As a pet owner, monitoring your dog’s health and well-being is part of the job description. Your dog can’t tell you when they are feeling unwell, so it’s important to learn the signs and symptoms of common illnesses they may contract. Dogs are significantly different from humans, and one of those differences includes average body temperature.
A dog’s normal body temperature ranges from 100°-102.5°, and a temperature over 103° is considered a fever. There are no definite signs to tell you your dog has a fever, but the following symptoms indicate there may be an illness and fever occurring.
Symptom #1: Decreased Energy or Lethargy
Fever can cause dogs to feel sluggish and tired, similar to humans. A dog’s activity level may decrease when they have a fever. The elevated body temperature resulting from the fever can lead to weakness and fatigue. Consequently, a dog may lack energy and reduce interest in play or other activities.
Fever can also cause dogs to be less responsive to their owners, and they may spend more time sleeping or resting than usual. Lethargy can also indicate more severe conditions, such as infections or other illnesses. If your dog displays signs of lethargy in addition to a fever, it is crucial to seek vet urgent care immediately.
Symptom #2: Reduced Appetite
Reduced appetite is another common symptom of fever in dogs. When a dog has a fever, their body’s natural response is to try and fight off the infection or illness, which can cause a decrease in appetite.
Fever can also suppress a dog’s appetite by making them nauseous or causing gastrointestinal distress. A dog with a fever may show less interest in their food or refuse to eat altogether. Dogs need to monitor their pet’s food and water intake, as dehydration can worsen fever symptoms.
Symptom #3: Shivering
Dogs with fever may experience shivering or trembling. This can happen due to the body’s attempt to increase body temperature by generating heat through muscle contractions. Shivering indicates that your dog is trying to regulate their body temperature.
This symptom can be especially noticeable in smaller or thinner dogs, who may struggle to regulate their body temperature.
Symptom #4: Coughing
Coughing can be a symptom of fever in dogs, especially if an upper respiratory infection or other respiratory illness causes the fever. Elevated body temperature can weaken a dog’s immune system, increasing its vulnerability to respiratory infections.
Coughing can sometimes indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as kennel cough or canine influenza. Seek veterinary care if it persists, your dog is wheezing or has trouble breathing.
Symptom #5: Rapid Breathing or Panting
Rapid breathing or panting is a common symptom of fever in dogs. When a dog has a fever, their body temperature rises, causing them to pant more frequently to regulate their body temperature. In addition, fever can lead to inflammation or infection in the lungs or airways, making breathing more difficult.
Symptom #6: Red or Inflamed Eyes
Dogs with a fever may develop red or glassy eyes that look swollen or irritated. This happens because the fever increases the blood flow to the eyes, making the vessels dilate and causing the eyes to appear red or bloodshot.
If your dog’s eyes look like this, it could mean they have conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the eye’s outer layer. Dogs with conjunctivitis may experience eye discharge, redness, and discomfort. Red or glassy eyes could also indicate other health problems, like allergies or eye infections. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian.
Symptom #7: Behavioural Changes
Fever in dogs can lead to a range of behavioural changes. Dogs may become irritable, restless, or anxious with a fever and may be less responsive to their owners than usual.
The discomfort and physical symptoms of fever can also cause difficulty sleeping or resting. These behavioural changes can be alarming for dog owners, especially if they occur suddenly or persist over time.
How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature
It is typically difficult to detect a fever in a dog without taking its temperature. A digital rectal thermometer is the best way to take a dog’s temperature. Apply petroleum jelly to the tip for lubrication. Slowly insert the thermometer about 1” into your dog’s rectum and hold it there until it beeps. Dogs generally do not enjoy having their temperature taken, so giving lots of treats is a great way to divert their attention.
To keep your dog with a fever comfortable and hydrated, provide a calm and quiet environment and offer comfort items such as a soft bed and toys. Seek veterinary care if symptoms persist or worsen. Dogs can have a fever for many reasons, and it is essential to address the underlying cause.
Pet parents can keep a fevered dog cool with at-home remedies, but if a fever lasts longer than 24 hours, contact a vet for the next steps.