Fever in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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As with all humans, dogs can run a fever when their body is fighting off something nasty. The difference is that unlike humans, dogs don’t get the same tell-tale flushed face, sweat trickling off their forehead, or the ability to tell you that he’s feeling pretty crappy.

For we pet parents, its up to us to know our pet’s general disposition and to be able to pick up on when our little guy is feeling a little under the weather. In fact, you should have an established baseline for your pet when it comes to his temperature and standing heart-rate. Think about it – how else will you know if his heart is racing or his temperature is higher than normal, if you don’t know what is “normal”?

While a dog’s temperature will range between 99.5 and 102.5F degrees, just like humans, it will increase when his body is trying to fight an infection. Whether its down to a minor cut that’s become infected, or something more serious that may not be readily visible, if up to you to determine whether he’s running a fever, what’s causing it, and how to treat it.

Is it a Fever?

So, he’s acting off and you’re not sure if it’s just an upset tummy or something more serious. How can you tell if a fever is involved? The easiest way is to look for physical symptoms such as a dry/warm nose, bloodshot eyes, uncontrollable shivering, lethargy and a loss of appetite, as well as ears that feel warmer to the touch that normal.

The second method is by taking his temperature. Ear thermometers are less invasive than the old-school rectal thermometer and they’re a lot easier to administer. Simply put it inside your dog’s ear and within seconds you’ll have an accurate reading. They’re a little pricier than the rectal version, but certainly less stressful for your pooch and a key addition to your pet’s first-aid kit.

What’s Causing the Fever?

The cause and treatment of the fever may be as simple as dosing a minor injury with an antiseptic, followed by bandaging to protect while it heals. Or it could be down to a recent vaccination that’s messing with his system and will subside over the next 48 hours. That’s if you’re lucky. The truth is, a high temperature means your pooch is fighting some type of infection and even something like a cut or scratch may be past the point of a home remedy. If it looks oozy or is a bite from another animal, get him to the vet.

If its not an open wound, you should consider other causes such as internal infections including urinary tract, bladder, or kidney. Even a bad tooth or simple ear infection (common in floppy-eared dogs) will cause his temperature to spike. And if his fever is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, he may have ingested something toxic. Because a fever is always a sign that something is amiss, never hesitate to let your vet take over when in doubt.

How to Treat the Fever?

For a low-grade fever try applying compresses soaked in tepid water to your pet’s ears, paws and core area throughout the day. If not effective, give him a bath in tepid (not hot, not cold) water, two to three times a day. Be sure to bundle him up snugly afterwards to prevent him catching a chill while he’s drying. And because a fever can cause dehydration, your pet needs to keep drinking his water. If he’s listless, bring the water to him. I have one of those large medicine dispensing syringes that I use when my pets are under the weather. Just “injecting” a little water into their mouth can pique their interest in drinking. But monitor your pet closely and if the fever doesn’t break, or he stops drinking entirely, bring him to the vet for a more fulsome once-over and plan of action.


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