Fever in dogs: symptoms, causes and ways of treatment

Fever in dogs: symptoms, causes and ways of treatment

Similar to humans, fever in dogs is not a disease in itself, but only a symptom that the body is out of balance. The causes can be harmless, especially if the temperature rises only slightly and lasts for a short time. But serious diseases are also possible. In our article you will learn how to Fever in a dog recognize where it is best to measure it and what remedies you can use to bring it down.

What does fever mean?

Whether bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses – at any time pathogens try to invade the dog’s body, but usually unsuccessfully. The own defense mechanism shields namely most attackers effectively. When a dog develops a fever, it typically means that the immune system is dealing intensively – and for longer than usual – with pathogens or inflammatory factors. In itself, fever is a sensible reaction of the body (an accompanying symptom) and serves to destroy foreign bodies through the increased temperature.

What is the normal temperature in a dog?

Just as the heart may beat a little faster in dogs than in humans, the normal body temperature of our four-legged friends is also a little higher than ours. Normally, the temperature in a healthy dog is between 37.5 and 39.0 degrees Celsius. With puppies the thermometer may show 39.5 degrees calmly. During the course of the day, the normal temperature of dogs varies slightly: it is lowest in the early morning and rises by a few tenths of a degree in the evening. Differences in body temperature also occur depending on breed, age and sex. Smaller breeds, younger animals as well as bitches have a slightly higher temperature than larger, older and male four-legged friends.

Normal body temperature in a healthy dog is between 37.5 and 39.0 °C.

When does a dog have a fever?

If the dog’s internal body temperature rises by 0.1 to 0.2 degrees, veterinarians call it an elevated temperature. They typically refer to a rise of a few tenths of a degree to over 40 degrees as a fever. However, not every dog whose body temperature rises above the normal level is sick.

Everyday activities also cause the body temperature to rise, such as:

  • Dog sport (z. B. agility, flyball or competitions)
  • intense play
  • driving a car
  • Eating.

How to recognize fever in a dog?

In addition to the elevated body temperature, fever in dogs is manifested by certain symptoms that you can easily recognize when you look closely. The signs of fever can occur separately or simultaneously.

The common symptoms of fever in dogs are:

  • Panting or faster breathing
  • ruffled fur
  • Apathy, apathy
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • irregularly distributed skin temperature.

From 40 °C the veterinarian speaks of fever. Values below this are called "elevated temperature.

The right clinical thermometer for dogs

Whether the dog has a fever, can be determined most reliably with a thermometer. There are special fever thermometers for animals, which have a digital display and measure the temperature very quickly. Those who have a fidget spinner at home will appreciate the prompt measurement results. Thermometers intended for humans tend to be more sluggish in their response and are only suitable for dog types that are not easily upset. However, even with the right thermometer, the help of an extra person to hold the quadruped is sometimes essential. After all, taking the temperature is not one of the highlights of a dog’s life.

Do not measure temperature in the mouth or ear

Once you are equipped with the appropriate tools, there are only a few rules you should follow to reliably take a fever in your dog. While the temperature in humans is most often measured in the mouth and the tip of the thermometer is placed under the tongue, this method is not suitable for animals. A dog would not tolerate a thermometer in the muzzle – most quadrupeds would rather chew on it and certainly try to get rid of the unfamiliar object. Also the dog’s ears are not suitable for fever measurement, because the many hairs in the auditory canal can easily falsify the result. Even if you have a special ear thermometer – although it is intended for humans – measurement errors are very probable. Larger deviations can in the worst case have life-threatening consequences.

Fever should be taken rectally rather than by mouth or ears.

Fever in dogs: rectal measurement

Reliably can be determined fever in the dog only in the anus. For the rectal measurement you should moisten the tip of the thermometer with some vaseline or lubricant and then insert it into the buttocks of the dog. Place the thermometer on the inside of the rectum so that the tip touches the side wall of the intestine. Otherwise, you run the risk of merely taking the temperature of the air in the rectum instead of the dog’s internal body temperature. After taking the temperature, you should clean and disinfect the thermometer thoroughly.

Is it possible to take a temperature without a thermometer??

If you don’t have a thermometer at hand, you can use common sense and your experience. Without an appropriate measuring device, however, the temperature rise in the dog can only be roughly estimated and usually only detected if it is a really high fever.

Terrier lies on pillow

If you don’t have a thermometer handy at the moment, you can place the back of your hand on a less hairy part of the dog’s body to feel for an elevated temperature.

Terrier lies on pillow

Possible causes of fever in dogs

In addition to stress, sporting activity or high outside temperatures – i.e. harmless causes – there are also serious illnesses that can trigger a fever in dogs. Fever is primarily a defense mechanism in your dog’s body by which the immune system attempts to eliminate pathogens or other interfering factors. It can therefore be caused by external pathogens (viruses, bacteria) as well as organic diseases and other triggers. Among the most common causes of increased body temperature in our four-legged friends are:

  • Viral infections, z. B. Parvovirosis, distemper, kennel cough or flu
  • bacterial infections, e.g. B. Lyme disease, leptospirosis, ehrlichiosis or anaplasmosis
  • Parasites, e. B. Giardia and other intestinal parasites or parasite-borne pathogens (as in babesiosis or leishmaniasis)
  • inflammations in the body: intestinal, liver, lung, bladder, uterus, skin, mouth or heart inflammations
  • immune related diseases like rheumatism or polyarthritis
  • Poisonings: Vermin killers, toxic foods, food additives (z. B. Xylitol), antifreeze
  • Abscesses
  • Tumors
  • Injuries
  • side effects of medication or vaccinations.
Chesapeake Bay retriever lying on bed

The dog’s immune system repels most effective attackers. However, you can help your dog recover from.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever lies on bed

Dog has a fever: what are the therapeutic options?

Not every rise in temperature in a dog requires treatment. In addition to reducing the fever, the search for the cause has the highest priority. How long the fever lasts and how high the temperature climbs will determine whether and how you should treat your dog’s fever.

These 9 things you should do in any case:

  • Allow your dog to rest: the body regenerates fastest during sleep.
  • Allow your dog to lie in a cool, dark place (z. B. in a darkened room with tiles).
  • Observe the dog and take his temperature regularly.
  • Shorten your dog’s walks: Even a feverish dog needs to go for a walk, but reduce your rounds to what is necessary.
  • Give him small amounts of water regularly. If the animal does not drink on its own, put some liquid on the tongue with a spoon. Also with a syringe – of course without a needle – you can carefully drip the liquid into the mouth.
  • Consult a veterinarian: if the fever does not go down or rises quickly, veterinary treatment is essential. The veterinarian must examine the dog thoroughly to determine the cause of the high body temperature and treat it accordingly.
  • Never give your dog painkillers or antipyretics from human medicine, as they can be toxic to him. Have your veterinarian prescribe medication instead.
  • Fortify your dog: instead of tap water, diluted and cooled salt-free meat or vegetable broth is also suitable. This provides him with fluids.
  • Make calf compresses: moisten washcloths or towels with room-temperature water and place them on your dog’s stomach, armpit, groin or paws. Change the wraps as soon as they are warm again.
  • CAUTION: Keep an eye on your dog at all times to avoid hypothermia. The dog should be free to choose whether he wants the calf wrap or it is getting too cold for him.

Fever in dogs: symptoms, causes and ways of treatment

Reduce fever in dogs: home remedies or rather to the doctor?

You should urgently refrain from using painkillers in your medicine cabinet that have not been explicitly prescribed by your veterinarian. If the fever persists despite first aid measures, you should consult a veterinarian.

Can I prevent a recurrence of fever in my dog??

The answer to this question is yes and no. Fever is primarily a defense mechanism in your dog’s body and thus per se nothing bad. It promotes an increased immune response, indicates illness, and helps your dog recover. Nevertheless, you can avoid diseases that sometimes lead to fever by giving your dog z. B. Get vaccinated regularly. A vaccination provides him with antibodies, so that he is already well prepared in case of contact with the respective pathogen. You can also protect your four-legged friend from other fever-inducing illnesses, injuries and poisonings by giving him z. B. Protect against bacterial transmission by ticks.


The normal temperature for an adult dog is between 37.5 and 39.0 degrees Celsius. If your dog has a fever, this does not necessarily indicate a serious illness, but it should not be taken lightly either. If you can rule out insignificant causes such as excitement, physical activity or feeling full after a meal, observe your dog. If the temperature rises quickly or lasts longer, consult a veterinarian who will determine the cause. Antipyretic medications approved for humans are not suitable for dogs.

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