Do you know how to detect a fever in dogs?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not as easy as touching your dog’s nose with the back of your hand. There’s a misconception that a wet, cold nose signifies good health in a dog.
That’s not necessarily the case.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell when our pets aren’t feeling well.
Dogs are especially good at hiding signs of pain or illness from us. As dog owners, we have to be aware of subtle changes that could indicate a deeper problem.
If only our dogs could just tell us what’s wrong!
This post will explain the best and most accurate way to detect a fever in dogs. We’ll talk about some of the most common reasons for fever in dogs and whether you should do anything to bring the fever down.
Causes of Fever in Dogs
There are countless conditions that can cause a dog’s fever. In some cases, no cause can be identified. That’s known as “fever of unknown origin”.
The following are the most common reasons for fever in dogs:
- Fungal infections
- Disorders of the immune system
- Immune-mediated diseases
- Viral infections
- Bacterial infections (ear infection, tooth infection, abscess)
- Bacterial disease (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever)
- Urinary tract infection
- Recent vaccine side-effect
- Valley Fever (see the link below)
A high temperature could signify heat stroke, especially if your dog has been active outside on a very hot day.
Most Common Symptoms of a Fever in Dogs
The first indication that something isn’t right with your dog could be a significant change in behavior. Your dog may have a fever if he or she is experiencing any combination of the following symptoms:
- Eyes that appear glassy or red
- Loss of appetite
- Runny nose
- Nasal discharge
- Decrease in energy
How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature
The most accurate way to take your dog’s temperature is with a digital thermometer. Many pet parents opt for digital ear thermometers, but they may not be as accurate.
The following 3 easy steps explain how to do this safely:
Get someone to help
Some dogs are a little more casual about people messing around with their bums than others.
If your dog is going to squirm around a lot or even potentially nip, it might be a good idea to have a second person around for assistance.
You can ask that person to sit in front of your dog for treat distraction, or have someone hold your dog still for the procedure.
You should slip on a pair of disposable gloves before starting the procedure.
Apply petroleum jelly
To use a rectal thermometer, apply petroleum jelly or baby oil to the tip of the thermometer. If you apply too much, the thermometer could slip out of your hand.
Insert and Hold
Gently lift your dog’s tail and insert the lubricated thermometer into your dog’s rectum approximately 1 inch. Most digital thermometers are designed to take a reading in less than 60 seconds.
Remove the thermometer and place on a piece of paper or something you can throw away after. If you place it on a towel or rag, just be sure to wash it in hot water afterwards.
What’s a Normal Temperature For a Dog?
A dog’s normal body temperature falls between 101 and 102.5 F.
Technically, a temperature of more than 103 F is considered a fever. However, a dog’s body temperature can change at various times of the day.
When to Treat Your Dog’s Fever From Home
If you suspect your dog may be under the weather and is running a low to mild fever (103 F), there are things you can do to cool your dog’s body.
Contact the veterinarian if your dog has a temperature above 103 F or if you notice unusual behavior or other symptoms.
If your dog’s temperature rises to 106 F or higher, get your dog to the nearest emergency veterinarian clinic asap.
A fever of 106 F or higher can cause serious damage to your dog’s body and could even lead to death.
When to Bring Your Dog to the Veterinarian
The best advice is to call the veterinarian’s office if you think something is wrong. You can still take steps to reduce your dog’s temperature at home while waiting to see the doctor.
If your dog’s fever is 106 F or higher, bring him or her to a veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic ASAP.
The following signs could indicate a serious and potentially life-threatening condition:
- Elevated breathing rate
- Dry, sticky gums
- Abnormal gum color
- Bruising in the gums
- Dog appears lethargic or disoriented
These are all signs of heat stroke that could lead to fatal complications.
Diagnostic Tests for Dogs with Fever
The veterinarian may want to perform some tests to determine the cause of the fever.
Complete Blood Count
A complete blood count helps to identify if the different cells in the body are working properly.
- The red blood cells carry oxygen to the tissues.
- The white blood cells help fight infection.
- The platelets help the blood to clot.
The presence of abnormalities within the cells is a clue to the veterinarian that something else may be going on in the body.
For example, an increase in white blood cells could signify a bacterial infection, a fungal infection, or inflammatory conditions.
On the other hand, a decrease in red blood cells could indicate anemia in dogs.
If that were the case, the veterinarian would then want to do further tests to try and identify the cause of anemia. Certain parasites, for example, could lead to anemia in dogs.
Serum Biochemistry Profile
A serum biochemistry profile allows the veterinarian to measure how well the organs are working. Each organ has specific enzymes that are measured with this blood test.
If there is an increase in any particular enzyme, it can point to specific disease. For example, increased liver enzymes (alkaline phosphatase, gamma glutamyltransferase, and alanine aminotransferase) could signify liver disease in dogs.
A routine urine test can help identify the chemical and physical properties of the urine. It can assess the health of the kidneys and urinary system.
Urinalysis can also reveal the presence of – and whether there is too much, or too little – protein, glucose, ketones, bilirubin, and blood in the urine.
Nobody knows your dog better than you. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. As pet owners, we often second-guess ourselves when our instincts tell us us something is wrong.
It’s better to contact a veterinarian for a mild illness than to ignore signs of a fever.
Fever in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Care | Mamaroneck Veterinarians. (n.d.). Fever in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Care | Mamaroneck Veterinarians. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://www.millerclarkanimalhospital.com/site/blog/2021/04/30/fever-dogs-causes-symptoms-care
Help! My Dog Has a Fever, What Should I Do? | VMSG Vet Blog. (n.d.). Help! My Dog Has a Fever, What Should I Do? | VMSG Vet Blog. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://www.vmsg-oc.com/site/blog/2021/06/30/fever-in-dogs
High Fever in Dogs – Causes & What to Do | Johns Creek Vets. (n.d.). High Fever in Dogs – Causes & What To Do | Johns Creek Vets. Retrieved March 24, 2023, from https://www.johnscreekvet.com/site/blog/2021/06/01/high-fever-in-dogs-causes