Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Dog fever: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

📷 by Charles Deluvio

The essentials 

  • Normal temperatures in dogs range from 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit — If your dog’s temperature is anything above this range, they have a fever.
  • There’s a correct way to take your dog’s temperature — You can either use a rectal or digital technique to take your dog’s temperature.
  • Fevers are a sign of an underlying illness — If your pet is running a fever, it’s important to seek medical advice from a veterinarian.

Dog fevers can have a lot of possible causes — from underlying illness to too high of an environmental temperature. Understanding the possible causes and how to tell if your dog has a fever is important to maintaining their physical health. 

Here’s what you need to know about dog fevers and fever management, and when to seek medical attention for your animal’s temperature.

What’s a normal and high temperature for dogs?

Just like in humans, a dog’s body regulates its temperature by gaining and losing heat.  The average temperature of a healthy dog ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over 103* Fahrenheit generally indicates a dog fever. 

Here’s a helpful guide to help you understand your dog’s body temperature.

Condition Body temperature
Normal 99.5–102.5°F
Fever 102.5–104°F
Emergency 104°F or greater

🚨 A temperature of greater than 104°F should prompt an immediate visit to the veterinarian. A fever of 106°F could be fatal or cause permanent damage to a dog’s organs.

Signs your dog might have a fever

There are other symptoms your dog may experience if they’re running a fever. Look for the following signs and keep track as they come up, giving your veterinarian the most comprehensive view possible into your dog’s health. 

  • Panting
  • Coughing
  • Pacing and general discomfort
  • General lethargy or lack of energy
  • Pale or bright red gums
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Inability to pee or poop as normal

What causes fevers in dogs?

Many different illnesses and conditions can cause your pup to run a fever. If you determine that your dog is feverish, It’s important to get them to the vet quickly so they can identify the possible cause. 

Fevers happen when a dog’s body and immune system are working hard to fight off an illness. Once your vet identifies what’s causing their fever, they can prescribe the necessary treatment. Always mention any other abnormal symptoms displayed by your pup. 

Here are some of the most common causes of a dog fever: 

  • Ear infection. An ear infection can lead to a spiked temperature in your dog, occurring as the immune response kicks off. This can happen no matter what is causing your dog’s ear infection or irritation. 
  • UTI. Much like humans, dogs can experience fevers with urinary tract infections, or UTIs.  
  • Tooth infection or abscess. A cracked tooth, a long-ignored cavity, or other dental conditions can lead to a tooth infection — which can be associated with a dog fever. 
  • Infected bite or scratch. Fevers can indicate infection, showing the body is using heat as part of its immune response to kill pathogens and bacteria. If your pet has an unhealed wound, it could be the cause of their high temps. 
  • Organ infection. A fever could be the first sign of sepsis and can be serious if ignored. 
  • Ongoing viruses. Illnesses can always lead to fevers. If you suspect a viral infection, assess your pet for any other symptoms that could point to a diagnosis.
  • Poisoning. If your pet ingests something poisonous, it can lead to fevers.

🚨If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned, don’t induce vomiting on your own. Contact their veterinarian and the Pet Poison Control Hotline immediately at (888) 426-4435.

A note on vaccinations

Vaccinations can sometimes cause dogs to experience a low-grade fever for a day or two after they get injected. Monitor the situation and go to the vet if the fever doesn’t go away after a day.

How to take your dog’s temperature

Now that you suspect a fever, it’s time to take your dog’s temperature using a canine thermometer. The first thing you’ll need is a thermometer. If you don’t already have one, we recommend adding a thermometer to your dog’s first aid kit right away. 

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t need a super expensive dog thermometer for it to be effective. Here are two different methods to safely take your dog’s temperature.

Once you take their temperature, you can take them to the emergency medicine center for medical treatment. Follow your doctor’s advice, and give them all the information you have. This can help them get to the root cause of your pet’s fever quickly. 

Digital ear thermometer method

Digital ear thermometers take your dog’s temperature by reading it through their ear. Take the following steps to get an accurate reading:

  1. Use a fresh probe cover.
  2. Slide the thermometer into the horizontal ear canal.
  3. Hold the base of the dog’s ear and keep them from wiggling.
  4. Clean the thermometer accordingly after each use.

Beyond minimizing infection risk, working with a clean thermometer ensures that the temperature is as accurate as possible. Ear wax can affect the reading you get, rendering it incorrect.

Rectal method

The rectal method can be a little bit trickier when it comes to getting your dog to remain still. Here’s the best way to get an accurate reading:

  1. Hold your dog in a secure position by using a treat.
  2. Unbox the thermometer that is designed for rectal use.
  3. Lubricate the tip of the rectal thermometer with petroleum jelly or water-soluble lubricant.
  4. Move the thermometer into the rectum, about an inch for small dogs and two or three for large dogs, making sure they stay relaxed the whole time. Do not force the thermometer, as this can cause serious injury. 
  5. Leave the thermometer in place for two minutes.
  6. Clean the thermometer with soap and water after each use.

The rectal method tends to offer a more accurate reading.  However, we understand that not all dogs will sit still for a rectal temperature check — and that excessive wiggling can lead to a bad result. Both methods, when done carefully, should alert you to whether or not your dog has a fever. Pick the one that your dog prefers, and stick with it. 

👉 It’s important to take your dog’s temperature often, even when you don’t suspect that they have a fever. Every dog has a different normal body temperature, so you want to get to know your dog’s healthy baseline. Then, if you suspect your dog is sick, you’ll know for sure when something’s wrong.

When to take your dog to the vet

Speaking of vet visits, there are a few instances where you should take your dog to the vet for their fevers and symptoms. Here’s a helpful guide to help you get through the “do I, don’t I” decision-making process: 

  • Your dog’s temperature is over 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over 103 is considered a fever. Once you see this number on the screen, it’s time to get in quickly for diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Your dog’s temperature has reached 106 degrees Fahrenheit. This level of fever requires emergency care, as their organs can be damaged. If left unaddressed, this high of a fever can be fatal. 
  • Your dog has accompanying symptoms. Symptoms (such as a racing heart, fainting, drooling, vomiting, or others) can signify something more serious is going on. It’s best to go to the veterinarian quickly in these cases for some professional advice.  
  • Your dog isn’t eating or drinking. Higher temperatures can be dehydrating and disorienting, especially if your dog isn’t consuming food or plenty of water regularly. (Even small amounts of water count!) It’s best to take them to the vet before it gets out of hand.

Soothing your dog’s fever at home

When your dog is home from the vet and recovering from their illness, they may still be fighting a fever. Here are a few things that you can do to help them recover quickly:

Use a damp towel to place on your pup — A cold compress is a great way to lower a fever and help your dog feel more comfortable.

Always keep a supply of clean water near them — Hydration is key when your dog is fighting off any illness, so find ways to sneak in some extra water. Make sure to give your pup cool water, but not freezing. Consider feeding them a water-rich snack like fruits and vegetables.

Ensure your dog is in a cool part of your home — Keep your dog out of the sun and in a cool room with a fan.

Feed them ice cubes — Ice cubes or chips are great to feed your dog for some extra hydration. Other cold treats like frozen bananas can also help cool your dog and give them some added nutrition.

If your dog has a fever, there’s no time to waste. It’s best to take them to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment support as soon as possible, mitigating the risk of some more serious complications. 

A fever in dogs is a temperature that exceeds 103° Fahrenheit, in most cases. If you suspect a fever, take the dog’s temperature rectally or in their ear with the appropriately designed thermometer, and find support from your veterinarian.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use a human thermometer on my dog? 

It’s best not to use a human thermometer on your dog, as they can give you inaccurate readings. There are plenty of rectal and in-ear thermometer options available at your local pet store. 

Can I use a human thermometer on my dog?

Certain human thermometers will not fit in a dog’s ear canal or rectum. However, you can use a human thermometer on dogs. Use a quick reading thermometer as the most accurate way to get a temperature reading, especially if you’re using the rectal method. Never use your dog’s thermometer on you or another human.

How can you tell if a dog has a fever without a thermometer? 

Tell-tale signs of a dog fever can include dry eyes and a dry nose, shaking, vomiting, shivering, lethargy, and bright-colored gums. 

Can I give my dog aspirin for fever? 

Aspirin for humans might not work for your pet, as it can have coatings that block the benefits from them. Your veterinarian may prescribe dog-approved aspirin that is specially formulated in place of baby aspirin. However, no course of pharmaceutical treatment (including aspirin) should be administered without ongoing supervision by your vet. If done at home without proper oversight, it could complicate your dog’s case and cause serious harm.