Dog owners know first hand how awful it feels to know that your beloved furry companion is in pain but not know how to fix it. In realizing your dog has a fever, the first thing you may want to do is reduce their temperature and cuddle them back to health. However, it is important for pet owners to recognize that a dog fever is, in fact, symptomatic of another underlying health condition in your pet. First addressing the fever, but then addressing the cause of the fever is extremely important in ensuring your dog’s health and well-being.
What is a Fever
A fever is defined as an abnormally elevated body temperature. A headache and shivering usually accompany the fever. In severe cases, delirium may also occur.
What is Pyrexia
Pyrexia is another way to refer to the term, fever. Therefore, pyrexia is the elevation of the body’s core temperature.
Normal Dog Temperature
It is important for dog owners to know that while the normal body temperature for humans is 97.6 to 99.6 F, a normal, healthy body temperature in dogs is between 101 and 102.5 F. For this reason, your dog may feel “feverish” to you, but don’t panic, Fido’s temperature is typical for a dog.
What is Considered a Fever in Dogs
Because an average temperature for a dog falls between 101 and 102.5 F, when the dog’s body temperature is over 103 F, it is considered a dog fever.
Hyperthermia and heat stroke occurs as a result of excessive exercising in the heat or when exposed to hot external temperatures for an extended period of time. If your dog’s core temperature reaches 106 F, serious, and at times irreversible complications can transpire.
How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature
We’re going to warn you ahead of time, taking your dog’s temperature is not going to be the greatest experience you two share together. A rectal thermometer is the only way to assess your pup’s temperature accurately. Pet owners can purchase a dog specific thermometer that will register your four-legged friend’s temperature in approximately 60 seconds.
Fever Symptoms in Dogs
While there aren’t any definite clinical signs that tell pet owners that their dog undoubtedly has a fever, there are several symptoms that suggest you may want to take your pup’s temperature.
The symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Decreased body fluids
- Increased respiratory rate
- Nasal discharge
Other symptoms may arise depending upon the underlying cause.
Again, the only accurate way for a dog owner to assess whether or not their dog has a fever is by taking their body temperature with a dog specific rectal thermometer. Do not use an ear thermometer designed for human use as it will not provide accurate results.
What Causes a Fever
There is a wide array of conditions and ailments that can cause your dog to have a fever.
One of the most prominent underlying causes of a fever is some sort of infection of the body including:
- Viral infections
- Bacterial infections
- Fungal infections
- An infection caused by a bite or cut
Additionally, the infection may be anywhere in the body such as:
- Infection in the lungs (pneumonia)
- Kidney infection (pyelonephritis)
- Infection in the brain (encephalitis)
- Ear infection
- Skin infection
- Urinary tract infection
The location of the infection will ultimately determine the additional symptoms that accompany the fever.
If a dog consumes any amount of a toxic substance, a fever can be symptomatic of the ingestion. There is an extensive list of toxins that may cause an elevated body temperature in dogs, but vets commonly see the ingestion of toxic plants and antifreeze and consumption of human medications resulting in high fevers in dogs.
Additionally, ongoing diseases including bacterial or viral diseases can often cause a dog to run a fever.
Vets often observe high fevers associated with metabolic diseases and endocrine diseases.
Furthermore, it is relatively common for a low-grade fever to occur within 24 to 48 hours after administering vaccines.
At times, a veterinarian may not be able to readily determine the underlying cause of the elevated body temperature. Vets refer to these cases as “fever of unknown origin.”
Diagnosing a Fever in Dogs
Diagnosing the underlying condition that is causing your dog to run a fever can prove to be challenging for you and your veterinarian.
First, dog owners should be prepared to provide the veterinarian with ample information about their pup
Any contact with infectious agents
- Travel history
- Drug usage (new or existing)
- Insect bites
- Recent vaccination
- Recent surgery
- Previous illnesses
- First onset of the fever
Next, your vet will perform a thorough physical exam and routine laboratory tests including a complete blood count (CBC blood tests), a biochemistry profile, and a urinalysis. These tests can provide the vet with information regarding the condition causing the fever.
Your vet may also order culture and sensitivity testing to identify the specific organism causing the elevated body temperature. Knowing as much information as possible will allow your veterinarian to develop an appropriate and effective treatment plan.
More advanced methods may prove to aid in the diagnosis. These advanced techniques include:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
How to Treat a Fever
Treatment for your dog’s fever will depend on the underlying condition causing it. If there is not a serious underlying condition, typically treatment involves fluids and rest.
If the underlying condition has any level of severity, medical treatment will be necessary to manage the fever. Due to the fact that there are so many possibilities for the fever, treatment will vary significantly from case to case. Antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs and fluid therapy are standard necessities in most diagnoses. Some severe cases may involve surgery. Again, the underlying diagnosed condition will dictate the necessary treatment.
If you take your dog’s temperature at home and see that it is above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, you should call your vet straight away. Fevers above 106 F need to be treated as emergencies and receive immediate attention.
In the meantime, if the dog’s temperature is above 105 F, dog owners can help to reduce their dog’s temperature by applying cool water to their fur, particularly the feet and ears. Once the fur is damp, using a fan on your dog will also help to lower their body temperature.
Using a dog specific, digital thermometer, monitor your dog’s rectal temperature as you cool them down. It is important not to reduce their body temperature too quickly. Once the dog’s temperature reaches 103 F, pet owners should stop the cooling process.
Additionally, pet owners should make sure that their dog is staying hydrated and drinking small amounts of water on a regular basis. However, experts warn not to force the water consumption as it may make the dog sick.
Finally, never, ever give your dog human medication to lower their fever. While acetaminophens or ibuprofen may reduce temperatures in people, they can be extremely dangerous for dogs, even leading to death.
Again, just because the fever has been reduced doesn’t mean the dog has been cured. Dog owners should still see their veterinarian as soon as possible so that the underlying cause for the fever can be determined and treated.
Managing Fevers in Dogs
In order for your dog to make a full recovery, they will need a lot of rest and a high caloric and nutrient diet. It is common for your dog’s love for food to change when they are feeling feverish. If your dog doesn’t seem to want to eat, ask your vet if they can recommend a liquid food substitute. It is imperative that the dog has as much help as they can get on the road to recovery.
If your vet prescribes medication, be sure to finish the full course of the drug, even if your dog’s symptoms subside.
Dog Fever: A Final Thought
At the end of the day, knowing that your furry companion is running a fever can be worrisome for pet owners. We know that if we have an elevated body temperature, something is wrong. More times than not, this is also the case in dogs.
Pet owners should remember a few things in treating fevers. First, your dog’s normal temperature is higher than yours, so don’t panic when the rectal thermometer reads 102 F. However, most importantly remember that while you are reducing the fever, determining the underlying cause for the fever is extremely important. A thorough exam and treatment from your vet will ensure that Fido doesn’t experience any additional fevers or ailments and stays happy and healthy.