Fever is easily diagnosed based on a rectal temperature
. A body temperature over 103F is considered a fever. Diagnosing the underlying cause of the fever, which is usually related to an infection, can be challenging. Sometimes, history and physical exam findings can indicate the cause of the fever or source of infection. Unfortunately, diagnosis may require various tests if the cause is not easily determined. Some recommended tests may include: CBC – complete blood count or hemogram. This will determine white blood cell count, red blood cell count and platelets. Many animals with fever have an elevated white blood cell count
Chemistry profile to help determine the overall health of the animal and to detect any organ impairment
Blood smear to detect blood parasites
Serologic testing for uncommon sources of fever such as tick transmitted diseases
Blood evaluation for immune system diseases
Urinalysis to detect a urinary tract infection
X-rays to determine if there are any internal masses, pneumonia or other abnormalities that may lead to a fever
Abdominal and/or cardiac ultrasound to detect a source of infection such as liver, kidney, heart valves
Exploratory surgery with various organ biopsies in prolonged fever cases without diagnosis
Treatment for a fever is based on the underlying diagnosis and severity of the fever. Some mild fevers may not be treated since mild fevers can help destroy invading bacteria or viruses.
If a diagnosis is not readily apparent based on history and physical exam findings, it is quite common for your veterinarian to try a course of antibiotics before progressing to diagnostic testing. For temperatures over 104.5 - 105 F, medication is recommended initially to break the fever. Ketoprofen is commonly used to treat fevers. Commonly prescribed antibiotics are:
If the fever continues or recurs despite antibiotic treatment, additional diagnostic testing is recommended.
If a cause for the fever is determined, treatment is specific for the cause. Since there are so many different causes of fever, a full discussion of each cause is beyond the scope of this article.
For mild fevers, less than 104.5F, monitoring your pet at home may result in spontaneous recovery. Make sure your pet continues to eat and drink. Take your pet's temperature one to two times daily. If the temperature rises above 104.5F, this should prompt you to contact your veterinarian.
Also, look for any areas of infection such as abscesses, skin lumps, blood in urine or straining to urinate, sneezing or breathing difficulty. In addition, lack of appetite or lethargy should prompt an examination and treatment by your veterinarian.
Many causes of fever are not preventable and are associated with infections. Keeping your pet and the environment clean as well as avoiding exposure to ill pets or animal fights can reduce the chance of infections and fevers.