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dog parent must-knows

How to tell if your dog has a fever

Think your dog may be running a temperature, but you’re not sure? Get out the thermometer and follow this guide for help.

Updated August 20, 2021

Created By

Victoria Lancaster,

📷 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.
  • Regularly monitor your dog’s temperature — This is so you have a baseline and know what’s normal for your canine.
  • Fevers are a sign of an underlying illness — If your pet is running a fever, it’s important to get them to the vet promptly. 

What’s a normal and high temperature for dogs?

If you’ve noticed that your dog has warm ears and their nose is a little dry, it’s possible that they’re running a fever. Just like in humans, a dog’s body regulates its temperature by gaining and losing heat. Your dog’s temperature is one of the most vital measurements to detect whether or not they’re healthy. The following chart is a helpful guide when it comes to understanding your dog’s body temperature.

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

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

Other 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 take note, so you can explain them to the vet:

  • Dry nose
  • Hot ears
  • Watery or red eyes
  • Yellow nasal or eye discharge
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • General lethargy or lack of energy
  • Pale or bright red gums
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

How to take your dog’s temperature, in steps 

Now that you suspect a fever, it’s time to take your dog’s temperature. 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.

Digital method

Digital 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.

Rectal method

The rectal method can be a little bit trickier when it comes to getting your dog to remain still. Take the following steps to get an accurate reading:

  1. Hold your dog in a secure position by using a treat.
  2. Lubricate the tip of the rectal thermometer with petroleum jelly.
  3. 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.
  4. Leave the thermometer in place for two minutes.
  5. Clean the thermometer with soap and water after each use.

Which method is better?

In terms of getting an accurate reading of your dog’s temperature, the rectal method tends to be a little more precise. However, we understand that not all dogs will sit still for a rectal temperature reading. Both methods, when done carefully, should alert you to whether or not your dog has a fever.

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.

Fevers are a sign of an underlying illness 

There are many different illnesses and conditions that can cause your pup to run a fever.  It’s extremely important you get your dog to the vet 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. A fever can be a negative side effect of one of the following conditions:

  • Ear infection
  • UTI 
  • Tooth infection
  • Infected bite or scratch
  • Organ infection
  • Ongoing viruses
  • Ingestion of something like a toxic plant or the artificial sweetener xylitol

👉 Did your pup recently visit a dog park or boarding facility? It’s possible they picked up a virus like kennel cough. Always make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations before sending them to a communal facility.

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.

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.

Apply alcohol to the bottom of the paws — This is one of the lesser known tips from our vet that temporarily helps cool a dog’s temperature.

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 freezy treats like frozen bananas can also help cool your dog and give them some added nutrition.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between an overheated and a feverish dog?

Even if your dog’s body temperature seems higher than normal, they might not actually be suffering from a fever due to illness.  Nonfebrile hyperthermia is a term which describes an overheated dog who’s probably just engaged in lots of exercise or time in a hot climate. Get them to a cool place and feed them some water. If they’re simply overheated, they will cool down.

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.

What is valley fever in dogs?

Valley fever is a fungal infection that doesn’t simply entail a temperature. The fungus lives in certain desert climates. Dogs are prone because they sniff around in the dirt of these regions. Symptoms of valley fever include a persistent fever and extreme lethargy. It’s incredibly dangerous and should result in a prompt visit to the vet.