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How to Tell if a Dog Has a Fever

We bet every dog owner is familiar with an old-time gauge that goes: ‘If you feel a dog’s nose that’s wet and cold, then everything’s fine. It the nose is hot and dry, the dog probably has a fever’. This method is tried and to some point true, so there is nothing wrong with using it. However, the situation can be more complicated than that and the nose test alone isn’t enough to determine whether the dog has a fever or not.

A dog’s normal temperature is a bit higher than the normal temperature people have. It ranges between 99.5 F and 102.5 F degrees. If your dog feels warm under your palms might indicate that he has a fever, but again it’s not a very persuasive sign so don’t jump into conclusions. To be completely sure about your dog’s temperature you must measure it with a rectal or ear thermometer. It’s not the most enjoyable thing both for you and the dog, but there’s no other way to assess the dog’s temperature.

If you use rectal thermometers you first need to lubricate them with baby oil and inset about an inch into the dog’s anus. Digital devices are preferred as they register the temperature quickly. While more expensive, ear thermometers are less invasive and still a reliable measurement method.

While our blog’s mascot is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this applies to any breed.

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Signs of Fever

Since your dog can’t tell you that he doesn’t feel well and probably has a fever, you need to familiarize yourself with the most obvious signs.

An infection or inflammation can produce a fever in pets. A bite or scratch from another dog or cat, an ear infection, a bad tooth or an abscess (common in cats) can cause infection. Urinary tract infection, pneumonia, encephalitis, fungal, bacterial or viral diseases can all cause your pet to run a fever.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Reddened eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Fatigue
  • Warm and dry nose
  • Constant shivering
  • Vomiting

Causes of Fever in Dogs

Fever isn’t a disease itself. It develops as a result of infection or/and inflammation inside your dog’s body. Fever is a defense mechanism of the body trying to fight-off harmful agents and substances. More precisely fever is likely to develop in cases of infected bite, cut and scratch wounds, infections of the ear canal, infections of the urinary tract, abscessed teeth, infected gums, various bacterial and viral infections, infections of different internal organs (kidneys, lungs, liver), cancer, neurological conditions etc.

Dogs can also develop fever when they accidently ingest poisonous material such as toxic plants, human medications, human foods toxic to dogs, antifreeze, pesticides. If you think your dog may have swallowed some harmful substance make sure you contact the Pet Poison Hotline immediately.

Recent vaccination might lead to fever in dogs, 24 to 48 hours after administration. Always check your pup for some symptoms after his regular vaccine shots. In most cases this type of fever resolves on its own and there is no room for panic.

Some causes might include:

  • An infected bite, scratch, or cut.
  • Ear infection.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Infected or abscessed tooth.
  • An ongoing bacterial or viral disease.
  • Infection of organs, such as kidneys or lungs.

How and When to React

A temperature equal and above 103 F degrees means your dog has a fever. Temperature over 106 F degrees can damage the internal organs and be fatal. In both cases, you should take your dog to the vet immediately where they will determine the exact cause and treat appropriately. Never give any medications on your own, even if it’s an emergency.

Related:

How Often Must You Take Your Pet to a Veterinarian?

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