There are numerous reasons why your dog seems sluggish or is not acting quite like his usual happy self. One possible factor is the presence of a fever. You can determine whether he has a fever by taking his temperature, but since a fever is typically a symptom of illness, determining he has one is just your first step in overcoming his illness. Your veterinarian will need to examine your dog to determine the underlying cause of the fever so that proper treatment will restore your canine companion’s spunk and playfulness.
Your furry friend’s normal body temperature is higher than yours. His normal temperature ranges from 99.5 degrees to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. His body will naturally feel warmer to your touch -- but the notion that you can feel his nose to determine his temperature is an old wives’ tale. The only way to accurately determine whether your dog has a fever is to take his temperature rectally with a lubricated digital thermometer. The warmth of a car, the excitement of a trip and the anxiety of a veterinary visit can slightly raise your dog’s temperature, so it is a good idea to check his temperature at home when he is relaxed. If his temperature reads 103.5 or higher, he has a fever that warrants investigation by your veterinarian.
A fever, also called pyrexia, occurs when your dog’s body temperature is elevated above his normal range. Viral or bacterial infections, tick-borne illnesses, metabolic diseases and some inflammatory conditions can all cause fevers. Certain drugs can also elevate body temperature. In cases when a dog runs a fever for at least four of 14 days and the veterinarian cannot determine a cause, the condition is referred to as a fever of unknown origin. An elevated temperature that results from environmental conditions is more commonly referred to as hyperthermia. Heat stroke is a common cause of hyperthermia. With so many potential causes for a fever, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination and ask you questions about your dog’s recent history and activities. She may also run some basic laboratory tests.
A fever is usually a symptom of an invading illness. The elevation in your dog’s temperature is his body’s immune response to combating the illness. When the body is warmer than normal, the invading bacteria and viruses cannot multiply as rapidly. In addition to a high temperature, other signs of a fever in your dog may include a faster respiratory rate, decreased appetite, shivering, weakness and dehydration. Additional symptoms of the underlying cause of the fever may also be present. Your veterinarian’s goal is to lower the fever while treating the cause. He may prescribe a course of antibiotics as a starting point, along with some fluid therapy if your dog is dehydrated. Promoting rest and maintaining your dog’s nutrient intake will also be important. Any significant findings during the veterinarian’s examination or in your dog’s laboratory test results will determine further necessary treatment.
While you can take the first step at home by taking your dog’s temperature, your veterinarian is the most effective method for reducing your buddy’s fever. A temperature reading over 103.5 Fahrenheit needs to be looked into. If your appointment is scheduled for a few hours later, you can apply cool, not cold, damp towels to your dog’s groin and armpit areas during the interim. A temperature over 105 degrees must be considered an serious emergency that requires urgent veterinary care without delay. Never share your medicine cabinet’s contents with your dog. Aspirin, acetaminophen and other drugs that reduce fever in humans can be toxic to your pets; your good intentions can do more harm than good. Your veterinarian has a complete pharmacy of safe and effective remedies at his disposal to get your dog back on track.
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