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How to Tell If Your Dog Has A Fever

It can be hard to tell when your dog has a fever. Unlike people, dogs can’t say that they’re not feeling well. And even when you know something’s not right, figuring out what’s causing your pet’s discomfort may be a guessing game.

Blitzen the fever stricken Shar-pei from

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Recognizing Fever in Dogs

Our Shar-pei, Ty, has spiked a couple of dangerously high fevers, and we’ve gotten a lot of support from our friends on Facebook and Instagram. Thankfully, he’s doing well now, but people have asked how I can tell when his temperature is climbing.

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a veterinarian. But I have had a lot of practice detecting fevers in dogs. Blitzen, the first Shar-pei Rod and I had, died just before his fourth birthday of kidney failure caused by Shar-pei Fever.

Blitzen the fever stricken Shar-pei from

Dr. Linda J. M. Tindle, DVM describes Familial Shar-Pei Fever as “a periodic fever syndrome that is characterized by random inflammatory events with high fever, sometimes with swelling about joint/s or face, that usually last 12-36 hours.”

It’s often accompanied by Amyloidosis, a condition that causes abnormal protein build up in the kidneys and liver, which can lead to early death from organ failure.

Being able to quickly detect an oncoming fever was important during Blitzen’s illness. And those skills have served me well when Ty’s been sick. Below is what I’ve learned about fevers in dogs from taking care my pets over the years.

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Detecting a Fever in Your Dog

Know What’s Normal

The most important step in figuring out whether your dog has a fever is knowing his normal temperature. Just like people, dogs’ normal body temperatures vary a bit. Ty’s normally at 100.8, and Buster’s is about 100.5. But a dog’s normal temperature can range anywhere between 100.4 and 102.5.

To figure out what’s “normal” for your dog, you’ll need to take his temperature with a rectal thermometer when he’s feeling well. You can also make a note of it during routine vet visits when your pup isn’t sick.

Also, temperatures can vary a bit throughout the day. Ty’s temperature naturally goes up a bit at night. So understanding your dog’s “healthy temperature” could mean tracking his readings at various times of  the day for several days.

Knowing your dog’s healthy pulse, respiratory rate, and capillary refill time are also handy tools in assessing a potential illness.

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Watch for Symptoms

A change in your dog’s behavior will be your first sign that he’s coming down with something. You know what it feels like to have a fever, and your dog feels much the same way.

My first clue that Ty’s not feeling well is that he gets mopey. “Chillaxing” is his preferred speed, but when he doesn’t want to go for a walk or come running when we make a move for the kitchen, I know something is amiss.

Glassy-looking eyes and feeling warm to the touch are the next hints. You can also watch for shivering, panting, runny nose, loss of appetite, decreased energy, and depression. Any combination of these symptoms means it’s time to get out the thermometer.

Taking Your Dog’s Temperature

Get a digital thermometer meant for rectal use, and mark it “Dog Thermometer.” Keep it anywhere but in your human medicine cabinet. You don’t want a sick family member to accidentally use it in a feverish haze!

Denise Fleck, pet safety guru, provides the following advice on taking your dog’s temperature:

After lubricating the tip of a digital thermometer with petroleum or water soluble jelly, lift your dog’s tail up and to the side to prevent him from sitting, and carefully insert the thermometer ½” to 1” into the rectum. Then wait for the thermometer to beep, indicating that it’s registered your dog’s temperature.

If your pup’s temperature is higher than normal, it may be time to call your veterinarian.

Ty the Shar-pei from laying in his bed with his paws under his chin

What To Do If Your Dog Has A Fever

Like in humans, your dog’s body temperature will rise to fight off infection or inflammation. An infected cut, virus, urinary tract infection, and pneumonia are just some of the many conditions can cause a fever. So how do you know when to be really concerned?

My rule for Ty and Buster is that every fever warrants a call to the vet. It’s a good idea to let them know what’s going on and get their advice. Temperatures under 103 can generally be monitored at home for up to 24 hours. But a fever any higher, or one that lasts longer than a day, requires a trip to the vet.

A temperature of 106 degrees or higher can damage a dog’s internal organs and may be fatal. This is a very serious condition that needs to be monitored carefully.

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Ty the Shar-pei from laying on a bed in the veterinary hospital with an IV in his paw


Other than offering small amounts of water, consult your vet before taking action to reduce your dog’s fever. Giving aspirin, for example, might prevent the use of other medications that are more effective in lowering temperature.

For fevers serious enough to require a vet visit, expect your pet to receive IV fluids and anti-inflammatory medication. Your vet is also likely to suggest blood work to try to determine the cause of your pet’s fever.

Unfortunately, because so many things can cause fever, it’s often difficult to nail down the culprit.


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  • Tanima Ghosh says:

    Hi, its summers here, & my pup is panting 24 hrs. sometimes its high, sometimes panting becomes little less than high. but he super active, but he tummy area always feels little above than warm.

    • Amy at says:

      Hi Tanima! I’m sorry to hear your pup is panting all the time. If you can take his temperature, that will help you determine if the panting might be caused by a fever. If he does have a fever, it’s best to talk to your vet right away. I hope he’s feeling better!

  • Sherry says:

    My dog has a lower than normal temp. Very lethargic. Eating and drinking but can’t walk around much. Can’t jump onto furniture. Very concerned about my best pal.

    • Amy at says:

      I’m so sorry to hear your pup isn’t feeling well, Sherry. In these situations, it’s always best to call your vet. They can help you determine if your dog needs to be seen or if there are other symptoms you should watch for. Wishing you both the best!

  • Shakey says:

    My dog won’t eat won’t drink water really i hit him to drink a lil apple juice he just lays there he was burning up with a fever i wet his paws and ears and put a fan on him I’m very scared I don’t have the money to take him to a vet at this time and idk what to do for him. Anything would be of much help he’s around about lil.over a yr old and he’s half pit and half bulldog when I move him he just whines pls help

    • Amy at says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that your pup is sick, Shakey. Please call your vet and see if you can work out some arrangement with them to see your dog. Most vets have options for people who are having financial difficulties. Wishing you all the best!

  • Layyou says:

    Hi My dog just came from the vet yesterday afternoon for the usual shots.
    He was very active and lively during the evening however when I woke up this morning he vomitted and seems to have runny nose. after eating his first meal of the day he went to sleep and seems like not energetic. is this an effect of the vaccine?

    • Amy at says:

      Hi Layyou. I’m sorry to hear that your pup isn’t feeling well. It is possible that he’s having a reaction, but you should definitely call your vet to see if this is normal given the vaccination he received. Hoping everything works out alright!

    • Casm says:

      Hi Layyoy
      I experienced similar symptoms after my miniatures first immunizations. It was a reaction to some of the vaccines. Vet now gives benedryl with vaccines. No more problems. Speak with your vet right away when things are but quite right. Hope this helps.

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