We outline how to take dogs temperature, the signs your dog has a fever, what causes it, how to treat it at home and when you should see a vet.
- What does fever mean in dogs?
- The common symptoms of fever in dogs are:
- How to take dogs temperature: The right clinical thermometer for dogs
- How to take dogs temperature: Do not measure in the mouth or ear
- How to take dogs temperature: rectal measurement
- How to take dogs temperature: these places are unsuitable
- How to take a dog’s temperature without a thermometer
- Is the temp too low?
- What therapy options are there for a fever in canines?
- What NOT to do!
- When should you go to the vet?
Any dog lover will become conserned if they suspect their dog has a fever, and will wonder “how to take my dog’s temperature?” Similar to humans, fever in dogs is not a disease in and of itself, just a symptom of the body becoming unbalanced. The causes can be harmless, especially if the temperature rises only slightly and lasts for a short time. But serious illnesses are also possible. In our article you will learn how to recognize a fever in dogs, where to measure it best and what means to lower it.
What does fever mean in dogs?
Bacteria, parasites, fungi or viruses – pathogens try to penetrate the dog’s body at any time, but mostly unsuccessfully. Most attackers are effectively shielded by their own defense mechanism. If a dog develops a fever, this typically means that the immune system is dealing intensely – and 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. How to stop a dog barking too much
How to take dogs temperature: What is the normal temperature in a dog?
Just as the heart of dogs can beat a little faster than that of humans, the normal body temperature of our four-legged friends is also a little higher than ours. When considering how to take dog temperature, you need to know that normally, the temperature in a healthy dog is between 37.5 and 39.0 degrees Celsius. In puppies, the thermometer can show 39.5 degrees. During the day, the normal temperature in dogs varies slightly: it is lowest in the early morning and increases by a few tenths of a degree in the evening. Differences in body temperature also arise depending on race, age and gender. Smaller breeds, younger animals and bitches have a slightly higher temperature than larger, older and male four-legged friends.
When does a dog have a fever?
If the dog’s internal body temperature rises by 0.1 to 0.2 degrees, veterinarians call that an increased temperature. They typically call fever a rise of a few tenths of a degree to over 40 degrees. However, not every dog whose body temperature rises above normal levels is sick. Daily activities also cause the body temperature to rise, such as:
- Dog sports (e.g. agility, flyball or competitions)
- Intense play
Extremely high air temperature or excitement and stress also affect body temperature. To prevent incorrect values, you should give the dog a break of about an hour after such an event and measure the temperature in an inactive phase.
How to take dogs temperature: 8 different types of fever
In veterinary medicine, 8 different types of fever are distinguished, which are distinguished from one another by their duration and persistence:
- ephemeral fever: lasting 1 day
- acute fever: lasting 8 to 14 days
- subacute fever: persistent for 14 to 21 days
- chronic fever: persistent for more than 21 days
- Intermittent fever: relatively even alternation of febrile and fever-free phases
- remitting fever: fever fluctuations of more than 1 ° C
- Recurrent fever: Fever with long periods of fever-free periods that comes back in bouts
- atypical fever: fever without regularities.
How can I recognize a fever in my dog?
In addition to the increased body temperature, a fever in dogs manifests itself through certain symptoms that you can easily recognize on closer inspection. The signs of fever can appear individually or at the same time. How to keep pets off furniture
The common symptoms of fever in dogs are:
- Panting or breathing faster
- increased heart rate (higher than 100 in medium-sized dogs and higher than 120 in small dogs)
- ruffled fur
- Indifference, apathy
- Loss of appetite
- irregularly distributed skin temperature.
How to take dogs temperature: The right clinical thermometer for dogs
The most reliable method for how to take a dog’s temperature to determine whether the dog has a fever is to use a thermometer. There are special clinical thermometers for dogs that have a digital display and measure the temperature very quickly. Thermometers that are intended for humans tend to be slower to react and are only suitable for dog types who are not so easily roused.
But even with the right clinical thermometer, the help of an additional person to hold the four-legged friend is sometimes essential. After all, measuring temperature is not one of the highlights of a dog’s life, so do it gently when you use any of these methods for how to take your dog’s temperature. But if you do not have a clinical thermometer, you can still use these methods for how to take a dog’s temperature with a human thermometer. How to get a dog and cat to like each other
How to take dogs temperature: Do not measure in the mouth or ear
If you are equipped with the right tool, there are only a few rules that you should follow for how to take dogs temperature at home to reliably measure 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 extremely unsuitable for animals. A dog would not tolerate a thermometer in its muzzle – most four-legged friends would rather chew on it and certainly try to get rid of the unfamiliar object. The dog’s ears are also not suitable for measuring fever, because the many hairs in the ear canal can easily falsify the result. Even if you have a special ear thermometer, which is intended for humans, measurement errors are very likely. In the worst case, larger deviations can have life-threatening consequences.
How to take dogs temperature: rectal measurement
In dogs, fever can only be reliably determined in the anus. For the rectal measurement you should moisten the tip of the thermometer with a little petroleum jelly or lubricant and then insert it into the dog’s bottom. Do not use thick creams such as Nivea. The more fatty the cream, the more accurate the measurement and the easier the procedure for the animal.
- Make the dog lie down. Stroke the animal and talk to it. Give the dog something to eat and thus distract him from the real thing.
- If you have a helper with you, this is advantageous. But you can also do it alone.
- Hold the animal’s tail slightly up and insert the thermometer into its anus to the end of the mark on the thermometer. Usually, depending on the device, one to three centimeters is sufficient.
- Place the thermometer on the inside of the rectum so that the tip is pushed to the side. Otherwise you run the risk of simply measuring the temperature of the air in the rectum instead of the dog’s internal body temperature.
- After the measurement, you should thoroughly clean and disinfect the thermometer.
Particularly when the dog has its temperature measured for the first time, one should proceed with caution. The dog may show fearful behavior, defensive movements, or even bite. Getting used to the thermometer at an early stage can facilitate the measurement in adult four-legged friends, and this is also the case in or even how to take a dog’s temperature with a digital thermometer.
How to take dogs temperature: these places are unsuitable
Not every part of the body is suitable for measuring a dog’s fever. Many would measure in their mouths out of habit. But parts of the body such as the mouth or armpits, where fever is measured in humans, are absolutely unsuitable for dogs.
In particular, measuring the temperature in the mouth can have undesirable consequences. The dog could bite the thermometer, swallow it or accidentally injure its owner or mistress. If you measure a fever in the ears, incorrect results may be displayed due to the hair in the ears. Rectal fever testing is recommended as the only reliable method.
One very unreliable way of assessing a dog’s temperature is by touching a four-legged dog’s nose. Sometimes the nose gets wet or dry even when the temperature level is normal. It is not worth proposing this method.
There are also non-contact methods you can use if you need to know:
- how to take a dog’s temperature with an infrared thermometer, or
- how to take a dog’s temperature with a forehead thermometer
Essentially, you do the same as you would with a human. However, the downside is that this is not as accurate as rectal measurement. But may vets themselves use these methods to give a rough idea, especially with a dog that is flighty, scared or may become aggressive — as it is better to have a rough idea than no idea of the fever measurement.
How to take a dog’s temperature without a thermometer
If you want to be sure if your dog has a fever, you should use a thermometer. If you don’t have one, it is also possible to detect a fever in your dog without a thermometer. The dog’s body temperature can be sensed. For this purpose, the back of the hand can be placed on a part of the dog’s body that is not very hairy. The ears, paws, loin area, armpits, stomach and muzzle are suitable.
The gums of your four-legged friends can also provide an indication of a fever. If it feels warm and dry, or is much more reddish than usual, this could be a sign of a fever.
If you don’t have a thermometer to hand, use common sense and experience. Without a suitable measuring device, however, the rise in temperature in the dog can only be roughly estimated and usually only determined if the fever is really high.
Is the temp too low?
A lower body temperature in a dog is just as dangerous as a fever. In extreme cases one speaks of hypothermia, ie a cooling of the animal’s body. This can be caused by prolonged exposure to the cold and poisoning. Then a negative heat balance is noted – the amount of heat produced as a result of metabolic changes is less than what the body loses. The symptoms of hypothermia are non-specific. It’s apathy, fatigue, sluggishness, chills, slow heart rate. The condition increases as your dog’s temperature drops. An exception is the last phase of pregnancy, when the temperature is 37 ℃. It is a signal that the birth will begin within the next 24 hours.
What therapy options are there for a fever in canines?
Not every rise in temperature in the dog requires treatment. In addition to lowering the fever, researching the causes has top priority. How long the fever lasts and how high the temperature climbs will determine whether and how you should treat your dog’s fever. Fever does not occur in isolation in dogs either, but as a result of an illness. Most diseases are difficult to treat at home with home remedies. However, symptomatic treatment with home remedies is also possible in animals.
Cold leg wraps, for example, are recommended for the dog, as they can reduce the fever. To do something good for your four-legged friend with leg wraps, towels are dipped in cold water until they are soaked. Then they can be wrung out a little and placed around the dog’s legs or around the neck.
You should definitely do these 9 things:
- Allow your dog to rest: the body regenerates fastest when it is asleep.
- Allow your dog to lie in a cool and dark place (e.g. in a darkened room with tiles).
- Observe the dog and take its temperature regularly.
- Shorten the laps for the walk: Even a feverish dog has to go for a walk, but reduce your laps to the bare minimum.
- Give him small amounts of water regularly. If the animal does not drink by itself, put some liquid on the tongue with a spoon. You can also carefully trickle the liquid into your mouth with a syringe – without a needle, of course.
- Consult a veterinarian: if the fever does not go down or if it 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 fever medication from human medicine, as these can be toxic to him. Instead, get your veterinarian to prescribe medication for you.
- Strengthen your dog: Instead of tap water, you can also use diluted and cooled salt-free meat or vegetable broth. This provides him with fluids and vitamins. It also has an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.
- Make calf wraps: moisten washcloths or towels with room temperature water and place them on the stomach, armpit, groin or paws of your four-legged friend. Change the wraps as soon as they are warm again.
What NOT to do!
Never give your feverish dog a cold shower! Think a cold shower is good for your feverish dog? You should definitely avoid that! Water that is too cold can additionally overwhelm the already stressed organism and cause a collapse.
When should you go to the vet?
If your dog has a fever with a temperature above 40 degrees , it is advisable to consult a veterinarian. Even if the fever persists, it is a must to have the dog examined. How to calm a pet to visit a vet
In the case of older and previously ill animals, as well as puppies, a visit to the vet should be made quickly as a precautionary measure . Your vital signs can deteriorate more quickly and the fever can have life-threatening consequences under certain circumstances.
The vet may primarily give medication that will lower the dog’s fever. He can also determine the cause, i.e. the original disease, and treat it.
Unsure if your dog has a fever or if it should be treated? Then a visit to the vet makes sense in any case.
Dr Alma Peterson is a skilled veterinary surgeon specialising in small animal practice and focusing on natural veterinary solutions wherever possible.