There is an old wives tale that feeling a dog’s nose will help you know if they have a fever. I am here to tell you that does not work! So, how to tell if your dog has a fever? Find out some ways below!
First, it is important to know that yes, dog’s can get fevers! While I am not a veterinarian – I am a dog mom who has been through multiple ear infections, Lyme’s disease and Cushing’s disease – so I know just what to be looking at to determine whether my dog has a fever! And if you want to read my story on when to put a dog down with Cushing’s disease – it may help you not go through what I did!
A fever is a way of telling us the body is fighting hard against something, so it is important you look closely for the signs of a fever – and understand what to do if you determine your dog does have one. I hope the below offers some help!
What Is A Normal Dog Temperature?
A normal body temperature of a dog can range from 101º – 102.5º Fahrenheit.
Anything above or below this range can signal a health issue and should be monitored and possibly assessed by a vet.
Signs Your Dog Might Have A Fever
Dogs will typically show you they are not feeling well in some way, so it is important to always keep an eye on their behaviors and physical appearance to look for changes that can indicate an illness or fever.
Below are a few of the more common signs that your dog may have a fever.
- Red or glassy eyes
- Lack of energy – also known as lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting (view our vomit color guide)
- Drinking more water than usual
Be aware of their normal behaviors as well! For example maybe it is walk time and your dog does not want to go or you pull out the cookie box and they do not come running!
You know your dog – when normal activities become not normal – it may be time to get the thermometer out to rule out the fever.
How To Take Your Dog’s Temperature
The only sure fire way to find out if your dog truly has a temperature is to actually use a thermometer and take it! You can get a thermometer that is made for rectal use or an ear thermometer. Your dog will probably thank you for using an ear thermometer over the rectal one, but if cost is a factor then the rectal will have to do for fido.
Steps to take a dog’s temperature rectally:
- Lubricate the tip of a thermometer with petroleum jelly
- Gently lift your dog’s tail moving it to the side
- Insert the thermometer about 1″ into their rectum for average size dogs, larger dogs may require deeper insertion
- Once you hear the beep you can remove it and check the temperature
- If your dog is giving you trouble – you can also try laying them on your side and inserting it that way instead
The ear thermometer is simply inserted into the ear canal – so much less stressful for everyone – unless they have an ear infection which then may be painful.
What If I Do Not Have A Thermometer?
The thermometer is the most accurate way to know if your dog does in fact have a fever, but if you do not have one on hand and are concerned about your dog – there are a few things you can check to see if there may be a fever present.
- Feel your dogs ears – see if they are warm to the touch and if both ears feel similar in terms of temperature. My girl Riley had ear infections a lot and I could always tell by the heat of her ear when she had a fever.
- Paws are another touch point that may be hotter than normal which can indicate a fever if they are very warm. Of course you should check this when a dog is resting, not after a long walk in the hot sun!
- Rub your hands on their belly to see if it feels extra warm – again, not after they have been snuggled up sleeping as it may get warm from that, but maybe when they are in a casual rest state.
With any of these you also need to make sure your hands are at room temperature to get more accuracy!
Common Dog Fever Causes
Fevers are most common when there is a presence of infection or inflammation. The fever is essentially a sign it is fighting something off. Below are some of the more common causes – but there are many others as well!
- Abscesses or infections in the mouth
- Viral diseases
- Tick bite diseases
- Urinary tract infections
- Ear infections
- Scratch or bite wounds that have become infected
- Eating toxic items like antifreeze, plants etc.
How To Treat A Dog That Has A Fever
If you have determined your dog has a temperature over 103º Fahrenheit which is indicative of a fever – then you will need to decide if a visit to the veterinarian is needed.
There are ways you can comfort a dog with a fever – like cool compresses, some extra snuggle time and small treats if they are willing to take them can all make the fever a little more bearable.
Never give your dog human medication! While medicines like aspirin are commonly used to treat fevers in people, these can be extremely toxic for pets!
Below are some thoughts on when a feverish dog requires a vet visit.
I highly recommend if your dog’s temperature is over 104º Fahrenheit you visit the vet so they can figure out why your dog’s temperature may be high. While you can try using cold water or compresses at home to minimize the fever – if it is staying this high for more than 24 hours, you should really take them to the veterinarian.
Anything over 105º should be an immediate emergency visit as this can be signs of real concern and can cause internal damage or even death if not treated and monitored. If your dog has a fever this high the vet may offer IV fluids or medications to hep bring down the fever and may suggest tests to find the cause of the fever.
Veterinarians will go through a process to determine the cause of the fever. This article from Today’s Veterinary Practice shows the complexity of finding a cause for a dog’s fever. It is even noted that in some cases a dog my have a fever from environmental conditions or anxiety – which is why it is important to have a veterinarian run some bloodwork – so you can be sure what the problem is – or isn’t!
As a dog mom who has been there many times, fevers can be scary! Actually our babies being sick is scary. But if you even think your dog may have a fever – do not wait to get medical care. While it may turn out to be nothing – every second counts, so get them checked out for your peace of mind – and so your beloved pup can feel better as soon as possible!