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Fever in the dog
A thermometer can be used to quickly determine whether a dog has a fever. See our step-by-step instructions here!
Measure a dog's fever
The normal temperature of a dog is between 37.5 and 39.0 degrees Celsius. A temperature of 39.6 or higher suggests an illness causing fever or hyperthermia.
The term "fever" describes the increase in the dog's body temperature due to a change in the body's own "set point". The body assumes that the existing physiological body temperature is too low and then increases it.
Hyperthermia, on the other hand, is defined as an increase in body temperature as a result of external heat influences.
Most of the time, fever is due to an underlying medical condition. As a defense mechanism, the body signals to itself that the temperature needs to be increased. This helps fight the disease through a number of different complex processes. Fever is also known as "pyrexia" in medical terminology.
Increased body temperature in the dog due to hyperthermia
Dogs and other animals often have an elevated temperature, although technically they don't have a fever, but rather hyperthermia. In the case of hyperthermia, the body's temperature rise is not due to an immune reaction. Rather, he lacks the opportunity to cool himself sufficiently. This happens e.g. For example, if the animal is sitting in a hot car, overexerting itself, or spending too long in the sun.
There are several features that can help differentiate between fever and hyperthermia. An animal with a fever will often tremble, while a hyperthermic animal will tend to pant and appear distressed or weak. While body temperatures may be the same in this example, the underlying causes and treatments tend to be very different.
What are the symptoms of fever in dogs?
Often times, because of the change in internal thermostat, dogs with a fever do not appear overheated. Symptoms of fever in dogs include:
- Lethargy / depression
- Decreased appetite / decreased water intake
- to cough
- Decreased urination
- Temperature above 39.0 when stored quietly
What are the causes of fever in dogs?
The most common causes of fever in dogs are:
infection - The most common types of febrile infections include bacterial, viral, fungal, tick-borne diseases, and some parasitic diseases. Examples include pneumonia, parvoviruses, distemper viruses, leptospira, kidney infections, uterine infections and Lyme disease.
inflammation - A pronounced inflammatory reaction occurs in the body, which is not necessarily related to an infection. Various types of autoimmune diseases or inflammation can cause a fever when the body increases its immune response. Examples include lupus, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, and other diseases such as immune-mediated meningitis.
Neoplasia - Cancer causes severe inflammation in the body as well as secondary diseases (such as infections).
Drug reaction or toxicity - A drug reaction (allergy) or intoxication from known poisons can cause a fever.
vaccination - Due to the provoked stimulation of the immune system, vaccines often cause a mild fever 1-2 days after administration. This is considered a normal side effect in most cases.
How is fever treated in dogs?
As with humans, the treatment of the respective cause is often the main focus in the treatment of fever. For example, if an infection is caused by bacteria or fungi, antibiotics or antifungal drugs are likely to be administered. Supportive treatment is initiated in the event of a viral illness. Similar to the human flu, therapy is carried out here with rest and fluids. In some cases, antiviral drugs can also be used.
In other situations, such as cancer, autoimmune diseases or drug reactions, a very specific treatment plan is created for the respective animal. This is tailored to the exact disease process as well as the clinical appearance. Treatment can range from a hospital stay with infusions and medication to outpatient therapy with steroids or immunosuppressive medication.
Detecting and Treating Fever in Dogs
Fever is always an indicator that a dog needs medical attention. A veterinarian should always be consulted to determine the cause of the fever. In this way, suitable therapy can be initiated as quickly as possible. Early intervention is important to prevent dehydration and malnutrition. It also helps the dog to return to normal as quickly and safely as possible.
A word about hyperthermia (heat stroke) in dogs
Elevated body temperature does not necessarily mean that the dog has a fever. Hyperthermia (heat stroke) can also cause an elevated body temperature. In cases of overheating or heat stroke, it is absolutely critical that the pet receives emergency care immediately. Use your own judgment to see this:
- Is your pet visibly overheated and panting?
- Is it conscious or comatose (severe heat stroke)?
- Was it in a hot environment that is likely to overheat?
- Does the animal appear visibly stressed and has pale or dark gums?
If there is any suspicion that your pet may be overheated, take it to a veterinarian immediately and initiate cooling by moistening its stomach and paws with lukewarm or cool water.
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Worried that your pet may have a fever?
Schedule a video consultation to speak to one of our veterinarians.
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