It can be difficult to tell when your dog runs a fever, simply because a dog’s internal temperature, when normal, is higher than that of humans. You're better served to recognize symptoms that indicate a fever and then to check your dog’s temperature. Once you've established your dog is running a fever, take steps to reduce his temperature, assess the possible cause and seek veterinary care if indicated.
Your dog’s normal temperature should be between 101 and 102.5 degrees. A fever that spikes to 106 degrees or more can be deadly and requires immediate veterinary attention. Causes of fever include heat stroke, infection or ingestion of toxic materials. Some dogs also run a fever after receiving vaccinations. A dog running a fever may be listless, shiver, have discharge from his nose or even cough. He also may refuse food or vomit when he eats.
You can’t tell if your dog is running a fever just by feeling his nose. A canine rectal digital thermometer is the most efficient and accurate way to get a real read. You may need another set of hands to help you steady and distract your pup through this sometimes uncomfortable temperature-taking process. Coat the thermometer in petroleum jelly and insert it into your dog’s rectum about an inch. Most thermometers give a reading within 60 seconds.
Bring your dog’s temperature down by bathing him with cool water, particularly around his ears and on his feet, and place him in front of a fan to accelerate cooling. If your dog is suffering from heat stroke, you can place ice packs in his groin area, as well as under his legs where they meet his torso. Continue to monitor your dog’s temperature and stop cooling efforts when his temperature reaches 103. Encourage your dog to drink water as well, but don't force it.
Never give your dog a fever-reducing medication intended for human use. A quickly escalating temperature that won't be brought down using conventional methods needs immediate veterinary attention. In addition to getting your pup’s fever under control, it’s important to determine what caused the spike in the first place. Unless there is a direct correlation to the fever -- like a low-grade fever after vaccination -- take your dog for a full checkup to rule out underlying health issues.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images