As pet parents, making sure our furry pals are happy and healthy is a major part of our responsibility to our pets. We often don’t notice health issues until they manifest in our dogs’ refusal to eat or being more inactive than normal. In many cases, an illness has already established itself fairly well before we realize Fido isn’t feeling well. Exacerbating this is the fact that our pups can’t tell us verbally that something is amiss. Like humans, dogs can run a fever when they don’t feel well, and being able to monitor their temperature is a good way to determine when to take them for a vet visit and treatment. This makes it imperative for pet parents to know how to tell if a dog has a fever, what is causing it, and when to seek medical treatment.
What is a normal temperature in dogs?
Dogs naturally have a higher normal body temperature than humans. A dog’s normal temperature is between 102 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to humans, who normally run a temperature between 97.6 and 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit, this is a major difference.
A dog is considered to have a fever if his temperature reaches 103 degrees. However, if this high temperature reaches 106 degrees Fahrenheit, your dog is considered to have a seriously high fever. It is best to see a vet if a dog’s body temperature reaches this threshold and you’re unable to get it back down.
How do I take my dog’s temperature?
It’s important to keep in mind that dogs may run at a temperature when they are stressed or excited. So, you can have a familiar friend come by your home, which in turn excites your dog, and he may run a fever simply because he’s happy to see that individual. This is no cause for alarm, simply because your dog’s temperature will eventually level off with no illness present.
Dogs may also experience a variety of temperature ups and downs on any given day, and this is normal. What this means is that you need to develop a baseline for your dog’s range of normal temperatures. You may need to chart his temperatures for a week or so, factoring in times of stress or excitement when you take the dog’s temperatures. Your dog may naturally run at a temperature of 103 or 103.5 degrees F, and this is not a cause for concern if he is otherwise behaving normally.
There is an old wives’ tale regarding your dog’s temperature and her nose. The tale goes something like this—if you touch your dog’s nose and it is wet/moist and cold, then your dog’s temperature is within a healthy range; if you touch your dog’s nose and it is hot and dry, she is running a temperature. Again, this IS an old adage, and it’s not necessarily true.
If you want to check your dog’s temperature in the most accurate way, you’ll need a digital thermometer that is specifically for rectal use. Most pet stores carry thermometers that are made specifically for dogs, and that would be the best investment as a “human” thermometer may give an inaccurate reading. You’ll also need to keep this thermometer with your dog’s supplies, and, of course, use that thermometer only for your dog.
When you need to take your dog’s temperature, you’ll need to lightly coat the thermometer with petroleum-based jelly. Pick up your dog’s tail, and insert about an inch of the thermometer into your dog’s rectum. You’ll need to leave the thermometer inserted until it registers, but, in the meantime, you may contend with a dog that tries to sit down or move away from you. While checking his temperature does not hurt your dog, it is uncomfortable, so you can expect her to try to move away from what’s causing the discomfort. You may need to get some assistance in holding your dog’s legs so that she doesn’t try to sit down or walk away from you.
What typically causes fever in dogs?
There are multiple issues that may cause your dog to run a fever, and not all of them are serious. However, most need to be treated by a veterinarian, especially if you’re unable to get your dog’s fever down.
Things that may cause your dog to run a fever:
- an infected bite, cut, or scratch
- an infection, whether viral, fungal, or bacterial
- dog ear infection
- an infection in the urinary tract
- ingesting some poisonous material, a poisonous plant, toxic foods, or human medications
- an abscess in the mouth or a tooth infection
However, there ARE instances when the cause of a fever isn’t easily determined, which vets refer to as FUO – a fever of unknown origin. Unfortunately, these fevers are usually indicative of an underlying issue, such as cancer, a bone marrow issue, or an immune system disorder.
What are some signs that my dog has a fever?
Most times, atypical behavior in your dog is the first sign that she has a fever. She may lie around and seem uninterested in play or exercise. She may not eat. If you check your dog for fever, and her temperature is elevated in addition to these symptoms, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
However, keep your eyes on your dog even if he doesn’t seem to feel poorly. If she develops any of the following symptoms, check for fever.
These dog fever symptoms include:
- decreased energy
- loss of appetite, refusal to drink water
- red or glassy-looking eyes
- runny nose or warm nose
- warm ears
Again, if you observe any of this behavior in your dog, check for fever, then call your vet immediately.
Can I treat my dog’s fever at home?
If your dog’s temperature reaches 106 degrees Fahrenheit, then get your dog to the vet immediately.
However, if your dog’s temperature is 103 – 104 degrees, you may want to try to reduce your dog’s fever at home . There are many options for doing this. First, you can soak a piece of cloth in cool water (not cold) and place the cloth on her ears and paws to help bring her temperature down. Do not allow her temperature to fall below 103 degrees, however. You’ll need to monitor her to make sure the fever doesn’t return.
Some pet parents may be tempted to give your dog Motrin (ibuprofen) or human Tylenol when she runs a fever. This is not good for your dog, even though some “experts” recommend it. These medications can actually be dangerous to your dog’s health, so forgo this temptation to bring down Fido’s temperature in this manner.
If you can get your dog to drink some cool water, this can also help to get his temperature down. However, never force him to drink. Dogs that don’t or won’t drink need to see the vet as this is usually an indication that something is wrong and requires medical treatment.
If you believe your dog has a fever, you can try to reduce it naturally at home. However, if your dog is refusing to eat or drink, call the vet and get to treatment as soon as possible. Dogs who refuse to drink can easily become dehydrated, and it could make the medical situation worse. If your dog has a fever and is shivering, panting, or vomiting, you should skip attempting home remedies and get your dog to the vet immediately.
1. Can you tell if a dog has a fever by touch?
No. Some think pet parents can tell a dog’s temperature by touching his nose, but this isn’t completely true. The only accurate way to take a dog’s temperature is by using a thermometer.
2. How do you tell if a dog has a fever without a thermometer?
It is not easy to tell for certain without a thermometer, but if the dog’s ears and nose are warm to the touch, it is possible that the dog does have a fever.
3. How do I check a dog’s temperature?
You’ll need to use a thermometer specifically made for dogs to check your dog’s temperature.