Taking Care of a Dog With a Fever

A veterinarian writes about what is ok and not to do at home

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If you notice that your dog feels hot to the touch but they haven't been roughhousing in the yard or playing in the sun, it's possible they may have a fever. The medical term for fever is pyrexia. A fever occurs when an animal's body temperature set-point goes up in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This results in the body's temperature rising higher than normal.


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Can dogs get fevers?

Yes, dogs can get fevers.‌ As with humans, dogs develop a fever when the thermostat in their brain resets to a higher temperature. To determine if your pet has a fever, you can take your dog's temperature using a digital thermometer made for rectal use. Place a small amount of Vaseline or petroleum jelly on the end of the thermometer before putting it in your dog's rectum.


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What is a dog's normal temperature?

A dog's normal body temperature falls between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.‌ If your dog has a rectal temperature over 103 degrees, they might have hyperthermia (overheating), or they may have a fever. Some dogs can get pretty worked up with exercise or anxiety, and these things alone can cause a high temperature that is not a true fever. Heat stroke also causes hyperthermia.


Signs of fever in dogs

Like a human with a fever, you might notice some or all of these symptoms if your dog has a fever:

  • Lethargy or sluggishness
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coughing
  • Glassy-looking eyes
  • Swollen lymph nodes


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Causes of fever in dogs

The list of causes for fever in dogs is extensive. Some of the more common reasons are:


  • Viral infections, such as parvovirus
  • An abscessed tooth
  • An ear infection
  • An infected bite wound from another animal
  • Severe or complicated urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Vaccinations
  • Trauma
  • Infection of internal organs, such as the kidneys or pancreas
  • Cancer
  • Fever of unknown origin (FUO), which means the cause is undetermined


Low-grade canine fevers (anything under 104 degrees) are often treatable at home. But some of the causes listed above require veterinary care and cannot be fully managed with natural remedies at home. For example, parvovirus is life-threatening, and the best chance for survival is hospitalized supportive care.



What is the first step to treating dog fever at home?

The first step to treating dog fever at home is to keep your dog hydrated.‌ To prevent dehydration, offer your dog plenty of fresh water. If your dog refuses to drink, you may be able to use a medicine dropper to squirt small amounts of water into their mouth. Ice chips also work well for dogs who have a fever.


If water is not tempting, encourage your dog to drink by offering low-sodium chicken or beef broth. This might be more appealing. If your dog is especially dehydrated, you can also mix Pedialyte with their water to help replace electrolytes. You can purchase unflavored Pedialyte at a grocery store or drugstore. However, dogs who are quite dehydrated may not be able to catch up on hydration without veterinary intervention with subcutaneous fluids or IV fluids.

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What are some natural home remedies for dog fever?

In addition to monitoring your dog's temperature with a rectal thermometer, there are steps you can take for dog fever treatment at home to keep your pet as comfortable as possible while they recover.

  • Reduce a low-grade dog fever‌ by applying cool water around your dog's paws, ears, and belly using a soaked towel. Keep an eye on your dog's temperature. When it drops below 103, stop applying the water and encourage your dog to drink.
  • Provide a quiet space to recover.‌ It's important to make sure your sick dog has a comfortable, quiet place to heal. Keep them away from other pets in the home in case the fever is contagious. If your dog likes being in their kennel, you can let them rest there and leave the door open so they can go in and out to drink water or to poop.
  • Use a fever reducer for dogs.‌ Even though aspirin is not approved for use in dogs, ask your veterinarian if you can give it to your dog to reduce the fever. Aspirin is sometimes prescribed for dogs, although there are safer and better veterinary anti-inflammatories that can be used. Aspirin can also have serious side effects, like gastric ulcers.


Do not give aspirin to your dog without first talking to your veterinarian. Confirm the right dosage (10 to 20 mg/kg every 12 hours with a meal is often recommended) and the right type of aspirin for your dog. Do not give your dog aspirin if they are on a corticosteroid, like prednisone, or if they are on a dog nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), such as Rimadyl (carprofen). ‌Never give your dog ibuprofen or acetaminophen.‌ These are two of the top toxin ingestions for dogs that the ASPCA gets calls for.

In all cases, you will want to either have your dog examined before administering any over-the-counter medicine for a dog fever or you should speak with your veterinarian. Aspirin and other medications can "mask" the underlying illness that's occurring. Your veterinarian will be able to get a more accurate idea of what's happening if you have your dog examined first and treated later.

When to seek veterinary care

It's a good idea to seek veterinary care for any dog fever, even one as low as 103 degrees. If your dog's fever exceeds 104 degrees, you should seek immediate veterinary care, as this could be a sign of serious illness or disease. You should also seek help if your dog is not drinking their usual amount of water.

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical exam and may order further testing, such as blood tests and a urinalysis. Once your veterinarian has examined your dog, both of you can work together to figure out the best course for treating your dog's fever.

The bottom line

Pet owners sometimes notice that their dog feels hot to the touch and is lethargic or has other signs of illness. A dog's normal temperature ranges from 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If their temperature is above 103 degrees, your dog might have a fever. You can check your dog's body temperature using a rectal thermometer. There are various causes of fever in dogs, such as viral infections, infected bite wounds, and ear infections. Keeping your dog hydrated is important even if your dog just has a low-grade fever under 104 degrees. If your dog's temperature reaches 104 or higher, it's best to consult your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of the fever. Do not use human medications without talking to your DVM.