How To Tell If Your Dog Has A Fever: Veterinarian’s Advice And Tips

If you feel like your dog’s temperature is higher than normal, it may be because he just had some playtime or exercise! However, if that’s not the case, there are some ways to tell if your dog has a fever with or without a thermometer.

In this article, we share about how to tell if your dog has a fever, the signs and symptoms, causes, treatment and when to consult a vet.

Disclaimer: The content in this article provides general information that should not be used as a substitute for professional advice from a vet. For an accurate diagnosis of your dog’s health condition, please consult a vet. 

What is a dog’s normal temperature?

According to Dr Sandhya Nair (Oasis Vet), the normal body temperature for a dog is higher than in humans. It’s between 38°C to 39.2°C (100°F to 102.5°F).

Anything higher than that would be considered a fever, and any lower would be hypothermia (low body temperature).

A temperature of above 40°C (104°F) is classified as a high fever and a vet should be consulted immediately.

Note: After strenuous activity, it’s common for a dog’s temperature to be higher. However, it shouldn’t be above 40°C.

Common signs and symptoms of fever in dogs

Pug wrapped in a blanket
According to Dr Pete Wedderburn (BVM&S CertVR MRCVS who writes for We’re All About Pets), common signs of fever in dogs include
  • loss of appetite
  • shivering (not caused by stress or pain)
  • panting
  • lethargy / not wanting to move

If you notice anything out of the norm for your pet, he’s probably feeling unwell.

What causes a fever in dogs?

Fevers in dogs are usually caused by an immune or inflammatory response. The causes can be classified mainly by the following:

1. Infectious causes

Infections are caused by exposure to harmful bacteria. This includes UTIs, bacterial or viral infections, ear infections, tick-borne diseases or infections of internal organs such as the kidneys.

2. Immune-mediated causes

Immune-mediated causes refer to a compromise in the immune system that has led to an immune response. This includes auto-immune disease, polyarthritis and lupus.

3. Neoplastic causes

Neoplastic causes result in tumour growth that can be benign or malignant. Fever is commonly a result of cancer, typically leukaemia or lymphoma.

How to take your dog’s temperature with a thermometer

When taking your dog’s temperature, it’s best to use a rectal thermometer. Here’s the step-by-step process!

Infographic: step by step guide on how to use rectal thermometer to check dog's temperature

Step 1: Ensure that your dog is calm

You can keep your dog calm by offering him some treats during the process. Another method is to get someone else to hold your dog still (gently).

Step 2: Lubricate the end of the thermometer

You can either use lubrication gel, jelly, vegetable oil or soap. This will allow the thermometer to slide easily into your dog’s rectum for better comfort.

Step 3: Gently lift your dog’s tail

Once your dog is calm, lift his tail gently and locate the rectum. The rectum is the opening directly under the tail.

Step 4: Insert the thermometer into the rectum*

After the thermometer is in, you can lower your dog’s tail. Usually, once the tail is back in normal position, your dog is not as likely to fuss about his temperature being taken.

*Only insert the metal-coated tip.

Step 5: Wait for a few seconds

Turn on the thermometer and wait for a few seconds. Rectal thermometers usually take about 10 – 30 seconds to display a reading. judi bola

Step 6: Clean the thermometer

Once you get a reading, clean the thermometer and put it away for pet use only. Do not use this thermometer for humans, no matter how much you’ve cleaned it.

Advised by:
Dr Sara Ochoa, DVM and Veterinary Consultant for doglab

From Dr Jennifer Coates (DVM, serves on the advisory board for Pup Life Today):
Ear thermometers are also available, but many dogs dislike having anything placed in their ears.

How to take your dog’s temperature if you don’t have a thermometer

If you don’t have a thermometer, there are other ways to gauge the temperature of your dog. Here are 4 steps:

Man feeling a dog's ears

1. Feel your dog’s ears and paws

Dogs have a slightly higher temperature than humans, so his ears and paws should only be slightly warmer than your hands.

It also helps to know the normal temperature of your dog’s ears and paws. If they’re warmer than usual, he might be running a fever.

Man toucing a dog's nose

2. Feel and check your dog’s nose

If there are signs of yellow or green nasal discharge, it might be due to an infection. Infections are one of the causes of fever. In such cases, you should consult a vet immediately.

Opening a dog's mouth to check his gums

3. Check your dog’s gums

Ensure that your dog is calm before checking his gums. Open his mouth gently using two hands and look out for dry, warm gums that look redder than the usual pink. These are signs of fever.

Checking your dog's armpits and groin

4. Feel your dog’s groin area and armpits

Lay your dog down on his back and gently feel his groin area and armpits. If these areas feel hot and swollen, it’s likely that your dog is running a fever.

How to bring down your dog’s temperature when he has fever

You’re advised to bring your dog to the vet once you realise he has a fever.

Pug lying on a bed with its owner

However, if you’re unable to bring him immediately, do the following:

  • Cool the body with a cold bath
  • Dab cotton balls soaked in rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) to his ear flaps and paw pads
  • Encourage drinking small amounts of cool water unless he has been vomiting

Continue to monitor the temperature and stop the cooling process when his temperature reaches 39.4°C (103°F). Otherwise, you risk bringing the body temperature too low (hypothermia).

Note: Don’t give ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, or antibiotics without a veterinarian’s recommendation as some are toxic to dogs.

How long will the fever typically last?

It’s highly dependent on the cause. Some fevers will last for a few hours, but some may last for weeks.

If the fever is caused by an underlying infection or inflammation, it’ll last until proper treatment is received.

When to bring your dog to the vet

For temperatures over 39.2°C (102.5°F) and under 39.4°C (103°F), use the cooling methods mentioned above to lower the temperature.

Puppy at the vet

But if his temperature continues to rise above 39.4°C (103°F) or lasts for over 24 hours, it’s time to bring him to a veterinary clinic.

Temperatures over 41°C (106°F) are potentially life threatening and may cause lasting damage to internal organs.

Dr Jessica Kirk, DVM of Vet Explains Pets:
It’s best to have your dog seen by their vet as soon as possible to find the true cause of the fever. Remember, dogs have fevers for a reason, so if you treat the cause, you stop the fever.

Nursing your dog’s fever

Seeing your dog unwell can cause a lot of panic and worry.

But according to Dr Coates:

Mild fevers are often beneficial as they appear to make the immune system better able to fight off infection. Moreover, they may also impair the ability of bacteria and viruses to replicate in the host animal’s body.

Thus, as long as your dog seeks prompt treatment, all will be well. Consult any of these vets in Singapore for more information.


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