A dog with fever exhibits several other dog fever symptoms. However, fever indicates the possibility of several illnesses, and not a disease by itself. When the body mounts a defense against disease, part of that natural response includes a fever. Raising the normal body temperature makes it more difficult for viruses or bacteria to continue causing disease. But a fever that goes too high, or continues for too long, can cause other problems. Learn about these 12 common symptoms of a dog with fever so you can get your pet the help he needs.
How Do I Know if My Dog Has a Fever?
A fever happens when the dog’s normal body temperature range goes too high for a prolonged period. Just like people, an individual dog’s normal temperature varies by one or two degrees. During periods of exercise and excitement, his temperature goes up. During inactivity, exposure to cold or wet weather, or even toxic substances, a dog’s normal temperature drops. Knowing your dog’s normal alerts you to get help if an elevated prolonged temperature indicates a dangerous fever.
Take your dog’s temperature on a regular schedule when he feels fine to figure out his individual baseline normal. Create a log to keep track of his health. Over a week or so, take his temperature three or more times but at different times of the day. A normal body temperature goes up or down depending on the time of day, if the dog’s exercised or eaten, or just awakened. It also can change as he ages. Average the readings to determine the dog’s baseline temperature. You’ll want to revisit this monthly in a five-minute Pet Health 5 check-up that includes tracking temperature, so you know his normal.
Once you know his day-to-day normal, a higher or lower reading can alert you to get veterinary help. You don’t always need to take his temperature to suspect he’s running a fever, though. A dog with fever acts differently and tells you in many ways he feels crummy. Here are 10 dog fever symptoms to watch for.
12 Dog Fever Symptoms
You won’t always know why your dog has a fever. An elevated temperature happens due to several common causes of fever. How do I know if my dog has a fever? I watch for any one or combination of these dog fever signs. Maybe he seeks out cold places to stretch out, like the bathtub or the linoleum floor. Then I confirm by taking his temperature. Learn about these dog fever signs.
Staring and changes to the dog’s eye can point to many things including glaucoma, seizures, and heatstroke. Technically called hyperthermia, heatstroke happens when the dog’s body overheats and can’t cool itself.
Bright red gums.
Normal dog gums look pink or sometimes black. Bright red gums could indicate everything from dental problems (gingivitis), poisoning from carbon monoxide, infection from leptospirosis, or heat stroke.
Drooling, or Sticky saliva.
Many things can cause dog drooling, even the sight of a yummy treat. But drooling, especially sticky saliva, is a common dog fever sign.
Lethargy/lack of energy.
Sick dogs often act lethargic and have no energy. Viruses and bacteria prompt fever as the body responds to the infection. Running a fever also makes dogs tired.
Warm or red ears.
The ears of a dog with fever may feel warmer than normal or look flushed. Remember that your dog’s normal temperature, several degrees higher than humans, also feels warm even when he doesn’t have a fever.
Warm or dry nose.
In contrast, the normally wet nose of dogs feels cold to the touch. A warm, dry nose may indicate a fever.
Runny nose or thick nasal discharge.
Many dogs normally have wet noses, due to normal secretions or the dog licking his nose. Excess discharge, though, points to possible infection, especially if you see a thick nasal discharge. Infection often includes a fever.
A dog that shivers doesn’t mean he’s cold. The response happens from pain, poisoning, fear, and illness. While not always a dog fever symptom, a high fever can give your dog chills so shivering could point to problems including fever.
Dogs pant to cool off. Both the discomfort of illness and a high fever can cause panting even when he’s resting. Dogs with heatstroke pant heavily.
Loss of appetite.
Any kind of illness, infection, or injury can cause dogs to stop eating. Loss of appetite often points to dog fever.
Dog coughing can indicate an infection or illness impacting the lungs. For that reason, coughing often can be a symptom of a dog with fever
A wide range of conditions and diseases can prompt vomiting. A dog that vomits very often has a fever, too.
Dog Fever Treatment & Care
Fever usually results from a viral or bacterial infection. A prolonged fever becomes dangerous and can lead to collapse or even death, in the case of heatstroke. But in most cases, fever in dogs doesn’t last long and isn’t dangerous. They may help dogs recover because the high body temperature makes it difficult for the germs to live and thrive inside the body.
Heatstroke, though, requires emergency treatment. If his temperature is over 105 degrees, and you live only five minutes from the vet, drive him to the vet immediately. But if you live farther away, cool him down first. Place a wet cold washcloth on the back of the dog’s neck and head, and an ice pack on top of the cloth. If his temperature goes over 107 degrees, mix rubbing alcohol 50/50 with water, and spray or dab the liquid on his armpits, groin, the insides of his ear flaps, and the pads of his feet on the way to the vet.
For other causes of fever, your veterinarian needs to diagnose what causes the dog fever symptoms to know exactly how to treat him. People often take over-the-counter treatments, but a dog’s body uses aspirin-type medicine differently. Some are toxic to pets, so always consult with your veterinarian before dosing your dog.
You can help relieve his discomfort with dog fever treatment until you see the veterinarian. Warm-up and offer no-salt chicken broth to help increase his appetite. If he’s shivering, snuggle with him in a blanket. And if he’s too hot, mist his fur with water—the evaporation helps cool him. Make sure to provide him with lots of cool water to drink, too.
While you can’t perform acupuncture by sticking him with therapeutic needs, acupressure may help reduce your dog’s fever. Stimulate the point called GV14 (governing vessel 14) located on his back exactly where his neck meets the shoulder blades. Use the tip of your index finger, and press firmly for about 60 seconds, repeating the pressure every 10 minutes or so for up to an hour.
Dog fever signs are vague but important and need your attention. A dog with fever just feels awful, and we don’t want our family members to be miserable. Learning about what to watch for helps prepare you as your dog’s partner in health.
Has your dog ever displayed any of these dog fever symptoms? Has he ever suffered from heatstroke? What did your veterinarian suggest that you do to keep him comfortable?
Your dog’s temperature is one of the five vital stats that we encourage you to monitor. Join us in our Pet Health 5 movement and together we can start tracking our pet’s health. It’s super easy! We’ll send you a reminder on the 5th of each month with a checklist of what to do and how to do it. All you need to do is take the time to check your dog’s health stats and log them.
Pet health and dog health is an important aspect of helping our dogs live long and happy lives. You can start today by checking your dog’s temperature and signing up for Pet Health 5.
About the Author: Amy Shojai, a certified animal behavior consultant, is the award-winning author of 35+ pet care titles and pet-centric thriller fiction. She lives in North Texas with her furry muses.