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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 GoPetFriendly.com

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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 GoPetFriendly.com

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 dogs’ 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” may 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.

READ MORE ⇒  Learn to Measure Your Dog’s Vital Signs

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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 GoPetFriendly.com 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.

Ty the Shar-pei from GoPetFriendly.com 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 will likely also suggest blood work to try to determine what’s causing 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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  • Thanks, Jackie! We’re glad to help, and Ty’s still going strong at 13.5 years old!

  • Thanks for the information it is really helpful to know glad Ty is doing good now

  • Happy to help, Angel. Thank you for your note.

  • Agreed! When Ty seems to be feeling a little off, it’s the first thing I check.

  • Angel Huber says:

    Thank you for the information .

  • My 9 year old dashaund threw up once today and has been mopy ever since. I have not fed her and her nose is dry and cracked…..she does go out to potty and then just wants to sit by me under a blanket and shiver. The vet prices are sadly out of my range. Any suggestions

  • Hello Kaur. I’m so sorry to hear that your pup has been sick. I grew up with beagles, so they have a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, I’m not a vet and don’t have any advcie for keeping your dog from getting sick. I really hope you’re able to find a verterinarian that can help you and him. <3

  • Kaur Suzi says:

    Hi.i have a beagle of 2and half years.he often gets sick.last month he had tick fever and his platelet dropped.vet. Had given injections for 5 days and then was put to doxycycline.he wD recovered then but today again he has 103 fever and not eating.i am worried as he gets sick quite often.before he got sick he was eating grass and last time also he had same symptoms.I really don’t know what should I do so that he don’t get sick.Please help me

  • Yvonne, dogs can have reactions to their vaccinations. I suggest you call your vet and let them know about your dog’s symptoms. They may want you to bring him in to be checked out. Good luck!

  • Hi my dog got his shots today and hes been sneezing all day. He is sluggish and not wanting to be pet or walking around. Hes a little warm. But not on the ears or paws. Hes cold. Hes also shivering from time to time. And he whimpered when my son tried to carry him. What should i do. Please help. Sincerly, roccos worried mom. Thanks.

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