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You’re probably familiar with the tried and true method many dog owners have relied on to see if their dog has a fever: feeling their nose. If it’s wet and cold, they’re fine. If it’s hot and dry, they probably have  a fever. Simple, right?

While there’s nothing wrong with using this old-time gauge, sometimes it’s more complicated than that. The nose test alone often isn’t enough for an accurate assessment of the presence of fever.

What Is a Dog’s Normal Temperature?

Unlike people, who have a normal temperature range of 97.6 – 99.6F degrees, your dog’s normal temperature is higher: the range is between 99.5 and 102.5 F degrees. You can take your dog’s temperature on a pet thermometer. So now that we know what is normal, let’s look at the signs that tell us if our dog is out of range and running a fever.

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What Are the Signs of Fever in Dogs?

Your dog can’t tell you when they have a fever, so you should familiarize yourself with the symptoms that can indicate its presence.

Here are the most common signs:

What Causes a Fever in Dogs?

An infection or inflammation can produce a fever in dogs, as their body attempts to fight it off. They can be internal or external, and include:

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier laying in a chair at home.
Cavan Images/Getty Images Plus

Ingestion of poisonous materials can also cause fever. These include:

If you think your dog has ingested a toxic substance, contact the Pet Poison Hotline


It’s not uncommon for pets (and humans) to experience a low-grade fever 24–48 hours after a vaccination. This usually isn’t dangerous and resolves after a day or so, but monitor the situation.

How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature

While it may not be the most enjoyable thing you and your dog will ever do together, accurately assessing their temperature can only be accomplished with a rectal or ear thermometer. Nowadays, there are digital thermometers made just for pets. You should have one of these in the first-aid kit you keep for your dog. It can register their temperature in about 60 seconds, cutting down on their discomfort.

For a rectal thermometer, first lubricate it with petroleum jelly or baby oil. Gently insert it about an inch into your dog’s anus. Then, remove it as soon as you get a reading.

Ear thermometers are less invasive, yet still a reliable way to take your dog’s temperature. It measures the infrared heat waves that are emitted from the area around the eardrum. The thermometer is placed deep into the horizontal ear canal to obtain an accurate reading. Ear thermometers are usually somewhat more expensive, but your dog will appreciate your willingness to shell out a few more bucks.

When using any thermometer, be sure to read all instructions carefully. Note: don’t use a glass thermometer when taking a dog’s temperature.

Golden Retriever getting its temperature checked at the vet.
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When to Bring Your Dog to the Vet

A dog is considered to have a fever when their temperature reaches 103 degrees or higher. If it does, it’s time to head to the vet’s office. A temperature of 106 degrees or higher can damage a pet’s internal organs and can be fatal, so never wait until it gets to that point.

Once at the vet’s office, diagnosing the underlying cause can be tricky. Your vet probably has a record of your dog’s medical history, with information about vaccines, surgeries, allergies, medications, and past illnesses. But the vet may also need to know of any recent physical injuries, ingestion of plants or other toxins, insect bites, and so on. It will also be helpful to note when you first noticed the fever.

After conducting a physical exam, your vet may order routine laboratory tests, such as urinalysis, blood count, or a biochemistry profile. They can offer up useful information about an underlying condition or infection. In the case of infection, your dog may be prescribed medication. More specific testing may also be required.

Sometimes the root cause of the fever can’t be determined. Vets even use an acronym for this: FUO (Fever of Unknown Origin).

How to Reduce a Dog’s Fever

To help reduce a pet’s fever — 103 degrees or higher — first apply cool water around their paws and ears. You can use a soaked towel or cloth, or a dog cooling vest. Continue to monitor their temperature, and when it drops below 103, you can stop applying the water. See if you can coax them into drinking a bit of water. You’ll still need to monitor your dog closely, to ensure their fever doesn’t return. Consider taking them to the vet if they exhibit. other symptoms. And remember: never give your dog human medications without consulting a veterinarian first.

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.

Related article: Why Do Dogs Pant?
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