As a dog owner, one of the worst feelings you can experience is seeing your pet in pain and feeling powerless to help him. Fevers are an extremely common occurrence in both animals and humans and are often symptomatic of an underlying condition or illness. It’s important to treat your dog’s fever with veterinarian-prescribed medication.
If your dog does begin exhibiting the symptoms of a fever, you may be tempted to try to treat him yourself to help reduce the fever and nurse your dog’s health back to normal. However, it is important to be informed on what is safe to give your dog for a fever prior to taking any actions. Below is a guide on the common signs of fever in dogs, what causes fever in dogs, and what you can do to help abate the symptoms of the fever.
Signs of Fever in Dogs
Simply feel the dog’s nose and if it is wet and cold, there is most likely not a fever. If the nose is hot and dry, it is likely that the dog is running a fever. In addition to this method, other common signs of fever in dogs include:
- Blood in stool / diarrhea
- Warm ears
- Warm, dry nose
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Red eyes
Before taking any steps to try to reduce a fever, it is important to first confirm that your dog is, in fact, running a fever. In order to properly identify a fever, it is necessary to understand what the symptoms are that indicate the presence of a fever, as well as what a normal temperature is for a dog.
A dog’s normal temperature ranges between 99.5°F and 102.5°F. An easy way to know if your dog has a fever is “the nose test”. If your dog’s nose is cool and wet, then you probably have a healthy dog. If it’s dry and hot, your dog may have a fever. This tried and true method of feeling the nose is often not enough on its own to definitively denote the presence of a fever, but it can be a helpful starting point for many dog owners.
However, the only way to tell if your dog has a fever for sure is by taking his or her rectal temperature. Experts recommend the use of a rectal thermometer, as these are designed specifically for dogs. Most thermometers intended for human use do not work for dogs. Prior to inserting a rectal thermometer into your dog, coat the thermometer in a lubricant to minimize your dog’s discomfort.
Causes of Fever in Dogs
Fevers in both dogs and humans are often symptomatic of an underlying condition that is causing the fever to occur, such as infections or ingestion of hazardous materials. Dogs may develop a fever in an attempt to ward off bacteria, viral infections, illness or inflammation from a variety of different conditions.
For example, if a dog is suffering from an ear infection, a urinary tract infection, an infected or abscessed tooth, a bacterial or viral disease, an infected bite, or an infection of organs, then he may subsequently experience a fever as a symptom of the underlying infection or inflammation.
In addition to these causes, a fever may also be symptomatic of the ingestion of poisonous materials, such as human medications or antifreeze. Some dogs also develop a fever in response to receiving vaccinations. In order to successfully treat a fever, it is important to determine the underlying cause of the fever in order to ensure it does not recur.
Treatment: What to Do If Your Dog Has a Fever
As an immediate remedy to help reduce a dog’s fever, apply cool water to the paws and ears using a soaked towel or cloth. If possible, try to coax your dog into drinking cold water to help ensure hydration is maintained. Next, call your veterinarian.
Many pet owners jump to wanting to give their dog human medication in order to reduce fever, but many human medications can be toxic to dogs, particularly if administered in incorrect dosages. Some veterinarians may recommend giving your dog a low dose of a human over-the-counter medication to help bring the fever down, while others may wish to do a physical examination before beginning any kind of medication or fever reducers so that the symptoms are not hidden.
Always call your veterinarian before administering any type of medication to your dog to check that it is safe and to determine the right dosage. While you may not be able to give your dog anything for the fever, there are a number of steps you can take to help bring the fever down without over-the-counter medication.
- “Symptoms, Causes and Treatment for a Pet with a Fever.” CANIDAE®, Accessed 4 Oct. 2017. www.canidae.com/blog/2011/10/symptoms-causes-and-treatment-for-pet/.
- “High Fever in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatments on MedicineNet.” MedicineNet, Accessed 4 Oct. 2017. www.medicinenet.com/pets/dog-health/high_fever_in_dogs.htm.
- “High Fever in Dogs.” WebMD, Accessed 4 Oct. 2017. www.pets.webmd.com/dogs/high-fever-in-dogs#1.
- “Why Do Dogs Get Fevers?” PetMD, Accessed 4 Oct. 2017. www.petmd.com/dog/care/why-do-dogs-get-fevers.
- “What To Do About Fever In Dogs.” IHeartDogs.com, 18 Oct. 2017, Accessed 4 Oct. 2017. www.iheartdogs.com/what-to-do-about-fever-in-dogs/.