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What is Running a Fever?

You come home from work and notice that your dog is lethargic and shivering. His ears feel hot and his nose is warm and dry.  You decide to take your dog’s temperature, and it is 103 degrees Fahrenheit.  A dog’s temperature is higher than a person; their normal temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius).  There are a variety of reasons why your dog has a fever, such as:

  • Ear infection
  • Infected wound
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Dental issue
  • Toxins
  • Vaccinations

A fever is also referred to as pyrexia.  A fever is meant to help combat an infection in the body but high temperatures can be harmful.  Internal organs can be damaged, if a dog’s temperature is 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.  Not only can a high fever cause damage to the body; the underlying reason for the fever may be a serious condition.

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Why Running a Fever Occurs in Dogs

The reason why your dog is running a fever will depend on the underlying cause:

Ear Infections

Ear infections are a very common condition in dogs.  Otitis externa is an inflammation, which affects the cells that line the outer portion of the ear canal.  Otitis media refers to an infection in the middle ear and otitis internal refers to an infection in the inner ear. Other symptoms you may notice are strong odor, discharge, shaking of the head, scratching at the ear, head tilting and redness or swelling of the ear flap.  

Ear infections in dogs are more common in breeds with floppy ears such as the Cocker Spaniel, Old English Sheepdog, Golden Retriever and the Basset Hound.

Infected Wound

An infected wound happens when bacteria enters a wound (cuts, abrasions, bites and scratches). In addition to a fever, your dog may have painful hardened skin and pus may be present. The infection can spread through the bloodstream and can cause a dangerous condition called sepsis. Sepsis is also referred to as blood poisoning; it is a life-threatening condition.

Urinary tract Infection (UTI)

Urinary tract infections are also referred to as cystitis. Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria residing in the kidneys, ureters, bladder and/or urethra.  UTI’s are more common in female dogs. Other symptoms you may observe are straining to urinate, pain, incontinence, cloudy urine, dark concentrated urine and strong urine odor.

Dental Issues

Dental conditions such as a loose tooth, a root abscess and slab fracture can cause fevers. Additional symptoms of dental issues may be pawing at the mouth, lack of appetite and swollen gums.

Toxins

Certain plants, flowers and weeds are poisonous to dogs. Human medications, alcohol, particular food items and chemicals are also toxic to dogs.  These toxins can cause the dog’s temperature to rise.

Vaccinations

Some dogs get a fever 24 to 48 hours after receiving their vaccinations shots. Other symptoms may include itchy skin, coughing, sneezing and difficulty breathing.

What to do if your Dog is Running a Fever

Please do not give your dog aspirin or Tylenol; these medications are not meant for dogs.  Animals react differently than we do to human medications. You can try to cool him off by applying cool water on his paws and ears. It is important to keep your dog hydrated.  

If your dog has a fever that is 103 Fahrenheit or higher, he should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.  The veterinarian will want to discuss your dog’s medical history and vaccination records. He will then perform a physical examination. Upon examining your dog, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing in order to make a diagnosis. The veterinarian may recommend a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, ultrasound and x-rays.  If your dog has dental issues, the veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary dentist.  Wound infections may be treated with oral and topical antibiotics. Canines that have ingested toxins may need to be hospitalized.  Urinary tract infections are usually treated with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.

Prevention of Running a Fever

Drying a dog’s ears after swimming or a bath may help prevent ear infections. Often, a dog’s ear should be cleaned once a month.  Minor wounds that occur can be cleaned with diluted hydrogen peroxide. Large wounds should be checked by a veterinarian to help prevent infection. Toxic house plants should be removed from the household. Chemicals, medications and toxic foods should be put away and not left out. Additional preventative measures to ward off a feverish event can be taken; urinary tract infections may be prevented by keeping the dog’s genital area clean and well groomed. Dogs should have a dental exam every six months.

Cost of Running a Fever

The cost of dealing with your dog’s fever will depend on the diagnosed condition.  The cost of treating an ear infection is around $300. The expense can be $350 to treat a urinary tract infection and medical care for eliminating certain toxins (for example, xylitol) may cost up to $2500.