When a dog has a body temperature that is higher than normal, he is having a fever.
Normal dog temperature is between 100°F and 102.5°F (37.7°C and 39.2°C) for adult dogs.
Newborn puppies has a lower temperature (94°F to 97°F, or 34.4°C to 36.1°C), and puppies at around 4 weeks old has a body temperature of 100°F (37.3°C).
Fever is not an illness in itself, but is a symptom indicating that the body’s immune system is reacting to some form of infection.
If your dog has a fever, it is important to look for other accompanying symptoms in order to determine the underlying cause. If that is difficult, and if your dog has prolonged high fever, then take your dog to the vet.
Dog Fever Symptoms
How can you tell if your dog has a fever if you don’t have a thermometer?
Indeed, fever in dogs may be hard to detect because sometimes a dog with a fever does not show any specific symptoms.
In a puppy, it is generally easy to tell if the puppy is sick and has a fever because a sick puppy is usually lethargic, less active and playful.
But there are some telltale signs indicating that the dog is not well if we are observant enough.
Dog fever symptoms may include the following:
- Hiding (e.g. sleeping under your bed)
- A change in behavior (e.g. becoming grouchy and cranky)
- Not drinking enough water
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
- Lumps and swelling
If your dog is showing of the signs and symptoms above, check whether his paws, the back of his ears, and his tummy are hot. If so, it’s likely that he has a fever.
Of course, to take the guesswork out of the equation, the best way is to actually take the temperature of the dog.
How to Take a Dog’s Temperature
It may not be an easy task to take your dog’s temperature if he resists! If that is the case it may be better to leave the job to your vet.
If your dog is cooperative enough, you can try to take his temperature preferably using a digital thermometer which is safer (not breakable).
Here are the steps to follow when taking your dog’s body temperature:
- Have someone restrain the dog gently especially if you have a big or uncooperative dog.
- Raise the dog’s tail and hold it firmly to prevent him from sitting down.
- Insert the thermometer into the rectum (depending on the dog’s size, insert about 1 inch).
- Hold onto the thermometer and wait for it to beep.
- Slide the thermometer out gently and slowly and read the temperature.
Causes of Fever in Dogs
There are numerous health problems that can cause fever in dogs.
Below is a table of some illnesses that cause fever, together with other accompanying symptoms for each illness.
This list is of course not exhaustive, but hopefully it can help you understand what is wrong with your dog if ever he has a fever.
|Bladder Infection||Fever; frequent urination; painful urination; urinary incontinence; blood in urine; lower back pain; lethargy|
|Distemper||Early Stage: fever (up to 103° to 105°F); watery eye and nasal discharge; appetite loss; listlessness.
Later Stage: thick yellow eye and nasal discharge; dry cough; vomiting; diarrhea; dehydration
|Encephalitis (Brain Infection)||High fever; depression; behavior change (e.g. aggression); uncoordinated gait; seizures; coma|
|Influenza||High fever; soft, gagging cough; nasal discharge|
|Kennel Cough (Severe Cases)||Low-grade fluctuating fever; appetite loss; lethargy; a moist productive cough; nasal discharge; wheezing; difficulty breathing|
|Kidney Infection||Fever; vomiting; appetite loss; lower back pain; a stiff-legged gait and hunched-up posture|
|Leptospirosis||Fever; vomiting; appetite loss; muscle pain; lethargy; sometimes diarrhea or blood in urine|
|Valley Fever||(At its systemic stage) Fever; chronic cough; weight loss; swollen joints; lameness; swollen lymph nodes; weakness|
|Leukemia||Fever; appetite loss; weight loss; anemia; pale mucous membranes|
|Parvovirus||High fever (up to 106°F) for some dogs; vomiting; diarrhea; dehydration; abdominal pain; depression|
|Pneumonia||Fever; coughing; depression; rapid breathing and pulse; thick nasal discharge|
|Prostatitis||Fever; depression; vomiting; diarrhea; painful urination; enlarged and tender prostate gland|
|Sore Throat||Fever; coughing; gagging; appetite of loss; red and inflamed throat; pain on swallowing|
|Tonsillitis||Fever (over 103°F); depression; coughing; gagging; appetite of loss; bright red swollen tonsils; pain on swallowing|
As you can see, a lot of the illnesses that cause fever in dogs are infections of some kind.
But sometimes, the cause of dog fever is idiopathic. It means that the exact cause cannot be determined. This is also referred to as fever of unknown origin.
Beware of Heat Stroke
Another possible cause of high fever in dogs is heat stroke, which is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary treatment.
If your dog has been out in the hot sun for a while and he starts panting heavily and vomiting, suspect heat stroke.
Other symptoms of heat stroke include high fever (up to 104° to 110°F); a bright red tongue; bright red mucous membranes; thick saliva.
Treatment and Home Care of Fever in Dogs
Treatment obviously depends on the underlying cause and severity of the fever.
Mild forms of fever are often beneficial to the body since they can help destroy invading bacteria or viruses, so a mild fever is often left to run its course.
For fevers over 104.5°F, a vet will commonly prescribe medication (antibiotics) to lower the fever. Commonly prescribed antibiotics include Amoxicillin, Ampicillin, Cephalexin, and Doxycycline.
If your dog has a fever that is less than 104.5°F, you may want to monitor and observe your dog at home for a few days to see if the fever goes away on its own.
Make sure that your dog continues to eat and drink and take his temperature a few times a day. If his body temperature goes over 104.5°F, take him to the vet immediately.
In the meantime, give some vitamin C supplements such as Wholistic Pet Organics Ester-C Supplement to your dog to boost his immune system. (Dosage: 5-10 mg/lb, 2-3 times daily).
There is also a natural remedy called Newton Labs Homeopathics Remedy Pets Fever, which helps reduce fever and relieve such symptoms as lethargy and appetite loss.
To Sum Up…
Fever is not an illness itself. It is a symptom, usually caused by some form of infection.
If a dog has a slight fever without any other severe symptoms, you may want to wait for a couple of days to see if the fever goes down. Make sure the dog is hydrated.
For high fever, and fever accompanied by other illness symptoms, take the dog to the vet for a checkup.