Fever in Dogs
Fever in dogs can be caused by a number of health issues such as bacterial infections or organ problems. In this post, we will look at normal dog temperature and how to take a dog’s temperature, possible causes of fever, and dog fever symptoms.

A fever is defined as a body temperature higher than normal.

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 in dogs 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

Unless we take the dog’s temperature, How can we tell if our dog has a fever?

Indeed, dog fever 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 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
  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • Lumps and swelling

While these symptoms may indicate fever, 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″).
  • 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.

Illness Accompanying Symptoms
Bladder Infection Fever; frequent urination; painful urination; urinary incontinenceblood 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.

Finally, 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 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 Homeopathic for Fever and Infection, which helps reduce fever and relieve such symptoms as lethargy and appetite loss.