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How To Tell If A Dog Has A Fever & What To Do

Do you think that your dog is sick? They may also be running a fever. It can often be tough to tell if your dog has a fever or not, but there are a few simple things that you can do at home to see if your dog has a fever.

If you think that your dog has a fever, it would be best to take them to your vet. Most fevers will need medication to help treat the issue causing your dog to have a fever.

The best indicators that your dog has a fever include:

  1. Take their temperature
  2. Feel their ears
  3. See if they are lethargic
  4. Your dog is shivering
  5. They have a warm, dry nose
  6. They are not eating

While these are some signs that your dog may have a fever, there are many other clues that would indicate that your dog is sick. If your dog is running a fever and not feeling well, it would be best for them to see a vet right away.

How to tell if your dog has a fever?

Your dog will often look like they just do not feel well when they have a fever. It can be hard to tell for sure if your dog has a fever, but these are some ways that you can quickly tell.

#1 Take their temperature

The easiest way to tell if your dog is running a fever is to take their temperature. Many people do not have a dog thermometer. While you do not need a special thermometer, you will need a rectal thermometer.

Many of the human ear or forehead thermometers will not accurately take your dog’s temperature. You can easily purchase a rectal thermometer at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

#2 Feel their ears

Another way to tell if your dog is running a fever if you do not have a thermometer is to feel your dog’s ears. Many times, you can tell that your dog’s ears are much warmer than they should be.

Your dog’s ears should be cool to the touch and feel like your own skin unless they have an ear infection causing inflammation.

#3 They are lethargic

If your dog is running a fever, it may also be lethargic and not wanting to play like they usually do. They may also be resting and sleeping much more frequently than average.

This is one of the first signs that you may notice if your dog has a fever. If your dog is lethargic, it should see your vet right away.

#4 Your dog is shivering

Many people think that their dog is shivering because they are cold. Many times, dogs shiver because they have a fever or are in pain.

If you notice that your dog is shivering and not cold where they are, it may have a fever.

#5 They have a warm, dry nose

While this does not always indicate that your dog is sick, but a warm and dry nose could be an early sign that your dog has a fever.

This is especially true if you notice other signs of illness. Usually, a healthy dog has a cold, wet nose.

#6 Your dog is not eating

Many dogs, if they are sick and running a fever, will not want to eat. Many times, even if you offer them one of their favorite food or treats, they will not eat if they have a fever.

Some causes of fever can make your dog nauseated, and eating can cause them to vomit or have diarrhea. If your dog is not eating many times, your vet will worry about stomach or intestinally issues.

Determining if your dog has a fever will be one of the critical signs that would indicate that you may need to see your vet.

What is a fever?

A fever is an elevated body temperature due to an infection or other illness. Some dogs can have elevated body temperature and not necessarily have a fever.

If your dog has been outside playing and running around, their body temperature will increase, but their body temperature will return to normal once they are back inside. Dogs with a fever will not quickly return to normal.

What is the ideal body temperature for a dog?

The ideal range for your dog’s body temperature is 99.5 to 101.5.

If your dog is stressed, hot, or has been running around playing, their body temperature may increase slightly. Many vets will consider up to 103 degrees normal in dogs when they are in the hospital.

Slight fevers of 103 to 104 can be seen if your dog has an infection. If your dog is suffering from heatstroke or has become overheated from playing or being outside in the hot summer, their body temperatures can reach over 107.

If your dog’s temperature ever gets above 104, you should take them to the vet right away as extremely high body temperatures can cause organ damage and even death.

How to take my dog’s temperature?

It is best to invest in a rectal thermometer if you have dogs. These can easily be used to take your dog’s temperature, and they are very inexpensive.

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These are the steps to take your dogs temperature:

  1. Put a small amount of petroleum jelly or lubrication on the end of your thermometer. If you do not have any lubrication, you can use vegetable oil or even a small amount of soap.  
  2. Gently insert the thermometer into your dog’s rectum. NEVER force the thermometer into your dog’s rectum. This can cause damage to your dog’s colon is done forcefully.
  3. Many thermometers are very quick and once you press the button will give you the temperature reading in just a few second. Some others will take a minute.
  4. After taking your dog’s temperature, it is best to clean the end of the thermometer and put it away.
  5. It is a good idea to mark this thermometer for dog use only so that you do not accidentally use this thermometer on yourself.

When do I need to take my dog to the vet?

Sometimes your dog may not feel good and run a slight fever for a few hours. Then they will quickly recover and return to normal.

If your dog continues to show signs of a fever or shows any other sign of illness, it is best for them to see your vet.

Your vet can examine your dog, run bloodwork, and do other tests to figure out why your dog has a fever. They will also be able to start your dog on medication to help them feel much better and return to their normal life.

Is there anything that I can do at home to treat a fever?

If your dog is running a fever and not showing any other signs, you can try cooling them off at home. 

  • You should start by wiping their paws with a cool, damp cloth and the insides of their ear.
  • Also, you should place them in a cool area such as inside in the air conditioning and in front of a fan.
  • If your dog is overheated, placing an ice pack wrapped in a towel on their abdomen will help them cool off.

There is not any safe medication that you can give to your dog to help reduce their fever at home. Most human fever-reducing medications can be very toxic to dogs. It is best to consult your veterinarian before giving them any over-the-counter medication.

Final Thoughts

It may be hard to tell for sure if your dog has a fever or not unless you invest in a rectal thermometer. It is best to have one of these available if you have a dog, as you will need it one day.

Rectal thermometers are very easy to use and will quickly be able to tell you if your dog has a fever.

If your dog does have a fever, trying to cool them down a little to see if that helps reduce their fever. If not, it would be best for your dog to see your vet. They can quickly determine the cause of this fever and help them feel much better very quickly.

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