Unlike people, dogs can’t tell you when they’re not feeling well. But you know when something’s not right. Determining if your dog has a fever can help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your pet’s discomfort.
Let me begin by stating that I’m not a veterinarian. But I have had a lot of practice detecting fevers in dogs. Blitzen, our first Shar-pei, died just before his fourth birthday of kidney failure caused by Shar-pei Fever.
Being able to quickly detect an oncoming fever was vital during Blitzen’s illness. And those skills served me well when Ty started having unexplained fevers. Below is what I’ve learned about fevers in dogs from taking care my pets.
Dr. Linda J. M. Tindle, DVM described Familial Shar-Pei Fever as “a periodic fever syndrome that is characterized by random inflammatory events with high fever, sometimes with swelling about joint/s or face, that usually last 12-36 hours.”
It’s often accompanied by amyloidosis, a condition that causes abnormal protein build up in the kidneys and liver, which can lead to early death from organ failure.
Recognizing Fever In Dogs
The most important step in figuring out whether your dog has a fever is knowing his normal, healthy temperature.
Know What’s Normal
Just like people, dogs’ normal body temperatures vary a bit. Ty’s was typically at 100.8°F, and Buster’s was about 100.5°F. But it’s perfectly normal for a dog’s temperature to range anywhere between 100.4°F and 102.5°F.
To figure out what’s “normal” for your dog, you’ll need to take his temperature with a rectal thermometer when he’s feeling well. You can also note it during a routine vet visit when your pup isn’t sick.
Keep in mind that temperatures can vary a bit throughout the day. Ty’s temperature naturally went up a bit at night. So understanding your dog’s “healthy temperature” could mean tracking his readings at various times of the day for a few days.
Knowing your dog’s healthy pulse, respiratory rate, and capillary refill time are also handy tools in assessing a potential illness.
READ MORE ⇒ Learn to Measure Your Dog’s Vital Signs
Watch For Symptoms
Once you’ve determined your dog’s “healthy” temperature, you’ll need to keep an eye out for signs that he’s not feeling well. Any change in your dog’s behavior could mean he’s coming down with something. You know what it feels like to have a fever, and your dog probably feels pretty much the same way.
My first clue that Ty wasn’t feeling well was that he got mopey. “Chillaxing” was his preferred speed. But if he doesn’t want to go for a walk or come running when we make a move for the kitchen, I knew something is amiss.
Like many Shar-pei, Ty also had a wide, blocky muzzle. But when he was sick, he looked different — like his face had deflated. Even with just a quick glance, it was easy to tell that something was off.
Glassy-looking eyes and feeling warm to the touch were my next hints. You can also watch for shivering, panting, runny nose, loss of appetite, decreased energy, and depression. Any combination of these symptoms means it’s time to get out the thermometer.
Take Your Dog’s Temperature
To take your dog’s temperature, start with a good digital thermometer meant for rectal use, and mark it “Dog Thermometer.” Keep it anywhere except in your human medicine cabinet. You don’t want a sick family member accidentally popping it under their tongue it in a feverish haze!
Denise Fleck, pet safety guru, provides the following advice on taking your dog’s temperature:
After lubricating the tip of a digital thermometer with petroleum or water soluble jelly, lift your dog’s tail up and to the side to prevent him from sitting. Then carefully insert the thermometer ½” to 1” into the rectum. Wait for the thermometer to beep, indicating that it’s registered your dog’s temperature.
If your pup’s temperature is higher than normal, it might be time to call a veterinarian.
READ MORE ⇒ What To Do If Your Pet Gets Sick While Traveling
What To Do When Your Dog Has A Fever
Like humans, a dog’s body temperature increases to fight infection or inflammation. An infected wound, tooth abscess, virus, urinary tract infection, and pneumonia are just a few of the many conditions can cause a fever. So how do you know when to be really concerned?
In my mind, every fever warrants a call to the vet. Even if it’s just to let your vet know what’s going on with your dog and get their advice. Temperatures under 103°F can generally be monitored at home for up to 24 hours. But a fever any higher, or one that lasts longer than a day, requires a trip to the vet.
A temperature of 106°F degrees or higher can damage a dog’s internal organs and could be fatal. So, this is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Other than offering small amounts of water, consult your veterinarian before taking action to reduce your dog’s fever. Giving aspirin, for example, might prevent the use of other medications that are more effective in lowering temperature.
For fevers serious enough to require a vet visit, expect your dog to receive IV fluids and anti-inflammatory medication. Your vet is also likely to suggest blood work to try to determine the cause of your pet’s fever.
Unfortunately, because so many things can cause a fever, it can be difficult to nail down the culprit. So, do your best to support your dog by keeping him hydrated and comfortable until he’s feeling better. Hopefully his immune system quickly defeats whatever bug is causing the problem!