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Fever in Dogs

Dog owners aren't always able to easily identify whether their pup has a fever. In this post, our Voorhees vets explain how to tell if your dog has a fever, in addition to the causes, symptoms, and what you need to know to care for your pet. 

What temperature indicates a fever in dogs?

A healthy dog's body temperature naturally sits between 101° and 102.5°Fahrenheit. This is significantly higher than a person's normal body temperature, which ranges from 97.6°F to 99.6°F. 

A temperature higher than 103°F is considered a dog fever. A high fever—a temperature of 106°F or higher—can lead to serious and even fatal complications. 

What are the symptoms of a fever in dogs?

Before you notice a change in your dog's temperature, you'll most likely notice unusual behavior from them. You should closely monitor your dog's symptoms. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should check your dog's temperature.

If your dog has a fever, symptoms may include:

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

How do I take my dog's temperature?

Unfortunately, it isn't as easy as it might seem to find out whether your dog has a fever. Their body temperature may vary depending on how excited and active they are. Their internal temperature also changes depending on the time of day. This is why it's important to understand your individual dog's healthy temperature. Determine this by tracking your dog's temperature at different times during the day for several consecutive days. 

You might have heard the myth that a dog's nose is key to determining if they have a fever. However, how warm or cool a dog's nose is is not an accurate indicator of whether your pooch's temperature is too high. 

Many owners are curious about how to tell if their dog has a fever without using a thermometer. Another truth about fever in dogs is that the only reliable way to tell if your dog is warmer than they should be is to use a rectal thermometer.

Some pet stores sell thermometers made especially for pets. We recommend keeping a separate thermometer just for your dog and storing it where you keep the dog's supplies. 

Begin by washing the thermometer with soap and water, then rinsing and drying it on a clean towel. Lubricate the thermometer tip with petroleum or water-soluble lubricant before lifting your dog's tail up and to the side. Carefully insert the thermometer about an inch into your dog's rectum. If possible, have a second person hold your dog's hind legs to prevent them from sitting. Once the thermometer's temperature has been registered, carefully remove it.

What are some potential causes of fevers in dogs?

Some of the most common reasons a dog may develop a fever include: 

  • An infected bite, scratch, or cut 
  • Tooth abscess or infection 
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Ear infection
  • Ingestion of poisonous substances
  • A bacterial, fungal, or viral infection

How To Treat a Fever in a Dog

If your dog has a fever of 103° F or higher, you can help cool his body temperature by applying cool water to his ears and paws with a soaked towel or cloth and placing a fan near him. When your dog's temperature drops below 103°F, stop applying water. Continue to closely monitor your dog to ensure that the fever does not recur.

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, or vomiting, you should consider taking your dog in for emergency veterinary care.

Veterinary Internal Medicine at Voorhees Veterinary Center

Sometimes, the cause of your dog's fever might not be apparent right away. This is also known as a fever of unknown origin, or FUO. In these circumstances, cancer, bone marrow problems, an underlying immune system disorder, or another internal medical condition may be the culprit. 

Any time you notice the symptoms listed above or are concerned about your pet's health, contact your veterinarian. They can assess your pet's specific circumstances and recommend the next steps.

We also have experience in veterinary internal medicine (treating diseases and disorders of animals' internal structures) and can perform a comprehensive physical exam to diagnose the issue. Your vet can then develop a detailed treatment plan tailored to your pet's needs.  

If your veterinarian discovers that your pet needs expertise or a procedure that we do not offer at our hospital, we can also refer you to an internal medicine vet specialist for dogs near Voorhees. 

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.

Is your dog displaying signs of fever? Contact our Voorhees vets today to book an exam for your four-legged companion.

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Voorhees Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of New Jersey's companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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