High Fever in Dogs

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 that simple. 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 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to 97.6 to 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit 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 degrees is considered a dog fever.

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 degrees Fahrenheit, 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:

  • Lethargy
  • Depressed mood
  • Shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge

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 water-based 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.