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.

Blitzen the fever stricken Shar-pei from GoPetFriendly.com

Over the years, our Shar-pei, Ty, spiked a few dangerously high fevers and many that were less serious. Catching it early helped him recover more quickly, and I became quite good at recognizing when his temperature was climbing.

Recognizing Fever in Dogs

Let me begin by stating that I’m not a veterinarian. But I have had a lot of practice detecting fevers in dogs. Blitzen, the first Shar-pei we had, died just before his fourth birthday of kidney failure caused by Shar-pei Fever.

Blitzen the fever stricken Shar-pei from GoPetFriendly.com

Dr. Linda J. M. Tindle, DVM describes 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.

Being able to quickly detect an oncoming fever was important during Blitzen’s illness. And those skills have served me well when Ty started having unexplained fevers. Below is what I’ve learned about fevers in dogs from taking care my pets.

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German Shepherd dog with a bandage on his paw

Detecting a Fever in Your Dog

The most important step in figuring out whether your dog has a fever is knowing his normal temperature.

Know What’s Normal

Just like people, dogs’ normal body temperatures vary a bit. Ty’s was normally at 100.8, and Buster’s was about 100.5. But a dog’s normal temperature can range anywhere between 100.4 and 102.5.

Ty and Buster - Portland, ME

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 make a note of it during routine vet visits 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.

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Small dog being held by a veterinarian

Watch for Symptoms

A change in your dog’s behavior will be your first sign that he’s coming down with something. You know what it feels like to have a fever, and your dog feels pretty much the same way – yucky!

My first clue that Ty wasn’t feeling well was that he got mopey. “Chillaxing” was his preferred speed, but when he doesn’t want to go for a walk or come running when we make a move for the kitchen, I know something is amiss.

Glassy-looking eyes and feeling warm to the touch are the 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.

Ty - Dog resting on bed

Taking Your Dog’s Temperature

Get 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 using 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 your veterinarian.

Ty the Shar-pei from GoPetFriendly.com laying in his bed with his paws under his chin

What To Do When Your Dog Has A Fever

Like in humans, your dog’s body temperature will rise to fight off infection or inflammation. An infected cut, virus, urinary tract infection, and pneumonia are just some of the many conditions can cause a fever. So how do you know when to be really concerned?

My rule is that every fever warrants a call to the vet. It’s a good idea to let your vet know what’s going on with your dog and get their advice. Temperatures under 103 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 degrees or higher can damage a dog’s internal organs and could be fatal. So, this is a very serious condition that needs to be monitored carefully.

Ty the Shar-pei from GoPetFriendly.com laying on a bed in the veterinary hospital with an IV in his paw

Other than offering small amounts of water, consult your vet 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, and hopefully his immune system fights off whatever bug is causing the problem!

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Category: Travel Tips / Tagged with: Health and Safety