You may have heard that you can tell whether your dog has a fever by feeling his nose — cool and wet is good, hot and dry means fever — but it’s not true. In fact, dog fever often goes unrecognized or undetected. One reason it can be difficult to detect fevers in dogs is that their normal body temperature is naturally higher than in humans.
What Is a Dog Fever:
The normal body temperature for dogs is between 101 and 102.5 F, compared to 97.6 to 99.6 F for humans. This means your dog may feel feverish to you even when his temperature is completely normal. The word “fever” is typically used to describe elevated body temperature caused by infection or inflammation. A temperature of more than 103 F is considered a dog fever, although it can be 103 if a dog is very excited or stressed. When dogs have high temperatures that are the result of hot external temperatures or excessive exercise in humid conditions, the condition is referred to as hyperthermia or heat stroke. When temperatures reach 106 F, serious and fatal complications can occur.
Dog Fever Symptoms:
Although there are no definite signs, some symptoms that might indicate illness and fever in dogs include:
Loss of appetite
The only accurate way to tell if your dog has an increased body temperature is to take his rectal temperature. Experts recommend using a digital thermometer specifically designed for rectal use in dogs. Most thermometers intended for use in human ears do not work well for this purpose. To take your dog’s temperature, first coat the thermometer with a lubricant such as petroleum gel or baby oil. Next, gently insert the thermometer about one inch into your dog’s anus and wait for results. Most thermometers sold for this purpose will take less than 60 seconds to register.
Signs that Your Dog is Overheating (possibly heat stroke):
It is normal for your dog to be panting on a hot summer day, but your dog can quickly go from being a little bit warm to suffering from the initial stages of heat stroke. Some of the signs of heat stroke in dogs include:
Rapid heart rate
Pale or gray gums
Weakness or confusion
If you notice your dog exhibiting any of these signs it is essential that you take immediate action to cool him down. Dogs that do not receive prompt treatment for heat stroke can quickly progress to seizures, coma or cardiac arrest – it can even cause death in a matter of minutes.
Causes of Dog Fever:
A variety of illnesses and conditions may make your dog run a fever. These include:
Infection: This may have any number of causes, including bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases. Infection may be anywhere in the body, such as the lungs (pneumonia), the kidneys (pyelonephritis), the brain (encephalitis), or even the skin. The symptoms you see will depend on where the infection is focused and the underlying cause. Some infections, such as fungal diseases, can affect several areas of the body at the same time.
Vaccination: A low-grade fever for 24 to 48 hours after vaccination is not uncommon and results from the interaction between the injection and the dog’s immune system.
Toxins: Consuming substances that are poisonous to dogs, including macadamia nuts and some human antidepressants, can result in increased body temperature.
There are times when the cause of dog fever cannot be readily determined; this is called “fever of unknown origin,” or FUO. The most likely causes for dog fever of unknown origin are disorders of the immune system, bone marrow problems, undiagnosed infections, and cancer.
Ways to Cool Your Dog Down:
While cooling your dog down is very important if he is suffering from heat stroke, you need to be careful about doing it too quickly. You should not, for example, dump your dog into a tub of ice water because this could cause the capillaries in his skin to constrict which will prevent the cooling of his internal organs. Might use one of the methods below.
Wet Towel: Soak a towel in cool water and drape it over your dog’s body to cool him slowly. If your dog is very small, it is recommended that you use lukewarm rather than cold water to avoid cooling him too quickly.
Air Conditioning/Fan: If your dog is in the very beginning stages of heat stroke, moving him indoors to an air conditioned area or placing a fan in front of him may be enough to cool him down. It is also recommended that you let your dog lie on a cool surface such as tile or wood floors rather than carpet.
Pool of Water: The only place dogs are capable of sweating is through the pads of their feet so having your dog stand in a pool or bathtub filled with a few inches of cool water can help to cool him down. Remember, the water should be lukewarm or cool, not cold – and do not use ice cubes to cool the water or it will become too cold.
Drinking Water: As you employ one of the methods above to cool your dog down, you should also give him fresh water to drink. Though ice water is not inherently dangerous for dogs, it is best to avoid it in situations where heat stroke is a factor because you don’t want to cool your dog too quickly. It is also important that you make sure your dog doesn’t drink the water too fast or he could swallow air which will contribute to bloat.
In cooling your dog down, it is a good idea to monitor his body temperature – once it returns to 103°F, you do not need to cool the dog any further. In fact, it is a good idea to dry the dog off at this point and cover him to ensure that he doesn’t continue to lose body heat. You should also take your dog to see the veterinarian as soon as possible after a heat stroke incident to ensure that no internal damage was done and that there are no other complications.
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