The picture shows my boy Sylvester when he had a fever. He already had a root canal scheduled—he came from the shelter with a cavity—and two days prior to the dentist appointment wasn't feeling well. After taking his temperature, it was clear that the tooth infection had led to his fever. If I hadn't been to the dentist with him that week and he had told me that cavities—which are infections—can lead to this, I would have been a lot more concerned but I was pretty sure what was what we were dealing with.
His temperature was elevated but not critical and it was Sunday and the vet was closed. I decided to do cold paw and head wraps with wet towels. I kept taking his temperature through out the day to keep an eye on things and we were able to break his fever. It works for dogs the same way I learned it from my mother when I was a child. Before antibiotics, people would do these wet towel wraps and it still works. So as a first aid measure you can use this approach but definitely take your dogs temperature and take him to the vet as soon as possible.
Here are some facts about fever in dogs that are good to know.
The normal temperature in dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.06 - 39.17 degrees Celsius), compared to 97.6 to 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit for humans. This means your dog may feel feverish to you even when its temperature is completely normal. A better indicator is a dogs nose. It should be wet and cool. If the nose is not cool, something is wrong.
The word 'fever' is typically used to describe elevated body temperature caused by infection or inflammation. A temperature of more than 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.44 degrees Celsius) 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 (41.11 degrees Celsius), serious and fatal complications can occur.
Although there are no definite signs, some typical symptoms that might indicate illness and fever in dogs include:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of appetite
- Nasal discharge
The only accurate way to tell if your dog has a fever is to take its 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 onlu=y a few seconds to register.
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Ralf Weber is a certified dog trainer (IACP CDT, CDTA) and behaviorist. A professional member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and an AKC evaluator for Puppy S.T.A.R., Canine Good Citizen, and Community Canine certifications.