Overview of Canine Fever (High Temperature)
A fever is defined as abnormally high body temperature resulting from internal controls. It is believed that fever is a method of fighting infection. The body resets the temperature control area of the brain to increase the body temperature – probably in response to invasion of foreign matter such as bacteria or viruses. Since many invaders do not thrive in hot environments, by increasing the temperature of the body, these invaders can be destroyed.
A fever is different from hyperthermia, which is an increase in body temperature due to external influences such as hot weather, inability to pant or sweat. The brain does not intend for the body temperature to increase.
Fever is usually differentiated from hyperthermia based on the dog’s recent environment, for example if he was in a hot car or just went for a long jog in 100 degree heat, as well as the animal’s response to the increased temperature. Animals that pant excessively and have increased heart and respiratory rates are typically victims of overheating (hyperthermia). Fever animals do not exhibit significant distress.
The normal temperature in dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Causes of Fever in Dogs
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Fever in Dogs
Fever is easily diagnosed based on a rectal temperature. In dogs, 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:
Treatment of Fever in Dogs
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 sometimes 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.