Determining whether or not a dog has a fever gives the owner the option to start treatment as soon as possible, preventing the pet from getting worse. The rectal thermometer is the only 100% accurate way to determine if your dog has a fever, but there are other techniques that can help you measure the temperature quickly when no such thermometer is around.
Part 1 of 3: Assessing Dog Body Temperature
Step 1. Feel the ears and paws
Dogs with a fever will usually have warm ears and feet. It is possible to determine the temperature using sensitive parts of the body, such as the cheeks or the back of the hand, placing them over the ears and paws. Are they hotter than your hand or cheek? Healthy dogs are only slightly hotter than humans.
- Canine ears and feet have many blood vessels. When the animal is feverish, these areas heat up due to the migration of immune cells from the blood to the parts of the body where the infection is taking place. Increased circulation of immune cells in the blood can manifest itself as heat in the blood vessels.
- It is rare that the left and right ear are at different temperatures. If one is hotter than the other, it is a sign that there is a localized infection in the ear and not a generalized fever.
Step 2. Feel the dog's muzzle
If your snout is hot and is covered with a yellow or green runny nose, you probably have a fever and an infection. This condition can determine that the pet has a respiratory infection, although it is something evident only in more serious cases. Certain diseases, such as distemper and kennel cough, can present the same manifestations, so it is very important to take the dog to the veterinarian after observing a yellowish or greenish runny nose.
A normal dog can have "floating" temperatures, in addition to a certain level of humidity in the snout - it is a myth that the custom of saying that the snouts of dogs are always cold and wet. In fact, they often become dry after normal situations, such as lying in the sun, sleeping next to a heater, exercising, or becoming dehydrated. How does the muzzle of the dog in question look most of the time? Did he do any of the actions listed above to stay like the dry, hot organ?
Step 3. Feel the animal's underarm and groin area
These sites usually swell and heat up when there is a fever or canine infection. Use the backs of your hands and see if your lymph nodes are warm, both in your armpits and groin. The owner should check that their hands are also at room temperature, not too hot or cold, as they will serve as a reference.
- Lymph nodes contain immune cells that fight viruses and bacteria. They filter the blood to ward off these microorganisms, and when there is an infection, the lymph nodes become the body's "defence area." The place is filled with immune cells that secrete various types of substances that cause the brain to "cause" a fever. The sites become swollen and hot due to inflammation, which is a consequence of multiple simultaneous immune reactions.
- As the groin and armpit regions of dogs have exposed skin and little hair, it is simple to carry out the evaluation of fever through heat.
Step 4. Examine the gums
The pet's gums may be hot and dry if he is feverish. Another important sign to notice is their redness, especially if it is a bright red – such coloration can indicate high fever or even septicemia.
In healthy dogs, the gums should be shiny, wet and pink in appearance, just like human gums. Lift the dog's lip over the upper canines and place the tip of the index finger against the gum to assess temperature and humidity. Is the color, temperature and humidity of the gums similar to those of a human? If not, there could be an infection
Step 5. Check for signs of low temperature
A sick or shocked dog may have a low body temperature. In addition to the extremities becoming cold, some physiological symptoms, such as shivering and chills, may manifest themselves. In case of extremely low temperature, the dog may appear weak and even faint. In that case, go to the vet immediately.
Know that not all shivering in dogs indicates cold; this condition can also be a response to stress, anxiety, and pain. If you cannot identify any reason for the dog to act this way, take him to a veterinary emergency room as soon as possible
Part 2 of 3: Assessing the Dog's Appearance
Step 1. Look for other signs of fever
In addition to the physical temperature, one of the techniques that can be used is simply to observe the dog, looking for other signs of fever. It is important to be alert to changes in behavior, from difficulties in defecating to coughing and sneezing, as these can be fundamental signs in the diagnosis of the infection. Possible symptoms are:
- Lack of appetite
- Lethargy, languor or inactivity
- spend the whole day sleeping
- stay away from other dogs
Step 2. Observe the dog's appearance and behavior
When your dog's fever is high, you can even feel the heat emanating from his body as you stand a few feet away without touching him. Many other visible symptoms may be seen:
- He will likely pant heavily for prolonged periods, and his breath will be warm when felt against his cheek.
- The dog will drink more water and be more thirsty than usual, as he will lose fluid due to panting.
- Fever can make joints sore. The dog may hesitate and refuse to walk or run, showing slackness, difficulty in stepping and stiffness.
- Dogs with a fever will be lethargic, quiet and withdrawn. When touched, they may be unusually aggressive, due to the sensation of discomfort and irritation.
- It will not allow the owner to take care of the coat, which will lose its shine and will look unkempt and dry.
Step 3. Pass your hand, praise and try to play with the animal
Remember how the dog's body feels when not sick. Are his eyes lifeless? Dry hairs? Is he less excited and messy than usual? Physical and behavioral changes can indicate illness.
Step 4. If the puppy seems to be doing well, check him again after an hour
Let the dog rest in a cool place if the dog's behavior appears to be normal – despite being warm in the body – and check his temperature one more time to see if the signs of fever are gone. As it is a normal immune response, it may be a mild symptom and will go away after a few days.
Remember that if the dog's extremity temperature is raised and he is behaving abnormally, it is imperative to be more careful than a dog that appears to be warm but behaves normally. It's not the fever that's the worry, it's the infection
Part 3 of 3: Understanding Fever in Dogs
Step 1. Know that fever is an entirely normal immune response
In most situations, it is not a worrying symptom, indicating that the body is fighting an infection or is being "fixed". However, on occasions it can indicate a bacterial infection. If unusual symptoms develop in the dog, go to the veterinarian immediately.
When gram-negative bacteria are present with the infection, toxins are released through the cell membranes, which signals the brain that it must "cause" a fever. In these cases, serious bacterial infections can cause fevers with extremely high temperatures. When the temperature is extremely high, it can be harmful to the animal instead of helping it, causing damage to sensitive organs such as the brain and testicles. When this happens, seizures, coma and even sterility can occur. Therefore, it is essential that fever is detected early and that adequate veterinary treatment is carried out to avoid these undesirable effects
Step 2. Call a veterinarian
When in doubt, contact a veterinarian for a professional opinion. In addition to seeking treatment for abnormal symptoms, it is wise to try to get this fever cured if it has lasted longer than 24 hours. The doctor may prescribe an antipyretic (which fights fever) to almost instantly lower the animal's body temperature.
Step 3. Consider other related physical symptoms
If the dog's fever is related to another condition (usually more severe), the owner will notice that different symptoms will arise. It could be a more serious respiratory or intestinal infection. Pay attention to the following manifestations:
- Dogs with respiratory infections will cough, sneeze and have a runny nose or watery eyes. This will prevent the animals from maintaining the messy behaviors they normally exhibit, in addition to influencing their sleep routine.
- If you have a gastrointestinal inflammation or infection, your dog may become anorexic, vomit and have diarrhea. When you suspect one of these conditions, take him to the place where he needs to be and check what is excreted. Is there blood in the urine or diarrhea?
- If you notice anything unusual about one of these conditions, see a veterinarian immediately, as the chance of an infection is high and fever is just one of many symptoms that should be treated.
- It's normal for healthy dogs to experience high body temperatures and lethargy after exercise, so allow him to get some rest. Give him water to cool down before checking the dog's temperature and physical condition.
- Unfortunately, there is no 100% accurate way to measure a dog's temperature, with the exception of using a good quality, well-calibrated rectal thermometer. If you can find one, the canine rectal temperature should be between 38, 4 °C and 39, 4 °C. If it is above 39, 4 °C, the dog has a fever.