Dogs can get warm for various reasons from just running around to more serious medical issues. Knowing the signs and steps to take can help to address their symptoms quickly and prevent complications. Here, our Maury County Veterinary Hospital vets in Columbia share the signs of a fever in dogs, why it happens, and what you can give a dog to reduce fever.

What is considered a high fever in dogs?

When your dog feels healthy their body temperature will sit naturally between 101° to 102.5° Fahrenheit, which is significantly higher than humans whose body temperature ranges from 97.6° to 99.6° F.

A temperature of more than 103° F is considered a dog fever. A high fever in dogs is a temperature of 106° F or higher which could result in serious and fatal complications.

How do I take my dog's temperature?

While diagnosing a fever may seem simple, it can be more complicated due to the various reasons behind raised body temperatures in dogs. Their temperature can fluctuate depending on their level of excitement and activity.  Did you know that their internal temperature also changes depending on the time of day? Therefore, it is important to understand your dog’s healthy temperature. You can determine this by noting your dog's temperature at various times of the day, for several days.

Many people have heard the saying that if your dog's nose is cold and wet then they are healthy and at a normal body temperature, but unfortunately, this is nothing but an old wive's tale.

The only way that you can get an accurate reading of your dog's internal temperature is by using a rectal thermometer. Some pet stores carry thermometers made just for pets. It is recommended that you keep a separate thermometer just for your dog and store it where you keep your dog’s supplies.

Start by lubricating the tip of the thermometer with petroleum or water-soluble lubricant. Then lift your dog’s tail up and to the side and carefully insert the thermometer about 1 inch into your dog’s rectum. If possible, have a second person assist you by holding under the dog’s hind legs to prevent your dog from sitting. Once the thermometer temperature has registered you can carefully remove the thermometer.

Why does my dog have a fever?

While there are more reasons than we can fit into a list, here are some of the most common reasons why your dog may have a fever:

  • A bacterial, fungal, or viral infection
  • An ear infection
  • An infected bite, scratch, or cut
  • Tooth infection or abscess
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Ingestion of poisonous substances

In some cases, determining the cause of the fever will not be possible. This is often referred to as a fever of unknown origin or FUO. In these cases, a fever could be caused by underlying disorders of the immune system, bone marrow problems, or cancer.

What are the signs of a fever in dogs?

Along with a drop in temperature, you may also notice that your dog begins to display other unusual behaviors. You should keep a careful eye on your dog and take note of your dog's symptoms. Any combination of the following symptoms is a good indication that you should check your dog’s temperature.

The typical symptoms of fever in dogs include:

  • Red or glassy-looking eyes
  • Warm ears and/or nose
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Runny nose
  • Decreased energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting

How To Reduce Fevers in Dogs

If your dog’s fever is 106° F or higher, immediately take your dog to a local veterinary emergency clinic.

If your dog has a fever, of 103° F or more, you can help to cool your dog’s body temperature by applying cool water with a soaked towel or cloth to your dog's ears and paws and running a fan near your dog. Stop applying the water when your dog’s temperature drops below 103° F. Continue to monitor your dog closely to ensure that the fever doesn’t return.

Try to coax your dog to drink small amounts of water to stay hydrated, but don’t force your dog to drink.

Never, ever, give your dog any medications that are meant for humans, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications can be poisonous to your dog and cause serious injury or death.

If your dog exhibits any other symptoms, such as shivering, panting, and vomiting you should consider taking your dog to the veterinarian for urgent care.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.

Is your dog showing signs of a high fever requiring urgent veterinary care? Contact our Maury County Veterinary Hospital vets for immediate care.