How do you know if your dog has a fever? 9 signs that tell you

László Enikő

2023. November 5 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

It's difficult to tell if a dog has a fever, so it's worth being aware of the signs so that you can treat the problem as soon as possible.


The normal body temperature of a dog is between 38-39°C, which is slightly warmer than the average human body temperature. If the dog’s temperature rises above 39.4°C, it has a fever. If the dog’s temperature reaches 40.5-41°C, it is an indication of a high fever and there is a risk of serious, possibly fatal, complications.

Measuring the dog’s body temperature

Fever is difficult to detect in dogs because the body temperature can rise when the animal becomes stressed or excited. In addition, the dog’s body temperature can vary during the day and night. For this reason, it is important to be aware of your pet’s own healthy temperature. You can determine this by recording his body temperature several times during the day and night. If you want to spare your dog from being measured, use the average body temperature, which is 38-39°C.

Many people think that if they touch the dog’s nose and it is wet and cold, then the dog’s temperature is fine. If it’s warm and dry, it means a fever. However, this is not an accurate indicator of whether the animal has a fever.

The most accurate way to check your dog’s temperature is to use a digital thermometer rectally. Some pet shops sell thermometers specifically maked for pets. It is recommended that you keep a separate thermometer just for your dog and store it where you keep your dog’s other equipment.

Start by coating the tip of the thermometer with coconut oil or vaseline. Then lift your pet’s tail and carefully insert the thermometer about 2 centimetres into the dog’s rectum. If possible, ask another person to help support your pet so that it doesn’t sit down. Once the temperature is recorded, carefully remove the thermometer.

There are many conditions that can cause a dog to get a fever. Some of the most common are:

  • tooth infection or abscess,
  • bacterial, fungal or viral infection,
  • urinary tract infection,
  • ear infection,
  • infected bite, scratch or cut
  • toxic substances, for example toxic plants, human medicines or foods toxic to dogs ingestion.

In some cases, the cause of a dog’s fever cannot be easily determined. This is called fever of unknown origin. In such cases, the fever may be caused by an underlying immune disorder, cancer or bone marrow problems.

Signs that your dog may have a fever

If you notice a significant change in your dog’s behaviour, it’s the first sign that your pet is not well. You need to watch the dog carefully and take note of its symptoms. Any combination of the following symptoms is a good sign that you need to check your dog’s temperature.

The most common symptoms of fever in dogs:

  • loss of appetite,
  • shiver,
  • gasping,
  • red or glassy eyes,
  • warm ear and/or nose,
  • runny nose,
  • reduced energy,
  • coughing,
  • vomiting.

How can you reduce your dog’s fever?

If your dog has a fever of 40.5 degrees or higher, you should see a vet immediately.

If your pet is running a fever of 39.5 degrees or higher, you can help cool them down by putting cold water on their paws and ears with a soaked cloth or towel and running a fan near them (but not directly on them). When dog’s body temperature drops below 39.5°C, stop cooling. Keep monitoring to make sure the fever doesn’t return.

Try to get your pet to drink some water to stay hydrated, but don’t force him to drink!

In any case, never give your dog human medicine such as ibuprofen. Drugs like these can be toxic to dogs and can cause death or serious problems if ingested.

If your dog develops symptoms other than a high body temperature, consult your vet for further advice.

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