How to Tell If a Dog Has a Fever: Recognizing Signs of Canine Illness

Just like humans, dogs can develop fevers as a response to infections, inflammation, or other health issues. Monitoring your dog’s body temperature and recognizing signs of fever is crucial for their well-being. Let’s explore how to tell if a dog has a fever and what steps to take if you suspect your furry friend is unwell.

Understanding Dog Fever

A dog’s normal body temperature ranges between 99.5°F and 102.5°F (37.5°C to 39.2°C). When a dog’s body temperature rises above this range, it indicates a fever. Fever is often a sign that the body is fighting an infection, inflammation, or another underlying health problem.

Recognizing Signs of Fever

  1. Lethargy: A noticeable decrease in energy levels and increased sleepiness can be a sign of fever.
  2. Loss of Appetite: If your dog suddenly loses interest in food, it could be due to an elevated body temperature.
  3. Shivering or Trembling: Just like humans, dogs might experience chills and shivering when they have a fever.
  4. Warm Nose and Ears: Contrary to the common myth, a warm or dry nose isn’t always indicative of fever. However, feeling unusually warm ears or paws can be a sign.
  5. Coughing or Sneezing: Respiratory symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or nasal discharge might accompany a fever.
  6. Increased Thirst: Fever can lead to dehydration, causing your dog to drink more water than usual.
  7. Vomiting or Diarrhea: Digestive disturbances can sometimes be linked to fever and underlying infections.

Taking Your Dog’s Temperature

A digital rectal thermometer is the most accurate way to measure a dog’s body temperature. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use Lubrication: Apply a water-based lubricant to the thermometer to make insertion more comfortable for your dog.
  2. Restrain Gently: If your dog isn’t used to this procedure, have someone help restrain them while you gently insert the thermometer into the rectum. Insert about an inch or until the “beep” sound on the thermometer signals a reading.
  3. Wait for Reading: Hold the thermometer in place until it beeps, indicating that the reading is complete. Record the temperature.
  4. Clean and Disinfect: After use, clean the thermometer thoroughly and disinfect it to prevent the spread of germs.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

If you suspect your dog has a fever, consider the following:

  1. Temperature Above 103°F: If your dog’s temperature is above 103°F, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian for guidance.
  2. Prolonged or Severe Symptoms: If your dog shows signs of fever for more than 24 hours or if their symptoms are severe, seek veterinary care.
  3. Other Signs of Illness: If your dog displays additional signs of illness like vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, or a change in behavior, consult a vet.

At-Home Care

While it’s best to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, you can take some steps to make your dog more comfortable:

  1. Hydration: Ensure your dog has access to clean water to prevent dehydration.
  2. Rest: Allow your dog to rest and sleep, as their body needs energy to fight off the underlying issue.
  3. Monitor: Keep an eye on their temperature, symptoms, and behavior. Note any changes and communicate them to your vet.
  4. Avoid Over-the-Counter Medications: Never give your dog human medications without veterinary guidance, as some can be harmful.


Recognizing signs of fever in your dog and monitoring their body temperature is vital for their health. If you suspect your dog has a fever or exhibits other signs of illness, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment. By staying attentive to your dog’s well-being and taking appropriate actions, you can ensure their swift recovery and maintain their overall health and happiness.

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