What You Should Do If Your Dog Has a Fever

It can be worrying if you think your dog has a fever. It can be unexpected and cause your dog distress and discomfort, especially if you are unsure as to what has caused the fever.

This guide points out the right steps to take and some helpful information if you think your dog has a fever. This includes a dog’s normal temperature, common signs and symptoms of fever in dogs,  and how to take your dog’s temperature.

If you are in need of professional advice, be sure to get into contact with trusted and experienced vet specialists who will be able to guide you through the right steps to take.

Common Signs of Fever in Dogs

  • Red eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Warm ears
  • Warm, dry nose
  • Depressed mood
  • Shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting

Reasons Your Dog May have a Fever

The fever may have been caused by a number of reasons, some more serious than others. It may be due to an infected bite, an ear infection, a UTI, an infected or assessed tooth, or in more serious cases, an ongoing bacterial disease or infection of organs, kidneys or lungs.

You may also find your dog has a fever due to ingesting toxic plants, human medication, or substances that are toxic to dogs such as human foods like sweetener, or antifreeze.

If you think your dog may have a fever, the best thing to do it take your dog’s temperature, at which point you can assess how serious the fever is, and whether or not further action needs to be taken. Some mild fevers can be treated at home, if monitored carefully, however, some fevers may be very serious and will require intervention from your vet.

If you are unsure at any point, ring your vets straight away for advice and guidance, even if you find that guidance to be to stay at home with your dog.

How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature

You will need to use a thermometer designed for canine use to take your dog’s temperature. It is worth investing in one of these for your dog’s first aid kit to help with minor emergencies before your vet can help.

Don’t use human or glass thermometers to take your dog’s temperature.

There are two ways to accurately measure your dog’s temperature:

By Using a Rectal Thermometer

Depending on your dog’s behavior and levels of discomfort, the best way to accurately take your dog’s temperature is with a rectal thermometer. Be sure to lubricate the thermometer beforehand with baby oil or petroleum jelly. You then need to insert the thermometer rectally by about an inch. Do this slowly, twisting slightly. Lift your dog’s tail up while you do this, and unless you can hold your dog still with the help of others it is best to do this while your dog is lying down. Wait 60 seconds or remove the thermometer when you have a reading.

By Using an Ear Thermometer

Ear thermometers are a less invasive but just as reliable method to take your dog’s temperature.  ar thermometers are more expensive to invest in, but are handy to have on hand. Be sure to carefully insert the thermometer into your dog’s ear without causing damage to the ear drum. Wait for 60 seconds or until a reading appears.

What is a Dog’s Normal Temperature?

A dog’s normal temperature runs a little higher than humans, at 99. 5 – 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog’s temperature reads 103 or higher, then take your dog to the vet. A temperature of 106 degrees F or higher can seriously damage a dog’s internal organs and potentially be fatal.

Do not wait for your dog’s temperature to reach this point.

Things to Take Notice of

You may need to have a think about your dog’s recent behaviour to find the cause of the fever.

  • Take note of when you first noticed the fever
  • Take note of any recent physical injection, plants they may have eaten, other toxins, or insect bites they may have suffered.

An underlying condition may be found, however, the vet may deduce that your dog has an FUO – aka, a Fever of Unknown Origin.

Reducing a Dog’s Fever

Attempt to keep your dog as cool and as comfortable as possible.

  • Cool their ears and paws by applying cool water on both, using a damp cloth or towel
  • Monitor their temperature continuously. When it drops below 103 degrees F, you can stop applying water, and try to get your dog to drink small amounts of water. Monitor your dog closely at this point, looking out for any changes in temperature or behaviour.

Common Reasons for Fever in Dogs

The fever may have been brought on by hot external temperatures, or excessive exercise in humid conditions. If this is the case, then it may be very serious as your dog could have hyperthermia or heatstroke.

However, it may also be a result of one of the following:

Infection

This could be bacterial, fungal, or anywhere in the body, such as the lungs, kidneys, brain or skin. The symptoms your dog is showing will largely depend on where the focus of the infection is and the underlying cause is itself. It can be tricky to determine this as some infections can affect various areas of the body.

Vaccination

After your dog has been vaccinated, a reaction of a low impact fever after 24-28 hours is not uncommon. This happens because your dog’s immune system is reacting to the injection. If this occurs, still monitor your dog’s condition carefully, and contact your vet if there are any true causes of concern.

Toxins

Substances that are poisonous to dogs may have caused your dog to develop a fever – there are plenty of human foods that are toxic to dogs, a full list of which can be found here. Human medicines can also be toxic to dogs, so if you think your dog has ingested anything toxic, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet.

Physical Injury & Infection

The fever could have also been brought on from infection and physical injury. If you believe this to be the case it is best to contact your vet as an infection could have harmful consequences for your dog. For example, it could have been caused by an infected cut on your dog’s paw or a bite or scratch from another dog.

The most common reasons for an FUO (Fever of Unknown Origin) are:

  • Disorders of the immune system
  • Bone marrow problems
  • Undiagnosed infections
  • Cancer

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