Fever in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment | Pets Best

Your normally playful, active pup has been spending less time racing around the house and more time sleeping. You cuddle up beside them and notice their whole body is warm, especially their ears. It could be a fever. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your dog’s temperature climbs over 103 degrees Fahrenheit and they have additional signs of illness, your dog may have a fever.1

Dog fever symptoms

Be on the lookout for these common dog fever symptoms or other signs of illness that can cause a dog fever:2

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Warm ears
  • Shivering
  • Red eyes
  • Seeking out heat and looking for ways to get warm

It’s important to know how to tell if a dog has a fever, and understand how to use a thermometer to check body temperature. Knowing possible at-home dog fever treatments so you can alleviate some fever symptoms—and knowing when to call for veterinary help—is important to quickly help your four-legged friend feel better.

Causes of dog fever

Causes of a fever in your dog can vary, some of which can be very serious. To determine the best and correct dog fever treatment, a visit to the veterinarian’s office is warranted. Your veterinarian will do a physical exam and ask questions to better understand what caused your dog to spike a temperature and the best treatments for their fever.

Bacterial infections

Fever is one of the classic symptoms of bacterial infections. Bacteria can infect any organ, and the organ it’s infecting will drive the symptoms you see. If the infection is in the lungs, coughing can be a common symptom. For skin infections, you’ll likely see an abscess or wound. Examples of bacteria that can cause these infections include leptospirosis, Bordetella, E. coli and salmonella.3

Dogs that come in contact with bacteria in contaminated water, undercooked meat, dairy or feces can develop bacterial infections.Bacteria are also all around us as a normal part of the environment, and sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint where the infection originated.

Many times dogs are able to fight off bacterial infections without getting sick, but dogs with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a fever and other symptoms.3

Fungal infections

Illnesses caused by a fungus can also cause a fever. Much like with bacteria, symptoms will depend on the infection site. A dog with a fungal infection in her nose will sneeze and have nasal discharge. A dog with systemic fungal disease may have joint pain and limping.

One example of a common fungus that infects dogs is Coccidiodes immitis, which causes Valley Fever. The fungus lives in the soil in certain parts of the United States, and can become airborne; dogs that inhale the spores can develop symptoms that include a dry cough, lack of appetite, lethargy, depression and fever.4

Valley Fever in dogs is most common in desert areas like Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.4

Viral infections

Canine distemper, influenza and parvovirus are among the viral infections that can cause fever in dogs.5

Dogs are often exposed to viruses through contact with infected dogs in dog parks, boarding kennels or shared brushes and bedding.Vaccines can protect dogs against these viral infections, which can also cause symptoms like runny nose, coughing, vomiting and diarrhea.5

Parasitic infections

While ticks themselves do not cause illnesses associated with fevers, ticks can transmit diseases that commonly cause fevers.These blood-sucking parasites are found in wooded areas, tall grass and dense brush and attach themselves to your dog, especially in the ears, folds between the legs, between the toes and around the neck.6

Ticks can carry a range of diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which are transmitted through their bites. Fever is one of the symptoms of these tick-borne diseases.6

Autoimmune disorders

When a dog’s immune system inappropriately attacks itself, it’s common to see an associated fever.Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia are chronic illnesses that cause a dog’s immune system to attack healthy tissues, triggering inflammation. Other chronic diseases, including pancreatitis and diabetes, can also cause inflammation, which often leads to fever.7

Toxins or drugs

Antifreeze, human medications, certain plants and the artificial sweetener xylitol are all toxic to dogs. Dogs that accidentally ingest these toxins can experience many symptoms, including fever.1


Some dogs experience a low-grade fever in the 24 to 48 hours after routine vaccinations.This is typically self-limiting, meaning it goes away on its own. It’s also a sign that the vaccine is working, as your dog’s body recognizes the vaccine and makes antibodies.

How to take your dog’s temperature

Although paying attention to your dog’s symptoms can provide clues that your dog has a fever, a thermometer is the best way to check if your dog has afever.Simply feeling the temperature of your dog’s ears and nose is very unreliable.

You can insert a pet thermometer in their ear or rectum for an accurate temperature reading. To get a rectal temperature, lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly and insert it one inch into the rectum, removing it as soon as it produces a reading. This is the most accurate way to assess body temperature in dogs.

Ear thermometers are more expensive but less invasive. Insert the thermometer into the ear canal, and leave it there until it produces a reading.1

If the thermometer reading shows a temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, a call to the vet is a good idea.

Dog fever treatment at home

You should always consult with a vet if your dog has a fever, but there are some things you can do to treat a dog’s fever at home.

  • Avoid over-the-counter medications: Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and other over-the-counter fever medications that are effective for alleviating fever in humans should never be given to dogs. Call your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication for fever.2
  • Encourage hydration: Fever can cause dehydration, so it’s important to offer your dog small amounts of water and encourage them to drink. Offering ice cubes to drink could help encourage hydration.8
  • Provide electrolytes: Offer Pedialyte, Gatorade or another electrolyte solution to help your dog replenish their sodium, chloride, potassium and other electrolytes.9
  • Help with cooling: Applying a cool, damp cloth to your dog’s forehead, neck or chest for up to 20 minutes can help cool your dog’s body and alleviate the fever.Be cautious with this, though: If the dog’s body is truly trying to increase its temperature to fight off illness, you may make him work even harder to heat up, causing more shivering. Rectifying the underlying cause of the fever is more appropriate in this scenario.
  • Offer comfort: Dogs with fevers don’t feel well and need a comfortable spot to rest. Let them rest in a comfy bed, provide fresh water nearby and minimize stress until your dog feels better.They may not be up for their daily walk to the park, and probably won’t be interested in playing. Let them rest if they need it.

When to seek veterinary care

Trying to treat your dog’s fever at home is only appropriate if she’s still eating and drinking and otherwise acting normally. It’s important to monitor your dog’s condition for improvement. There are a few instances when it’s essential to get to a veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Signs of severe illness: Dogs with fevers who are also vomiting, not eating or experiencing other severe symptoms should go to the vet right away.1
  • Symptoms that get worse: Fever can range from mild to severe. Continue monitoring your dog’s temperature and call the vet immediately if his temperature increases. A dog with a fever over 106 degrees Fahrenheit is at risk for serious medical complications, like swelling around the brain.10
  • A fever that lasts longer than 48 hours: The longer a fever lasts, the harder it is on your dog. A high fever that lasts 48 hours is serious and could be life-threatening.10

When your dog is heating up, Pets Best is there

Dogs with temperatures over 103 degrees Fahrenheit and who are acting sick may have a fever and need treatment.

You can offer water, electrolytes and cool compresses at home to help reduce your dog’s fever, but it’s essential to monitor the symptoms and make an appointment with your vet immediately if your dog’s temperature spikes or their symptoms get worse. The faster you get your dog treatment to alleviate the fever, the quicker you’ll bring back your active, playful pup. Dog insurance from Pets Best can help your hot dog afford treatment for a wide range of eligible conditions and symptoms. Pet insurance can help you afford the best care available, without the pressure of having to worry about expensive vet bills.


1Fever in Dogs: Causes, Signs and Treatment. American Kennel Club. Published December 26, 2021. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-fever-and-temperature/

2Fever in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Care. Carolina Veterinary Specialists. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.huntersville.carolinavet.com/site/huntersville-veterinary-blog/2020/12/30/fever-dogs-causes-symptoms-care

3Bacterial Infections and Dogs. National Animal Supplement Council. Published January 13, 2015. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.nasc.cc/pet-university/bacterial-infections-and-dogs/

4K. Williams. Valley Fever in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/valley-fever-in-dogs

5Disease Risks for Dogs in Social Settings. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/disease-risks-dogs-social-settings

6External Parasites. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/external-parasites

7What Causes Fever in Dogs. Kingsdale Animal Hospital. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.kingsdale.com/what-causes-fever-in-dogs

8A. Smith. How to Know if Your Dog Has a Fever. Discover magazine. Published October 16, 2022. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.discovermagazine.com/lifestyle/how-to-know-if-your-dog-has-a-fever-full-guide-and-best-products-to-prevent

9J. Reisen. Warning Signs of Dehydration in Dogs. American Kennel Club. Published June 29, 2021. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/warning-signs-dehydration-dogs/

10M. Weir. Fever of Unknown Origin in Dogs. VCA Animal Hospitals. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/fever-of-unknown-origin-in-dogs

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