Fever in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Fever in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Every organism will experience an illness once or twice in their lifetime even though there is an immune system to prevent that. Fevers are one of the most common diseases, and dogs are not immune to it. Mostly, the rule of thumb to know if your dog has a fever is by checking their nose; if it’s wet and cool, they’re alright but if it’s dry and warm, then there’s a fever. Even though this sometimes works, things are not that simple and so this method is not adequate to make an accurate conclusion. In this article, we discuss the causes, symptoms and treatment for fever in dogs – to put you in the best position to help your dog when it gets sick.

Dog lying near the radiator

How to Tell If a Dog Has a Fever

A rise in body temperature usually characterizes fever and you can only tell there has been a change when you know the normal temperature. Humans have a normal body temperature of 97.6 to 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit, while normal dog temperature is anything between 99.5- and 102.5-degrees Fahrenheit. It is clear that a dog’s normal body temperature might feel a little excessive to you. However, it is not until the temperature is over 103 degrees Fahrenheit that you should start worrying. Fever and hyperthermia are often confused for each other but there is a significant difference between the two. While fever is a result of a breach in the body’s health status, hyperthermia is due to the external environment being overheated. Heat strokes are a form of hyperthermia and need as much attention as a fever.

Once that is out of the way, another thing to know is how to take a dog’s temperature. This step is crucial because it is the only sure way to tell if your dog’s temperature is abnormal. This is not exactly a pleasurable experience but it is necessary if you want to find solutions to your dog’s illness. It can be executed in two ways; using either rectal and ear thermometers. Using a rectal thermometer will require lubricants such as baby oil or petroleum jelly and then inserting it into the dog’s anus. Then, once you get a clear reading, you can withdraw the device. It should take about 60 minutes to get a reading so that the dog doesn’t experience the discomfort for long. Using an ear thermometer is less invasive and it works by measuring infrared heat waves emitted by the dog’s ear. You should place this thermometer deep into the horizontal ear canal to obtain an accurate reading. This kind of thermometer is rather expensive but your dog will be more comfortable and relaxed while you use it. Glass thermometers are advised against since they are not the best to use for these purposes.

A high temperature however, is only one of the symptoms of fever and there are many others to look out for. These signs include warm ears, red eyes, shivering, loss of appetite, coughing, warm, dry nose with or without a discharge, lack of energy and vomiting. They may not exhibit all of them at once but when you notice your dog experiencing the majority of them, then it’s likely to be a fever. There are different types of fever and they can be differentiated based on their symptoms.

Causes of High Fever in Dogs

  • Infections: Of all the causes of dog fever that exist, infections are one of the most common. The fever comes up as a result of the body trying to get rid of that unwanted material. It can either be internal or external but both need to be paid the same attention. Some internal infections can affect the brain, lungs, or kidney and are called encephalitis, pneumonia, and pyelonephritis respectively. Some external infections include that of the skin which can occur from improper treatment of a scar or even bites from certain insects. Ticks are one kind of parasitic insects that attach themselves to host organisms and feed off them. During their feeding, they transmit all sorts of diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Q Fever. Ear infections, urinary tract infections and tooth infections can also cause a dog to develop a fever. The symptoms usually manifest based on the affected area and will tell what type of treatment to pursue.
  • Vaccines: Vaccination is one of the inventions that are supposed to help in the fight against illnesses. However, they come with side effects, and for dogs, fever happens to be one of them. It is not rare for your dog to develop a low-grade fever usually 24 to 48 hours after getting vaccinated. This reaction is mainly because of the interaction between the vaccine and the immune system and should often disappear after a few days. The dog must still be monitored to ensure that the fever does not become severe.
  • Toxins: This is probably the most apparent cause of all because toxins are unwanted and so there will be a fight to get them out. The fight might result in a fever so it is better to know what your dog cannot tolerate to avoid them at al cost. Some everyday items that are considered poison for dogs to ingest include some human medicines like antidepressants, foods like chocolate, onions, moldy foods and raisins. Others are detergents, dishwasher salt, antifreeze, fungi or some plants, and insecticides.

There are cases where the cause of a dog’s fever is not known, and it could be an indication of an underlying disorder. The proper name for this phenomenon is FUO or Fever of Unknown Origin and is usually assumed to be a symptom of more severe issues. These issues include diseases such as cancer, immune system disorders, or bone marrow disorders.

Dog at the vet

Dog Fever Treatment

  • Dog fever treatment at home

When you have a pet and notice they might be falling ill, the first thing to do is try first aid. This involves making them comfortable and administering safe generic care to help them feel better. For dog or puppy fever, one way is to help reduce their temperature by applying cold water to certain parts of their body. Cool water around the paws, ears, and fur preferably with a damp sponge, is likely to bring down the temperature. Also, make available clean water for them to sip on, who help lower their internal temperature. Make sure they have access to a lot of shade or the cool parts of the house. If you have cooling mats, then they will come in handy in this situation remembering to give room for them to reset. You must monitor the dog’s temperature to know whether the method is working or not. If not, then it might be time to take further action. Your dog does not need human medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen since they are considered poisonous and can lead to severe health complications or death. Also, avoid engaging the dog in any vigorous activity that may increase their body heat.

Related Post: Dog First Aid Kit

  • Dog fever treatment at the vet’s

Home remedies are not always recommended considering how damaging a prolonged fever can be, and it’s still better to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Once the dog has a temperature above the normal, it is necessary to take a trip to the vets. It can get tricky diagnosing the exact cause of the fever and this is one more reason you should go immediately. The veterinarian will start by conducting some standard tests to try and get useful information about what might be going on. The data might include any toxins the dog might have come into contact with. This will also help you to pay more attention to what you allow your dog to have access to. The advantage of visiting the vet is also because they have your dog’s medical history and can trace the root of the problem. The vet will also be the best person to confirm whether the dog is actually having a fever or a heatstroke. After successfully diagnosing the problem, the vet can give you useful solutions including medication, that can bring the fever down. Visiting the veterinarian is the best thing to do for your dog since it is getting expert advice and opinion. It will reduce the risk of losing the dog and you will both enjoy your companionship.

Dog temperature measuring

To Summarize

Illnesses usually get in the way of us living our best lives and it is no different from dogs. Dog fever reduces the energy your dog used to have and it can affect your relationship. The illness can be as a result of their body trying to push some harmful substances out or as a symptom of an underlying disease. In both cases, it still must be curbed and the best thing to do is visit the animal clinic. Outlined in this article is general information on fever, why your dog is experiencing it and how to manage it. However, the vet is in the best place to give more detailed information on your dog’s health.


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Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.