Trying to figure out the reason behind a dog’s fever can sometimes be a challenge for pet owners because unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us when they don’t feel good.
Sometimes it’s like putting together a puzzle and we have to find the right pieces in order to make the connection. That’s why it’s important as pet parents that we stay informed about our dog’s health and that we stay tuned into our dog’s behaviors so that it’s easier for us to spot any issues before they get out of hand.
Since some dogs can be very stoic and won’t show obvious signs that they’re not feeling well, it’s super important that we pay attention to any behaviors that are out of the ordinary for them.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has a Fever?
Some fevers in dogs are harder to spot than others because a dog’s body temperature runs a little warmer than humans. The normal temperature range for a dog is 101-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, since all dogs are different and some may run a little warmer than others it’s best to know what your dog’s normal temperature range is by getting a base range. You can easily do this by tracking your dog’s temperature in Pet Heath 5 notebook and logging it monthly.
The best way to know if your dog has a fever is to take their temperature rectally with a digital thermometer. If you’ve never done this before, don’t worry, we have a guide that will help you take your dog’s temperature with ease.
Besides registering a fever on a thermometer there can also be subtle signs that can help you pick up if your dog has a fever.
These symptoms can vary but some of the more common symptoms you’ll see in a dog with a fever are:
- Lack of appetite
- Nasal discharge
- Increased thirst
- Glassy eyes
A warm, dry nose can also be an indicator that a dog has a fever but not always.
It’s also important to keep in mind that what can be a fever for one dog might not be a fever for another dog. For example, a giant breed dog like a Newfoundland tends to run a bit warmer than a smaller breed like a Chihuahua.
8 Possible Causes for a Dog’s Fever
Just like in humans, there can be many reasons why a dog has a fever and it’s important to find the underlying cause. A fever can be caused by infections both viral and bacteria, certain diseases, exposure to poisonous substances, and even vaccines.
Sometimes a dog can have a fever for no reason at all.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the more common causes for a dog’s fever:
Tooth infections and abscesses are common in dogs and if left untreated they can cause a dog to have a fever. They can also be painful and some dogs may stop eating, have a foul odor coming from their mouth and drool more than normal. It’s important to practice good oral care with your dog by brushing their teeth regularly and not allowing them to chew on hard objects.
Almost every dog will have an ear infection at some point in time during its life. If left untreated, the infection can cause a dog to run a fever. They also might shake their head a lot, scratch at their ears, tilt their head and have a strong odor and discharge coming from their ears. Ear infections can be due to yeast or bacteria so it’s important to get a correct diagnosis before treating your dog’s ears with medication.
Urinary Tract Infection
Any dog can have a urinary tract infection and not only can this be uncomfortable for them but it can also cause them to run a fever. Other common signs of a UTI in dogs are straining to urinate, urinating small amounts often, having accidents in the house, licking at the genital area, and increased thirst. Your veterinarian will do a urinalysis to check for infection and treat it accordingly.
A wound or scratch that is left untreated can easily become infected on a dog and the body’s response to fighting off that infection is a fever. Some wounds can be seen easily but if your dog has a lot of hair you can also look for signs of licking. Depending on the severity of the wound and how it occurred, your dog might need to go on a short course of antibiotics to get the infection cleared up.
When a dog ingests a poisonous substance such as human medications, poisonous plants, or human foods that aren’t good for them, they could run a fever. Other signs can be vomiting, lethargy, lack of appetite, and seizures. It’s always important to take immediate action if you think your dog has been exposed to something toxic.
Some dogs may run a low-grade fever after getting annual vaccines. Most vaccine-induced fevers will last for 24-48 hours. Normally pets may also be lethargic and have soreness at the vaccine site. Most severe dog vaccine reactions will occur before you leave the clinic but some minor reactions may take a few days to show up. If a dog with fever is also vomiting, having seizures, or showing signs of an allergic reaction due to a vaccine, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Tick fever can occur when a dog is bitten by an American Dog Tick, Brown Dog Tick, or Rocky Mountain Wood Tick. This happens when the tick bites a dog and releases bacteria into the dog’s bloodstream. Other symptoms of tick fever can be joint inflammation, joint swelling, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, coughing, and enlarged lymph nodes. If you find a tick on your dog it’s important to remove it properly and watch the area for any swelling or redness. You can also take the tick to your local veterinarian to be identified.
Fever of Unknown Origin
There can also be instances when a dog has a fever for reasons of an unknown origin. Normally this type of fever in dogs is above 103 degrees Fahrenheit for several days and doesn’t resolve with medications. This can sometimes be due to cancer, immune disorders, unknown viruses, or parasites. If the fever persists your veterinarian will most likely recommend doing more specific testing to try and determine the cause.
When To Seek Vet Help for a Dog With a Fever
If you notice that your dog is running a low-grade fever, check your Pet Heath 5 notebook to compare the numbers. If their temperature is just 1-2 degrees higher than their average temperature and they’re acting fine, it probably won’t require a trip to the vet. If your dog has a fever for more than a few days or if the fever is above 106 degrees Fahrenheit you should contact your veterinarian immediately or take them to the nearest emergency room. If a dog with fever also experiences seizures, is shivering, seems disoriented, vomiting, or is showing signs of dehydration they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s fever or if you know in your gut that something just isn’t right, it’s always best to reach out to your veterinarian for guidance.
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. Start today by taking your dog’s temperature and signing up for Pet Health 5.
Discovering a dog’s fever can be scary, knowing what their personal temperature range is can give you insight into whether you can monitor them at home or if they need to be seen by their veterinarian before they get worse.
Has your pet ever had a fever? What did you do and did you know the cause?
About the Author: Jen is an experienced writer with a passion for sharing her knowledge of living life with big dogs. In her free time, Jen enjoys hiking, baking treats, and spending time with her husband, children, and her 2 Newfies and Cardigan Welsh Corgi.
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