A dog’s normal temperature is from 99.5ºF and 102.5ºF. Most veterinarians consider anything 103.5º F (39.7º C) degrees or higher to be a fever. When your dog has a fever, it can indicate your furry friend is sick and needs medical attention. In this article, we will review several easy methods to find out if your dog has a fever, discuss how to comfort and help reduce your dog’s fever at home, and when to call the vet.
How to measure your dog’s temperature
Luckily, most fevers in dogs aren’t extremely high, which means they are are easier to treat, but that also means they can be easily missed. The best way to assess body temperature is to check it with a thermometer:
1. Rectal thermometers – the most accurate. Don’t ever count on your dog holding an oral one safely in his mouth! Here is an example from Amazon:
- COMFORTABLE FOR YOUR PET - The thermometer can be used for pets and is designed to be comfortable with a flexible tip, making it soft and gentle to use.
Always lubricate the thermometer before pushing it gently into your dog’s rectum. Petroleum jelly is ideal but even water can work in a pinch. New digital thermometers let you know with a beep when the temperature is ready to read. This is much faster than the old standby of one to three minutes.
2. Ear thermometers: There are also some ear thermometers for pets. These should also give you a fairly rapid digital readout, but they tend to be more expensive (around $35-$45). Surprisingly, many dogs tolerate a rectal thermometer better than an ear reading.
- Fast reading in 1 second without contacting to pets, close to ear,Measuring distance needs to be 3-5cm, 32 memories recall help you monitor pet body temperature better.
Along with a higher than normal temperature, you may also see some of the following signs that may accompany a dog’s fever:
- decreased appetite
- warm/hot nose and ears
At-home ways to comfort your dog & help reduce your dog’s fever
In order to treat your dog’s fever, you need to treat the cause, so it’s important that you see the vet anytime your dog’s temperature is above normal. However, you can work at making your dog comfortable in the meantime by:
- Offering cool or room-temperature water. Some dogs will lick ice cubes or water frozen in a dish.
- Putting your dog is a cool, quiet spot-preferrably a basement or area with a fan, especially one blowing over a bowl of ice.
- Putting cold compresses in his groin area, on his feet and ears. Be sure to wrap the compress in a towel and don’t place directly on the skin.
- Putting cool, wet towels over him or wetting his fur with a hose or shower. Don’t use cold water, just something slightly cooler than lukewarm.
- Using a dog cooling vest. Maybe you already have one for your active pup, maybe you borrow one from a neighbor. Either way, dog cooling vests help keep cool water against your dog’s fur to help bring down a fever.
- Keep your dog cool this summer with the Swamp Cooler Vest; It provides sun protection and evaporative cooling for hot weather activities such as hiking, walking, camping, and more
You’ll want to gradually reduce his temperature and stop your cooling attempts when the temperature drops to 103º. More cooling could lead to hypothermia or a temperature that is lower than normal. If your dog’s temperature was in the serious danger range of 105º F or higher, consider it an emergency and get to a vet as soon as possible while starting these cooling steps on the way.
Can fever be a sign of a serious condition? How do you know?
A fever is the body’s way of making a stand when an infection or inflammation tries to get in. With this in mind, a fever often indicates that your dog has a bacterial or viral infection working somewhere in his body. This can be due to something as mild as an ear infection or as severe as an infection of one of the major organs.
Fevers can also mean that your dog has had too much sun or humidity and isn’t able to cool himself properly, something otherwise known as heat stroke. Heat stroke can be mild with a dog showing excessive panting, drooling, and restlessness, or it can get severe when body temperatures reach 106º F or higher. Dogs will start to act uncoordinated, have an increased heart rate, and even slip into a coma.
Whether or not your dog’s fever is considered serious depends on the cause and any additional signs he may be showing. Generally speaking, if a dog’s temperature is only slightly elevated and he’s feeling pretty good, it’s more than likely not something serious. Just a note here, getting vaccinations can cause a mild fever for a day or two, so this would be a situation that’s not considered serious.
On the other hand, if his fever is high and/or he’s showing other signs of lethargy, not eating, vomiting, diarrhea, or incoordination, it more than likely means his body is dealing with a serious situation.
When to visit the vet
In a perfect world, you would want your pup to see a vet anytime his temperature was abnormal for more than a couple of hours. However, we know that isn’t always feasible. So, instead, consider monitoring mildly elevated fevers with no other signs for a day or two. You may try some of the at-home cooling treatments as long as things are otherwise normal.
Now, if your dog’s temperature is moderate to severely elevated-104º F or higher, make seeing the vet a priority. This is especially important if other signs are seen (which there more than likely will be). Again, temperatures of 105º F mean an emergency. Start cooling measures and get your dog to the veterinary hospital.
Dog temperatures & what they mean
Dr. Ochoa provided the following table to help you understand temperature ranges in dogs and what you should do:
|Temperature||What you should do|
|Under 98ºF||Your pet is cold. You can start slowly warming them with a warm blanket or heating pad. Make sure that you continue to check their temperature as they can quickly get too hot. Any temperature under 95 requires a trip to the vet.|
|99.5 to 102.5ºF||Your dog’s temperature is normal. No action is required.|
|102.6 to 103.5ºF||Try home remedies to help cool your dog. If your dog is not showing other signs of illness, monitor the situation at home closely. If your dog’s temperature does not lower within 6 to 12 hours, call your veterinarian.|
|103.5 to 104.9ºF||Your dog most likely has a fever. This can be due to an infection or overheating. Overheating dogs will often pant a lot. You can try to cool them off slowly with cool water or a fan. Dogs who are not panting and are lethargic often have an infection and will need to see your vet.|
|105 to 107ºF||Temperatures above 105ºF may cause irreparable brain damage, and veterinarian helps is urgently needed. On the way to the vet, keep the AC on high and keep your dog cool and calm. Most home treatments at this temperature range will not quickly and effectively cool your dog (this could result in detrimental damage to your dog’s internal organs.)|
What does a vet do if my dog has a fever?
Your vet is going to want to get to the bottom of the reason for your dog’s fever. If his temperature is in the scary range (105ºF and above), they will start cooling your dog first. Finding out the cause will take an exam and history so be ready to give your vet all the details of when your dog’s fever showed up, how high it’s gotten and any other signs he has shown. They may then do some bloodwork, imaging or other diagnostics.
Treatment may include supportive care with fluids and anti-vomit medications, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and other medications deemed necessary by the diagnosis. Hospitalization may be needed as well.
Examples of dogs with fever & corresponding treatments
- Maggie, 5 year old Golden Retriever, had a mild fever at 103.0 and had had her vaccinations two days prior. The veterinarian diagnosed a mild vaccine reaction by ruling out other possible causes. Maggie’s fever was quickly reduced with fluids, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and rest.
- Rufus, 7 year old German Shepherd, had a more pronounced fever at 104.1, as well as other signs of illness including vomiting and abdominal pain. The veterinarian diagnosed pancreatitis while doing blood work. Rufus was given fluids, antibiotics, and pain medications. His fever was brought down using cool towels and towel-wrapped ice packs. He required two nights hospitalization before being able to go home.
- Bubbles, 2 year old Beagle, had a temperature of 105.5. Bubbles had also been having intermittent, moderate seizures for the last several hours. The vet diagnosed epilepsy by ruling out other causes. During the exam, Bubbles underwent another seizure. The vet administered an anticonvulsant and muscle relaxant while cooling Bubbles down with ice packs and cool towels. Bubbles required hospitalization with supportive therapy and went home on a long-term anticonvulsant.
Cost of diagnosis & treatment
Mild, uncomplicated fevers may cost in the lower range of $75-$100, while more severe illnesses may run $500-$1,500 or more for diagnostics and hospitalization.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Can I give my dog over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen?
We recommend NOT giving your dog any medication without consulting your veterinarian first. Medications can mask symptoms and make diagnosis more difficult. A fever is secondary to “something,” and you want to treat or eliminate that something, not simply cover up the fever. Additionally, you should not give any human medications (even OTC drugs) unless advised to by your veterinarian as some of them can actually be toxic to dogs.
For how long will my dog be sick with a fever?
Most fevers will resolve quickly once the cause is identified and treatment is started. Of course, this will depend on the cause and how quickly diagnostics and treatment were started.
Is fever serious for dogs?
A really high fever can be very serious – even deadly. The worst fevers I have dealt with in practice are dogs with status epilepticus—seizures that are prolonged. The intense muscle activity during a seizure raises the body temperature to as high as 105ºF or 107º F. Temperatures that high often cause irreparable brain damage.
Fevers can also indicate a serious illness which will require treatment for a successful outcome.
What should my dog eat or drink while he has a fever?
Don’t be discouraged if your dog isn’t very hungry while he has the fever. Offer cool, fresh water. Ice cubes made from low sodium bouillon may help to keep him hydrated. If he likes it, cut up watermelon is also a good option. Once the fever breaks, he will be hungry!