Dogs are considered to have a fever when their body temperature exceeds the normal range of 99.5 - 102.5 F. Any temperature between 102.5 and 103 F falls under the category of low-grade fever and can be treated with simple home remedies and comfort food (e.g., chicken or bone broth). A high fever, however, will cause symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea and must be brought to a veterinarian's attention.
Dog fevers can be challenging to detect because a dog's body temperature is higher than a human's. That is why simply touching your dog will not help you clearly gauge their temperature. Instead, using a thermometer to take your dog's rectal temperature is the best way to determine if they have a fever.
A dog's fever can stem from various causes, such as an infected bite, ear infection, urinary tract infection, or ingestion of poisonous materials. Sometimes, however, there is no culprit behind your dog's abnormal body temperature, and the fever is considered to be "of unknown origin" (FUO). Whatever the cause of your dog's sudden increase in body temperature, avoid trying to minimize it by giving human medications (e.g., ibuprofen, aspirin) — their side effects include harmful reactions such as kidney or liver failure!
What is a Dog's Normal Body Temperature?
A dog's healthy body temperature ranges between 99.5 and 102.5 F. Any increase in temperature over the 102.5 F mark can be interpreted as both fever or hyperthermia. The former means that the immune system is working hard to eliminate a foreign body. The latter, however, is the result of overheating caused by overexertion or excessive heat exposure.
Fever in dogs does not always call for a trip to the vet. Once you've taken your dog's temperature and determined that you're dealing with a low-grade fever, observe them for a couple of days. If your dog responds to home remedies and the fever drops, they're on the right track toward recovery. But if the temperature soars to 103-104 F and the dog fever symptoms persist, seeing a veterinarian becomes urgent.
How to Accurately Take Your Dog's Temperature
The most accurate way of knowing if your dog has a fever is by taking their rectal temperature. You can ease your dog's discomfort by lubricating the thermometer tip (e.g., with a water-soluble lubricant) and inserting it about one inch into your dog's rectum. Having someone to help keep your dog in place is essential because they will not respond kindly to the discomfort.
The Most Common Symptoms of Fever in Dogs
Once your dog's temperature reaches fever levels, their body will show symptoms such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Red eyes
What if My Dog's Fever Becomes Acute?
Home remedies and comfort food are appropriate only when treating a low-grade fever. However, if your dog's symptoms persist for more than 24 hours and their temperature keeps rising, it's time to call your vet since any additional increase in temperature can cause severe damage to their internal organs.
Determining the underlying cause of your dog's fever is not a straightforward task. The vet will assess your dog's medical history and cross-reference it with any recent signs of physical injury, insect bites, or ingestion of poisonous materials. Keeping a detailed log of your dog's symptoms will help the vet formulate an accurate diagnosis.
Next, the vet may suggest conducting a physical exam and a few routine laboratory tests (e.g., urinalysis, blood count) to rule out any underlying disorders or infections. If, however, the vet cannot ascertain any root cause, your dog will receive the Fever of Unknown Origin (FUO) diagnosis.
Can Human Medications Treat Fever in Dogs?
Many dog owners ask us if they can treat their dogs' fevers with over-the-counter human medication. So, it's imperative that we set the record straight from the start: no, over-the-counter medications (such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen) are not to be used when a dog has a fever. On the contrary, they can do more harm than good, causing severe reactions such as kidney and liver failure. Instead, use only medication prescribed by your veterinarian, if needed.
Home Remedies for Fever in Dogs
You've identified your dog's fever symptoms and taken their temperature — now, it's time for some home remedies and comfort food! Fortunately, most low-grade fevers need no antibiotics to be lowered. As long as the fever stays under 103 F, cold compresses, hydration, and homeopathics should be enough to restore normal body temperature!
Step 1: Cooling the Dog's Body Down
First, you need to contain the fever. Apply towels soaked in cool water to the dog's belly, paw pads, and under the armpits to help them cool off. We recommend adding 2-3 drops of peppermint essential oil to the water since peppermint has a wonderful cooling effect and is excellent at bringing down fevers.
Step 2: Maintain Hydration
Hydration is key to lowering your dog's temperature. Anything from freshwater to making chicken or beef bone broth will boost your dog's immune system and provide the body with enough fluids to prevent dehydration. Aside from keeping your dog hydrated, beef broth is a highly nutritious, easily digestible source of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and collagen. Each bowl of delicious bone broth will supply the body with the nutrients necessary to fight off the fever. Furthermore, the impressive amount of collagen will keep your dog's joints, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues healthy!
Dog parents who are feeding a hydrated diet to their furry friends are already one step ahead, since proper hydration is already built into their nutrition plans! If you're already feeding your dog Volhard food, all you have to do is add water to the foundation mix, and you're all set!
For our healthy bone broth recipe (made using a pressure cooker):
- Place soup bones and chicken feet in your pressure cooker.
- Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
- Cover with water.
- Lock the lid and cook for 90 minutes.
- Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer.
- Refrigerate in a glass jar.
- Remove the layer of fat before consuming.
- Feed to your dog within a week or freeze in ice cube trays.
Step 3: Homeopathics
The homeopathics commonly used for lowering a fever are:
- Aconitum Napellus: Ideal for a sudden onset of high fever but no other symptoms.
- Bella Donna: Effective for fevers in dogs that are agitated — even aggressive — and feel hot to the touch.
- Sulfur: Good for dogs with a low fever that will not go away.
Step 4: Supplements
The following supplements can boost your dog's immune system and help lower your dog's temperature:
- Vitamin C: 10 milligrams per pound of body weight, two to three times a day.
- Vitamin E: 5 to 10 milligrams per pound of body weight, once a day.
- Echinacea: 12 to 25 drops of echinacea tincture, three times a day.
Hydration and Home Remedies Will Help Restore Your Dog's Healthy Temperature!
Treating low fever in dogs is all about patience and bountiful hydration. As long as your dog is hydrated enough (through water, broth, or a hydrated diet) and stays away from human-tailored remedies (never give your dog human medications!), their temperature should recede within a healthy range. However, contact a veterinarian if your dog's fever and symptoms worsen. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!
Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!