In order for a dog to have a fever, it must report a rectal temperature of over 102.5. Normal temperatures in dogs range usually between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. In dogs, fevers play the same role as in humans, they are a bodily response set in to fight infection. In other words, it is believed that fevers arise when the body has recognized an invasion of some sort of foreign matter, usually in the form of bacteria or virus, which tend to perish is hot environments. The mechanism of a fever therefore, is of vital importance for the body’s defensive mechanism to kick in.
Symptoms of Dog Fever
Dogs will not be able to tell owners they have a fever, so owners must use symptoms as an indicator. There is still an erroneous practice of using the dog’s nose as an indicator of the dog’s wellbeing, causing owners to be alarmed when their dog’s nose is dry. A dog’s nose however, is susceptible to the environment in the same way that human’s lips are, so noses tend to dry out in dry environments and tend to be wet when there are higher humidity levels. Therefore, they are not a good indicator of health, thus,there are very sick dogs with wet noses whilst there are dogs in very good health with extremely dry noses.
On the other hand, there are dog owners that report that they can tell if their dog has a fever by touching their ears. However, this may not be very helpful if one thinks that a dog’s temperature is naturally several degrees higher than a humans, therefore, the ears will normally feel much hotter. Abnormally hot ears though may indicate an infection going on.
Setting the nose and ear myth aside, the only really accurate way to tell if a dog has a fever is by taking its rectal temperature. This is the best way to determine if the dog has a fever. Other than this obvious method, dogs with fever will develop the following symptoms:
- Loss of Appetite
- Sleeping more
Depending on the causes, in some cases, dogs will have a fever and other accompanying symptoms.
Causes of Fever
There can be various causes, requiring various diagnostic tests. These are just a few of the many possibilities:
- Viral Infections
- Fungal Infections
- Pyometra in intact Female dogs
- Heat Stroke
- Tick Born Diseases
- Urinary tract infection
- Kennel cough
Treatment of Fever in Dogs
Mild fevers are better if left untreated, this allows the dog’s body to fight off the intruders. However, when the fever is over 104 and the dog is exhibiting other symptoms then veterinarians will run diagnostic tests and try to come to diagnosis. Treatement therefore, depend on the underlying cause.
Home Remedies for Dog Fever
There are a few things owners can do at home to make their pet feel better. Of course, this applies only to mild fevers while awaiting a vet’s appointment.
- Keep the dog hydrated
Because of the dog’s body effort to fight, dogs may become dehydrated. Therefore, a full bowl of water is very helpful. Ice chips may be given to dogs thast will not drink much or that may have some nausea. These are usually licked eagerly even by the most finicky drinkers.
- Check Hydration levels
You can tell if your dog is dehydrated by simply pulling up the dog’s skin in the form of a tent. If the skin springs back promptly then the hydration levels are fine. If the skin remains up for a few seconds or worse, remains lifted then the dog may require some subcutenous fluids by the vet.
- Cool Compresses
Cool compresses or an ice pack wrapped in a towel may be placed in some strategic areas to help lower the dog’s fever. The targeted areas should be on a dog’s belly, paw pads and armpits. Isopropyl alcohol passed on the paw pads may also help, the dog though should not lick it off and it should be wiped off with a cold compress if a dog has a tendency to lick its paws.
- Cool Bath
If possible, try to place your dog in a cool but not cold bath for a minimum of 5 and a maximim of 10 minutes. This should lower the fever down. Be careful to dry the pet well and stay away from drafts.
Ask your vet if you can provide Aspirin. Buffered aspirin is preferable to prevent stomach upset. Ibuprofen or Acetaminopehen should never be given. Cats should never be given aspirin or any other OTC pain reliever.
While dogs with mild fevers may be helped at home, it is strongly advisable to have the dog checked by a vet to find the underlying cause of the fever.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog or cat is sick, please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination.