Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Fever (Pyrexia)

Fever is one of the things that you notice only when you’re paying close attention. 

It can be recognized by signs such as decreased appetite, lethargy, weakness, fast breathing or panting. These symptoms are not very specific, though, and can be caused by other things as well.

Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Fever (Pyrexia)

A dog’s normal temperature falls between 99.5 and 102.5 Fahrenheit.

A temperature of 103.5° F or higher is considered a fever.

The range between 102.5 and 103.5 is somewhat ambiguous. A dog who has been running around on a hot day may temporarily have a temperature in this range and be perfectly normal. On the other hand, a dog with a temperature of 103.2 who has just been lying around probably has a fever.

What’s the difference between fever and hyperthermia? 

They both refer to abnormally high body temperature. Fever, however, is a specific form of hyperthermia where the temperature rises as part of immune function. This is different from hyperthermia caused by inadequate means of heat dissipation or problem with thermoregulation.

The purpose of a fever is to enhance the functioning of the immune system and to create an inhospitable environment for invading organisms.

Elevated body temperature helps certain types of immune cells to work better. What does that mean? While extremely high fever is dangerous, mild fever is functional and assists in the healing process. So the trick is to know when to allow the fever to do its thing and when to intervene. When temperatures reach 106 F, serious and fatal complications can occur.

After her horrible drug-induced hyperthermia, it’s always been very hard for me not to panic when Jasmine’s temperature rose even a little bit. And, unfortunately, increased body temperature was part of her episodes.

For me, the do-something point was 103.5° F.

I’d never use a fever-reducing drug, though. I just cooled with wet towels. If your dog’s temperature hits about 104.5° F it’s time to talk to a vet immediately.

The most common cause of fever is an infection.

Other things that can be behind your dog’s fever are immune-mediated diseases, tumors, metabolic or endocrine disease, inflammatory conditions, certain drugs, and toxins.

Vaccination can cause a low-grade fever for about 24 to 48 hours after administration. Stress, agitation, exercise, and high ambient temperatures can also increase your dog’s body temperature.

The important thing is not to get fixated on the fever—unless it’s extremely high—but to determine and address the underlying cause.

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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