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Fever in Dogs

It can be difficult to detect fever in dogs. Today, our San Jose vets explain how to detect fever in dogs, the causes, symptoms and what you need to know to care for your pooch.

What is a normal temperature for a dog and what temperature is a dog fever? 

Normally, a dog's body temperature ranges from 101° to 102.5° Fahrenheit, which is significantly higher to humans whose body temperature ranges from 97.6° to 99.6° F. 

If your dog's temperature rises above 103° F, this is considered a dog fever. Temperatures of 106° F and above are dangerous as this is the threshold during which serious and fatal complications can occur. 

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

Fevers in dogs can be difficult to detect because their body temperatures can also increase when they are stressed or very excited. Also, a dog's temperature may vary throughout the day and sometimes even at night. This is why it's imperative to understand your dog's healthy temperature. You can identify this by tracking your dog's temperature at various times throughout the day, for several days. 

While some people believe that if you feel your dog's nose and if it's wet and cold your dog's temperature is fine, and if it is dry and hot it indicates a fever. However, this is not an accurate barometer of whether your dog has a fever. 

Using a digital thermometer for rectal use is the best way to check and monitor your dog's temperature. Some of these thermometers are made just for pets and are available at pet stores. It's recommended that you keep a separate thermometer just for your dog and store it where you keep your dog's supplies. 

Begin by lubricating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum or water-soluble lubricant. Then, lift your dog's tail up and to the side and carefully insert the thermometer about 1 inch into your dog's rectum. If possible, you may want to have a second person help you by holding under the dog's hind legs to prevent your dog from sitting. Once the temperature has registered on the thermometer you can carefully remove the thermometer.  

Why would a dog have a fever?  

A range of conditions and illnesses may cause a fever in your dog. These include:

  • An infected bite, scratch or cut 
  • Tooth infection or abscess
  • A bacterial, fungal or viral infection
  • An ear infection
  • Urinary tract infection 
  • Ingestion of poisonous materials, such as toxic plants, human medications, or human foods that are toxic to dogs

If the cause of a dog's fever cannot be readily determined, it is often referred to as a fever of unknown origin, or FUO. In these cases, a fever underlying bone marrow problems, immune system disorders or cancer could be the culprit. 

What are 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 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: 

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

How should I care for a dog with a fever? 

Our vets often field questions about how to safely reduce fever in dogs, and when a visit to the vet is warranted. 

If your dog’s fever is 106° F or higher take your dog in for urgent veterinary care

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 dogs 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 to stay 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 people or pets. Always follow your doctors advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms. 

Does your dog have a fever? Our vets are trained to care for pets with a variety of illnesses and conditions. Contact us today.

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Bloom Plaza Animal Hospital is now welcoming new cat and dog patients! Our professional and talented vets are dedicated to the health of San Jose's companion animals. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your furry friend. 

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