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Dog Fever: Possible Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for Fever in Dogs

Updated by Sheryl on Sep 7, 2021

Dog’s normal body temperature is significantly higher than humans. We cannot touch and tell if they have a fever. You might be familiar with the old tried and tested method: feel your dog’s nose- wet and cold- it’s normal. Dry and hot, it’s a fever.

Though there’s nothing wrong with feeling in a dog’s nose, relying on the nose alone can never give an accurate temperature reading. And more often than not, dog fever goes undiagnosed and untreated.

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A temperature higher than 103 degrees F is considered dog fever. If the temperature reaches 106 degrees F, it’s a serious dog fever that can be fatal and cause many health complications.

The term ‘fever’ in any animal means elevated body temperatures, a reaction to an infection or inflammation. In dogs, it’s 103 degrees F, although it can reach up to 103 degrees F if a dog feels extremely anxious or excited.

What is the normal temperature for dogs?

Normal temperature for dogs lies between 101 to 102.5 degrees F. It’s much higher as compared to humans, which range anywhere between 97.6 to 99.6. It means you may feel your dog has a fever when it’s his normal body temperature.

You can take your dog’s temperature using a rectal or ear thermometer. Your dog will not like the experience, but using a rectal thermometer will help you assess accurate temperature. It will take around 60 seconds to show the results. Also, there are digital thermometers available in the market made for just pets.

human thermometer
Using a rectal thermometer:
Ask someone to hold the dog still, preferably someone who is familiar with your dog. If you don’t have anyone to help, lie your dog on his side and hold him in that position while talking to him softly.
Lubricate his rectum with petroleum jelly or baby oil.
Lift his tail and gently insert the thermometer in with twisting motions.
Insert about an inch or two (depending on the size of your dog).
Take it out as soon as you get a result.
Using an ear thermometer:
Hold your dog still so that you don’t hurt him if he tries to escape.
Place the thermometer deep inside the ear canal, about two or three inches (depending on the dog’s size.
Take it out and wipe it clean.

Ear thermometers work by measuring the infrared heat waves emitting from the eardrums. They are less invasive, and they give accurate readings. Infrared or ear thermometers are also more expensive than digital thermometers.

Using a glass thermometer:
Shake it well before inserting it.
You can use it rectally or via underarm, but be very careful with your dog when using a glass thermometer.
Hold the thermometer steady for two to three minutes. It takes longer than rectal and infrared thermometers.

Since he cannot tell you when he feels feverish, you need to know the possible dog fever symptoms.

Any combination of the following signs is a good indication of fever in your dog:
Red or glassy eyes
Warm ears
Dry or warm nose
Lack of energy
Runny nose
Loss of appetite
depressed dog

If your dog’s body temperature is above 103 degrees F, you can comfort him by placing cool soaked towels around his paws and ears. You can fan the damp fur to reduce the temperature. Keep monitoring his temperature as you do this, and stop this process when it reaches 103 F.

See if you can persuade him to drink some water or fresh fruit juice, but don’t force him.

Never give human fever medicines to your dog like ibuprofen, acetaminophen. These can be poisonous for dogs. The repercussions can be fatal or cause serious health issues.

If you could reduce his temperature, you should still keep monitoring his temperature to make sure the fever doesn’t return. Always remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

take dog to see the vet

When to call the vet for dog fever?

If the dog fever reaches 106 degrees F or any higher, rush to the nearest veterinary clinic. It can become fatal if you wait any longer.

If your dog is showing symptoms like shivering, coughing, vomiting, or diarrhoea, you should consider taking your dog to the vet. There might be an underlying disease that needs to be diagnosed.

An infection, inflammation, or an underlying disease can cause fever in dogs. Sometimes dogs have a fever after a vaccination.

Your dog might have a fever from:

1. Infections: Infections may be anywhere in the body. It can be external or internal.
An infected bite or scratch
Ear infection
Urinary tract infection
Tooth infection or abscess in dogs
Kidney, lung, liver infection
Viral, bacterial, or fungal disease
2. Eating toxic substances: Ingestion of substances that are toxic to dogs can also cause fever. This includes:
Macadamia nuts
Human depressants
Human foods that are toxic to dogs
Toxic plants
3. Vaccine: A mild fever after the vaccination that lasts for 24 to 48 hours is common in dogs.

There’s nothing to worry about if your dog has a fever after vaccination. Just monitor his condition.

In some cases, the cause behind the elevated body temperature in dogs cannot be rightly identified; it happened because “fever of unknown origin” is also called “FUO”. It requires physical tests to diagnose the problem. In the majority of the cases, it happens due to certain immune disorders, undiagnosed infections, bone marrow disease, and cancer.

dog lying on the sofa
Can you take a dog's temperature with a human thermometer?
You can use a human thermometer on a dog, both Celsius, and Fahrenheit. It has the same readings. It works similarly for both humans and dogs. Digital, infrared, mercury-- you can use any of them in the right way to measure your dog’s fever. Just make sure it’s for pet use only and keep it a distant place from people’s first-aid kits.
Can you take a dog's temperature under the arm?
Placing the thermometer under a dog’s arm can give you an approximate temperature measurement. Simply put the tip of the thermometer under your dog’s arm and hold the arm down until you hear a beep. It usually takes longer than a rectal thermometer. Then add one degree to the thermometer’s reading. The result is not precise, but if you are having trouble using a rectal thermometer, you can use it under the arm to generalize your dog’s body temperature.
How can you tell if a dog has a high temperature without a thermometer?
Feel your dog’s nose. If it’s normal, it should feel wet and cold. If he has a fever, the nose becomes dry and warm. Another way to tell if he has a fever is by checking his gums. If they appear more red than usual, he might be running a fever. His underarms and groin areas will also feel hot and more swollen than usual.
What kind of thermometer shall I use on my dog?
Digital and infrared are the two most used thermometer types for dogs. Digital thermometers are more popular choices among dog parents as they are affordable, accurate and quick to use. Ear or infrared thermometers can be easier to use, but they are more expensive choices.
Some vets don’t recommend using glass thermometers because of safety reasons. Use a glass or mercury thermometer only if other options are not available.

It’s best to use a digital thermometer rectally on a dog. It’s affordable, easy to use and gives accurate results. If the fever persists for more than two days, visit the vet. If the fever reaches 106 degrees F or any higher, rush to the nearest vet emergency clinic. It can cause critical health problems, even death.

If you have reduced the dog’s body temperature, keep monitoring his temperature and make sure the fever doesn’t reappear.

Sheryl is an editor from iPetor, owns extensive pet care experience. As a professional writer, she can provide useful pet care tips for all "parents".
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