What is Fever?
Because a fever is a symptom rather than a condition, diagnosis of its cause is necessary for successful treatment. Medical attention is required for higher fevers or fevers that last more than one or two days. Do not try to treat the cat’s fever at home as many medications are dangerous for cats and the underlying cause of the fever could be serious.
Fever is a common symptom of infections, illnesses, some cancers, and various disorders. Cats are considered to have a fever if their body temperature is higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit. A serious fever that requires immediate medical treatment occurs if the animal’s body temperature reaches 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. With these higher temperatures, cats can be at a high risk of brain and heart damage and even death.
Symptoms of Fever in Cats
The primary symptom associated with fever in cats is a body temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Observable symptoms generally include flushing and lethargy. In cases of higher temperatures or prolonged fever, more severe symptoms may occur. The cat may demonstrate a variety of other symptoms based on the underlying issue causing the fever.
- Elevated body temperature
- Dry skin or mouth
- Flushing or reddening of the skin
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Rapid pulse
- Panting or breathing fast
Severe Symptoms Include:
- Behavior changes
Causes of Fever in Cats
A variety of medical issues can cause a fever in cats or other companion animals. Fever is a common symptom of many infections and diseases. In some cases, the cause of the fever may not be determined. Causes of fever can include:
- Bacterial infections
- Viral infections
- Fungal infections
- Various parasites
- Tumors or some cancers
- Internal injury
- Some medications
- Poisoning or toxins
- Immune-mediated inflammatory disease
- Metabolic disorders
- Autoimmune disease
- Endocrine disorders
- Environmental causes
Diagnosis of Fever in Cats
Diagnosing fever can be accomplished by taking the cat’s temperature. This is generally accomplished rectally, using a thermometer. The animal’s body temperature will determine if a fever is present. If a fever is present, further diagnostic measures will be taken to determine the cause. A fever is generally a symptom of an illness, disease, or condition. Be prepared to discuss your pet’s medical history and any symptoms you have observed. The veterinarian will conduct a full physical examination and may take samples of blood and urine for analysis. A full blood panel and testing for various infectious or inflammatory diseases will be required to determine why the cat’s body temperature is elevated. Veterinary staff may also use X-rays or other imaging technologies to look for signs of infections, injuries, or tumors. If, after extensive diagnostic effort, the cause of the fever cannot be determined, the patient will be diagnosed with a fever of unknown origin.
Treatment of Fever in Cats
Little can be done to treat a fever until its cause has been determined. With lower fevers, the veterinarian may not even attempt to reduce the fever as it is normal for the body to raise its temperature in an effort to aid the immune system when fighting infections. Maintaining hydration and temperature reduction will be the primary focus when treating the fever and additional treatments will vary based on underlying condition. Hospitalization may be required for monitoring and treatment of your pet and could range from a couple of days to several weeks. Some common treatments include:
- Intravenous (IV) Fluids: Fluid therapy is necessary if the cat is showing signs of dehydration. IV fluids combat dehydration, provide nutrients to aid with lack of appetite, and may assist in lowering the core body temperature slightly. This common treatment has a very low risk of side effects.
- Fever Reducing Medications: Some medications for pain relief and inflammation, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, are effective for fever reduction. Never attempt to provide your cat this type of medication at home unless prescribed by veterinary staff, as it could cause severe reactions. To reduce the risk of serious complications, your veterinarian will determine the appropriate dose for your pet’s size and needs.
- Antibiotics: Infections are a common cause of fevers, making antibiotics a common treatment. This type of medication works to eliminate bacterial infections, so your veterinarian will not prescribe it unless the infection has been identified as the cause.
- Corticosteroids: This category of drug is used to fight inflammation, which is a common cause of fever. It may be used to treat various conditions that cause fevers and is often used in fevers of unknown origin.
- Surgery: In cases with severe infection, tumors, or certain parasites, surgery may be necessary to remove the cause. Surgery can put your pet at risk so your veterinarian will need to determine if this is the best course of action for your cat’s recovery.
Recovery of Fever in Cats
The prognosis for recovery from a fever depends on the underlying cause. In the case of minor infections or illnesses and some fevers of unknown origin, the fever will be reduced with treatment and the cat’s prognosis is very good. If the underlying condition is more severe, your pet’s recovery may take considerably more time and treatment. When your cat returns home, continue to monitor them carefully for return of the fever or other symptoms. If your pet’s condition worsens, return to the veterinarian for medical assistance. Be sure to follow all of the instructions provided by your veterinarian, including finishing the full course of medications even if symptoms appear to have improved or the fever has gone away. Your cat will need plenty of fluids to stay hydrated so ensure that water is readily available. Your pet will need to maintain an appropriate caloric intake while they have a fever, so some dietary changes may be required to support your pet’s recovery, including nutritious food or possibly high-calorie liquids.
Fever Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
my cat just got badly bitten and he was shivering and convulsing and twitching in his sleep.He was also crying continuously and only stopped when he went to sleep. His ears got really warm and his breathing was irregular and rapid. what do i do?
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