Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Symptoms, Causes and Treatment for a Pet with a Fever

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 or FELIDAE 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


  1. 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

  2. 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.

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

  4. Thank you, Linda, for this very helpful information!

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


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