What Is A Dog’s Normal Temperature & What Are The Signs Of A Fever?

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A sick golden dog with ice pack on head and person with thermometer

Every pet parent should know how important it is to recognize when their dog is unwell and seek prompt treatment if required. But it’s not always easy to tell if your dog is unwell. For example, how do you know if your dog has a fever? Can you safely take their temperature at home? And if you do manage to take their temperature, how do you know whether it’s high or not? What is a dog’s normal temperature? Let’s find out how you can spot the signs of a fever in your dog and what their normal temperature should be.

What Is A Dog’s Normal Temperature?

The normal temperature for a dog varies depending on their age. But you can also expect their temperature to fluctuate depending on the temperature of their environment and whether they’ve been exerting themselves.

The average dog temperature for an adult dog is between 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) and 38.9 C (102 F). However, puppies often have slightly higher temperatures than adult dogs, and it’s not uncommon for them to have a temperature of 39.1 C or 39.2 C without being unwell.

Dog Temperature Chart

 PuppiesAdult Dogs
CFCF
Low<36.9<98.4<36.9<98.4
Normal37.0-39.398.6-102.737.0-38.998.6-102.0
High (Fever)>39.4>102.9>39.0>102.2

How To Take A Dog’s Temperature

Unlike humans, it’s really tricky to get an accurate reading from a thermometer in dogs if you’re placing it in their axilla (armpit). Equally, you can’t ask your dog to stay still while you hold a thermometer under their tongue – they’re just likely to chew on it! So, if you need to take the temp of your pooch, where’s best? The most accurate readings are achieved by placing a well-lubricated thermometer into your dog’s rectum.

However, if you’re not confident doing this, or if you don’t have anyone to hold your dog still, it’s best to leave it to your veterinarian. The reading from a rectal thermometer can also be inaccurate if there is lots of fecal material in the rectum, so if you take your dog’s temperature and it isn’t what you’d expect, try taking it again, just in case.

Are There Any Alternatives To A Rectal Thermometer In Dogs?

Some microchips will provide information to the scanner about a dog’s body temperature as well as their unique chip number. While this is often preferable in nervous dogs or if your dog is well and just having a routine health check, it’s not as accurate as a rectal reading. This is because, although the microchip lies under the skin, it’s quite close to the surface, so the reading might be falsely low. Therefore, if your veterinarian suspects that your pet has a fever, they may still choose to use a rectal thermometer, even if your pet has a chip.

How To Tell If A Dog Has A Fever With A Thermometer

If you suspect that your dog could have a fever, it’s best to check by taking their temperature. If you have a thermometer, some KY jelly, and someone to help you, you can try gently inserting the lubricated thermometer into your dog’s anus. Be careful not to use too much force, and try to avoid any feces that might be there, as this could give a false reading.

If your dog’s temperature is above 39C (about 39.4 in puppies), then they have a fever. If your dog isn’t amenable to having their temperature taken, or you don’t feel you can do it safely, contact your veterinarian for an appointment.

How To Tell If A Dog Has A Fever Without A Thermometer

If you don’t have a thermometer available, you might suspect that your dog has a fever if their ears and nose feel hot or if they generally feel warmer than normal. However, using this method of assessing a fever is very subjective and will depend on how warm (or cold) your hands are. If you think your dog might have a fever and they feel a little warm, look out for other signs of a fever and speak to your veterinarian.

Signs Of Fever In Dogs

If your dog has a fever, you might notice some of the following signs:

  • Eating less
  • Drinking less
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Panting
  • Breathing more quickly
  • Symptoms relating to the underlying illness (vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, etc.)

What Is The Treatment For A Dog With A Fever?

A fever is usually related to an infection, which could be bacterial or viral. Depending on the underlying cause of your dog’s fever, the veterinarian might prescribe antibiotics, as well as anti-inflammatory medication, to lower their temperature and make them feel better.

If the cause of the fever or the site of the infection is not obvious, your veterinarian might suggest performing blood tests or sending a urine sample to assess your dog’s health and try to find the cause. Medication to help with nausea or improve appetite may also be used, depending on your dog’s symptoms, and if they are dehydrated, they might require a fluid drip.

Dog Fever Treatment At Home

If you think your dog has a fever, it’s really important to get them checked by a veterinarian so that the medication they need can be prescribed. Once they’ve been assessed and the medication started, you might need to care for your dog at home while they recover from their illness. Ensuring they have a cool but comfortable spot to rest, providing plenty of water, and keeping food within easy reach will help their recovery. If their temperature becomes very high, or they seem to deteriorate, try cooling them down with a fan and some cool, wet towels while you contact the veterinary clinic.

How To Comfort A Dog With A Fever

Your dog might feel irritable or even act aggressive when they have a fever. This is because, just like humans, fever can cause aches and pains as well as fatigue. It’s best to give your dog some space but ensure they can reach everything they need. Check on them often and ensure that the room temperature isn’t drifting up.

Whenever your dog is sick, it is a real worry. But if they have a fever, they can be really out of sorts. If you spot the signs of a fever or you get a high reading when you take your dog’s temperature, contact your veterinarian for advice. With the right medication, their temperature should return to normal, and they’ll soon be their usual happy self! And be sure to consider pet insurance for your dog, which can help cover related vet bills and expenses due to a dog with a fever, including exam fees, bloodwork, and medication.

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