lubricating the tip of the thermometer with water-soluble lubricant or petroleum. Then, lift your dog's tail up and to the side before carefully inserting the thermometer about 1 inch into your dog's rectum. 

If possible, have a second person help you by holding the dog's hind legs to prevent your dog from sitting. Carefully remove the thermometer once it's registered your dog's temperature.

What are the most common causes of fever in dogs?

Many conditions may cause your dog to develop a fever. Some of the most common include:

  • Tooth infection or abscess
  • An ear infection
  • An infected bite, scratch or cut 
  • A bacterial, fungal or viral infection
  • 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 are the signs that my dog may have a fever?

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 dogs 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: 

  • Warm ears and/or nose 
  • Red or glassy-looking eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shivering
  • Panting 
  • Runny nose 
  • Coughing 
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased energy 

How can I help to reduce fever in my dog? 

If your dog’s fever is 106° F or higher they need to see a vet immediately. Contact the emergency veterinarian nearest you right away

If your dog has a fever, 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 run 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.

Do you suspect your dog has a fever? If so, book an appointment with our vets. We are experienced in diagnosing and treating illnesses in pets. Contact us today

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