How Do You Tell if Your Dog Has a Fever?

Do you suspect your dog may have a fever? Here’s a guide to help you look out for certain signs as an indication that your dog is feeling under the weather.

A lot of people confuse fever to be an actual illness. The truth is, fever -- essentially, elevated body temperature -- is the body’s primary defence mechanism against invasive pathogens. Remember the wretched ploy used by your mom when you refused to wake up when she asked you to? She would switch off the fan or AC and the sheer stickiness or discomfort would make you get out of bed. That’s what our body does when it senses a foreign presence trying to invade. Raising body temperatures make it sticky and uncomfortable for pathogens which usually have very specific environmental requirements for them to manifest their harmful effects.

Every pet parent wants their pet to always be in the pink of health. But one must always be vigilant to look out for certain cardinal signs as an indication that your dog is feeling under the weather.

Physical signs can give out a lot about how your pet is feeling (Image Courtesy- Javier Brosch-Shutterstock)

The most common indicator is a dry nose. Healthy dogs have shiny wet noses and a dry nose is often a lead-up to fever, allergies, infection or dehydration. It is important to note the pattern of this occurrence such as time of day or duration to determine if the cause is fleeting (like an allergy or in response to change in weather) or because of something patent.

This next tip is a pay-off from all the belly rubs and ear scratches you’ve ever given! All your snuggle-time must make you aware of exactly how warm your pooch’s stomach feels like. Relatively hair-free areas like the inside of the ear and the belly do feel a smidge warmer to the touch when a dog has a fever. Again, always make a note of other parameters alongside your observation, or else you might be going crazy over what your dog could have possibly contracted while he or she was just soaking up some sun on a warm winter afternoon!

When a dog comes down with a fever, they will not be their usual playful selves. They will keep to themselves, go off food, and sometimes even shiver despite it not being cold. If you cannot get your dog to engage with you and he or she expresses disinterest in food, it may be a red flag. Their eyes may also appear dull.

Like I’ve mentioned several times above: you must make notes of other concurrent parameters when you think your dog may have a fever! Remain cool and use data around you to form a cohesive picture instead of jumping to conclusions. Do not try taking your dog’s temperature if you do not know how. Another thing that I cannot stress enough is that you should never ever feed your dog a Paracetamol tablet! Dogs can only partially metabolize paracetamol and you could be risking liver complications in your attempt to relieve your dog of his or her discomfort. Consult your veterinarian for the best possible course of action.

In the beginning, I explained that fever is usually an indication of the onset of some sort of infection, so do not brush off any behaviour or symptom that seems out of the ordinary. Irrelevant details often tend to snowball into complications. And as a vet, I will admit that I’d much rather treat a dog with a mild fever and disinterest in his kibble as opposed to a dog with full-blown septicemia!

Indrakshi Banerji

Indrakshi Banerji

Jeevoka member since Sep 2019

As a senior vet at RESQ Charitable Trust, I am fulfilling my childhood dream of healing animals in distress. When my schedule permits, I try my hand at writing given my long found inspiration in James Herriot. I am obsessed with the colour purple and I enjoy hiking and baking on my rare days off. Last but definitely not the least, I am Mom to a grumpy tripod cat named Akhrot.



Cat 04 Nov 2020

Hmm. Not that I cared for the big guy but the next time I snuggle up against him, I'll pay better attention to the signs. This was helpful. Again, not that I car- where did that red dot come from?!