Symptoms, Causes and Treatment for a Pet with a Fever

October 12, 2011

By Linda Cole

It’s not always easy to determine if a pet has a fever or not. The general way many pet owners decide if their dog or cat is running a temperature is by feeling their nose. If it’s wet and cool, that’s a good sign the pet is healthy, but if it’s dry and hot that could mean the pet has a fever. However, there are better signs of fever in pets. Pet parents can tell right away when a pet isn’t feeling well, especially when they pass up their favorite CANIDAE meal. We can also tell if they’re warm by touching them. If your pet is running a fever, you need to know for sure, otherwise you may miss the reason for their fever. The best way to know for certain is to actually take their temperature using a rectal thermometer.

Symptoms and Causes of Fever in Dogs and Cats

The first thing to remember is that our pet’s body temperature is higher than ours. We have a normal body temperature at 97.6 up to 99.6. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The normal temperature for cats is 100.4 to 102.5 degrees. Indications of a fever include loss of appetite, lack of energy, depression, shivering, a runny nose, coughing, dehydration, lack of grooming or vomiting.

An infection or inflammation can produce a fever in pets. Anytime their body temperature is over 103 degrees Fahrenheit is cause for concern. A temperature of 106 degrees or higher can damage a pet’s internal organs and can be fatal. High fever in cats isn’t as harmful for them as it is for dogs, but it’s always best to get a high fever down as quickly as possible. If you can’t bring it down on your own within a day or two, a trip to the vet is recommended for specialized care and to determine why they have a fever.

A fever can be an indication your pet is fighting an infection inside the body or outside. An unnoticed cut on a paw pad or between a toe could have become infected. A bite or scratch from another dog or cat, an ear infection, a bad tooth or an abscess (common in cats) can cause infection. Urinary tract infection, pneumonia, encephalitis, fungal, bacterial or viral diseases can all cause your pet to run a fever. Complications during birth can also cause a pet to have a fever.

Dogs often pick up things they find on the ground, and both dogs and cats will nibble on plants. Many inside and outside plants are toxic to pets and can cause them to have a fever. Antifreeze poisoning, human medications, eating toxic human food or drinking alcohol can cause a rise in body temperature. If you suspect poisoning, take your pet to the vet immediately.

Sometimes the cause of a fever is unknown, and that could indicate problems with their immune system, an infection that hasn’t been found yet, or cancer. Many pets will run a low grade fever after their yearly vaccinations, and it’s recommended to keep a watchful eye on them for a few days after getting their updated shots. As long as their temperature remains under 103 degrees there’s no cause for concern, unless it lasts longer than 48 hours.

How to Take Your Pet’s Temperature

A digital rectal thermometer made specifically for pets is recommended. It will register your pet’s temperature in less than 60 seconds which for the pet is a good thing. Lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly or baby oil. Carefully and gently insert it about an inch into your pet’s anus and then remove it as soon as you have a reading. It is not recommended to use a glass thermometer or the type we use in our ears or mouth.

Reducing a Pet’s Fever

To help reduce a pet’s high fever that’s over 105, apply cool water around their ears and paws. You can put them in front of a fan and as their fur dries it will help them cool down. It’s important to monitor their temperature with a thermometer and remove them from in front of a fan and stop applying water once their temperature has dropped to 103. Try to get them to drink small amounts of water.

Never give dogs or cats human medication like acetaminophen or aspirin to reduce a fever. Aspirin is extremely toxic for pets. Applying water to cats to reduce a fever is not recommended. However, if a dog or cat is suffering from heat stroke, applying water around the ears, paws and back of the neck will help cool them down. Do not use ice if your pet is suffering from heat stroke.

Photo by Marlana Shipley 

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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  1. Andrea says:

    She does shake alot which is a new thing in last couple of wks. She’s my little angel I’m just so worried about her.

  2. Andrea says:

    My beagle drinks water like it’s going out of style. Goes potty alot n lays around like a sock child. Ik she’s up there in age. I do not have a thermometer to take temp. But she’s very warm to the touch her nose is wet n lukewarm? I’m just not sure what to do for her tonight? I will b calling vet in the morning Asa they open.

  3. Stephanie says:

    My 2 month puppy shakes alot & had a fever but is now gone but now that fever is gone she started to walk bowlegged from her 2 front legs ? I’ starting to worry should i take her to the vet ? Or is it because of the fever she had gotten ?

  4. Sunny says:

    I have 3 month puppy and he is not eating anything and doing some vomiting what to do now tell me quickly

    1. Julia Williams says:

      Please take your puppy to see a veterinarian so they can give him a thorough exam.

  5. Terri says:

    I have a 1 1/2yr old lab mix. After a day playing outside with other dogs, he began shivering, after seeming to be fine and did not appear to have a fever. Could it be stress from the day of playing?

  6. Clara knipp says:

    Hi I had a little tea cut puppy he hot sick and died I all so have a 8 month old t puppy he is shering and warm on his for head but he still eating good ..I call ed the vet in my tea cup he said it was probably Provo but I realy dont thang it was .I have another puppy to she is 3 years old they both have a little what should I do for them

  7. Nina Daniels says:

    Very, very helpful. I’m a RN and most of what I read I didn’t know. Thanks soooo much!

  8. pet owner says:

    My dog has been vomiting for a couple days. We do not have a rectal thermometer to check her temputure and we don’t want to use the thermometer that we use. what is some ways we can check our dogs temputere without using a thermometer and the nose?Thanks!

  9. marcy kovacs says:

    Do you make organic raw dog food?

  10. Jeffrey White says:

    Our newly adopted rescue dog has a fever so spaying was cancelled until it is gone. She did get vaccinated a week prior.

  11. Cynthia says:

    Every time my dog is in pain or I think he’s in pain he starts chewing on his feet is this normal behavior

    1. Yvonne says:

      I’ve a CKC that licks/chews paws. She’s on steroids to stop it.

  12. varsha says:

    my dog is in the middle of heat season he is a male pug around 5 years old he has 104 temp and the vet gave him injection but it dosent seem to be going down he sleeps a lot and dosent eat much ….. is there anything i can do

    1. adele says:

      It’s doesn’t not dosent

      1. Don says:

        I’m sure Varsha was more concerned with her pets welfare than her spelling and grammar, but thanks for pointing it out. Your comment has really helped nobody.

    2. manoj patil says:

      Yes try not to distirb it much
      In case intense walk to good veterian

  13. Krystal Jeffries says:

    My dog is in the middle of her heat session and I have noticed that she has a fever, is that common?

  14. Rose Montelongo says:

    The info provided was very helpful. Thank you so much.

  15. My dog has not eaten in 2 days and we try to feed her but she wont eat at all and she has no high temperature i dont know what to do what do you recommend i should do ?

    1. leela says:

      She might be
      a picky dog on her food

  16. Sandra Casierra says:

    Is it okay to give them baby Tylenol for a temperature?

    1. Absolutely not it could kill the pet.

  17. eliazar says:

    thank you very much for the information i learn a lot

  18. saurav bhowmick says:

    Thanks a lot …. This is one of the most common problem in pets… I make sure too to share this info… With all…..

    1. JC Ferrer says:

      My dog has a high fever he cannot walk at the back of his feet is it normal that the dog cannot walk well due to high fever

  19. Cheryl says:

    Baby aspirin is not toxic to dogs and vets often recommend it. Just a fyi

  20. Rhonda Mills says:

    Asprin is not toxic for dogs. It may be for cats though

  21. Barbara Beville says:

    This is very good information,,, I knew how to Take their temp. I just didn’t know how high. Thank you everyone for all the GREAT INFORMATION!!!!!!!

  22. This is helpful information. I’ve never taken a dog’s temperature but now I know how. Thanks.

  23. meowmeowmans says:

    Thank you, Linda, for this very helpful information!

  24. Mr Puddy says:

    I luv your info and great tip ! Me and mom learn a lots in your blog, Thank you

  25. Marg says:

    That is some really good information. If any of my animals stop eating and act puny, we are on our way to the vet. But those are some good suggestions. Take care.

  26. LOts of great tips. We aren’t so sure we want Mom taking our temperature – that’s a bit annoying. But when we are sick, guess we have to put up with it. Thanks for the idea about the cool water around the ears, neck, and paws.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning