The body temperature in dogs – normal or fever?

All dog owners want their dog to run through life as happy and healthy as possible. An important indicator of your dog’s health is his temperature. In this article, you as a dog owner:in will learn everything you need to know about dog body temperature and how to take a fever.

What is the normal temperature in a dog?

Like all other mammals, the dog has a system of thermoregulation in the body that keeps the body temperature at a certain level. Normal core body temperature in a healthy adult dog is between 37.5 to 39° Celsius. Within this framework, all bodily functions run optimally. Your dog feels like a million bucks!

What affects your dog’s temperature?

However, there are also individual differences in body temperature. Smaller dogs usually have a slightly higher normal temperature than larger dogs. Age also has an influence: On average, the temperature of puppies is higher than that of adult animals.

Doberman and puppy playing on grass. Label reads: Puppies have a different normal body temperature than adult dogs.
Puppies have a different normal body temperature than adult dogs.

And there are other causes that can lead to fluctuations in your four-legged friend’s temperature:

  • The time of day is one of these factors: Early in the morning, the core body temperature in dogs is on average somewhat lower than in the evening.
  • Under high stress or exertion, his temperature can also climb: If your four-legged friend has just been diligently romping across the fields with his best buddy and arrives back at your place panting, his temperature can sometimes rise to up to 40° C.

Differences between dog and man

In humans, such a value would already cause the highest level of alarm. After all, in humans, a body temperature of 37.5° C is already considered a slightly elevated temperature. With the dog, however, there is no need to worry. For the dog, it is a temperature that is completely harmless in this case. After all, the body temperature of the dog is generally a few degrees above that of humans.

But why do dogs actually have a higher body temperature than humans? This circumstance has several causes:

  • On the one hand, the wolfish ancestor of the dog comes from a rather colder climate zone. Here, a higher body temperature ensures survival amid the harsh conditions. Humans, on the other hand, have evolved in Africa under higher average temperatures. That’s when it’s all about “Staying cool!”.
  • On the other hand, the dog is on average also simply much smaller and lighter than the human being. Its metabolic rate is thus higher. In addition to a higher resting pulse, this also leads to a higher average body temperature, among other things.
Grey-brown wolf standing between trees in snow. Inscription reads: From its ancestor the wolf, the dog has its increased core body temperature.
From its ancestor the wolf, the dog has its increased core body temperature.

How do I know if my dog has a fever?

You now know that temperatures that already mean high fever for humans are quite normal for dogs. But of course, dogs can also suffer from diseases associated with fever.

At what point does one speak of a fever in a dog?

A fever is said to exist when an otherwise healthy adult dog is found to have a body temperature above 40° C when at rest.

How does fever develop?

In and of itself, fever is a sensible bodily function. But how does fever develop in the first place? First of all, fever means a specific increase of the normal body temperature. The hypothalamus, a specific area of the diencephalon, is responsible for this increase. The hypothalamus is responsible for controlling various bodily functions, including the regulation of body temperature.

Fever as a defense measure of the body

If the hypothalamus now increases the body temperature above the normal value, there is usually a good reason for this: bacteria, viruses or other potentially harmful foreign substances are often the reason. They cause diseases in the dog’s body and activate the immune system. For all these pathogens, therefore, the stay in the dog’s body should be made as uncomfortable as possible.

French bulldog lying with eyes closed wrapped in brown blanket with fever thermometer in muzzle. Caption reads: Fever is a useful defense function of the body against pathogens.
Fever is a useful defense function of the body against pathogens.

Almost all of these pollutants and organisms do not like heat at all. They cannot reproduce as well in a feverish body, or they die. So fever is a useful defense mechanism. It also activates the body’s own cells and thus helps to really get the immune defense going.

The main symptoms of fever in dogs

Fever thus indicates a strong activation of the immune system. It helps the body fight infection, disease or inflammation. Thus, the fever ensures that your dog will hopefully get well soon. It is important that you as a dog owner:in recognize the physical signs of fever. To do this, look for the following symptoms in your furry friend:

  • dry, warm nose
  • noticeably warm ears or forehead
  • very warm armpits
  • Very warm belly
  • dry, solid feces
  • Increased panting and increased respiratory rate
  • Tiredness up to exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • increased thirst
  • Panting even at rest
  • Chills

Not every accompanying symptom must always occur. But each of them can be a sign of different diseases associated with fever in dogs.

Close-up of a veterinarian taking body temperature of a white dog lying on the table. Label reads: To detect fever in your dog, it may be useful to take the temperature at home.
To detect a fever in your dog, it may be a good idea to take the temperature at home.

Detect fever in dog

If you observe one or more of these symptoms in your dog, he may be suffering from a fever. Here it may be useful to take your dog’s temperature with a thermometer to investigate the suspicion.

How do I take a fever in my dog?

If you observe fever symptoms in your dog, it’s never wrong to visit a veterinarian’s office. Trained professionals will take your pet’s temperature with a thermometer and get to the bottom of the cause of the temperature increase called pyrexia.

However, if you have a digital clinical thermometer at home, you can also determine your dog’s body temperature yourself with a little dexterity.

How to take a fever in your dog

If possible, ask a second person to help you and hold the dog. The dog should remain as still as possible during the measurement. This will give you an accurate result.

A veterinarian and his assistant hold a West Highland terrier on the treatment table and take a temperature. Label reads: Taking a temperature is much easier in pairs than alone.
Taking a temperature is much easier in pairs than alone.

Apply some petroleum jelly to the tip of the clinical thermometer and then insert it a few inches into your dog’s anus. It is important that you do not hold the thermometer perfectly straight, but at a slight angle. The tip of the thermometer should touch the intestinal mucosa. This is important to obtain a meaningful result.

After measuring, you should not forget to thoroughly clean and disinfect the thermometer.

What can I do if my dog has a fever?

If your dog is not well, then you suffer as a master or mistress of course with. Fortunately, there are ways to help your four-legged friend heal from the underlying condition if his temperature is slightly elevated.

If you are unsure about the temperature increase, the best advice is to go to the vet. When in doubt, it is always better to visit the veterinary practice once too often than once too little.

In case of very high fever, a visit to the vet is obligatory anyway. Here, your dog’s fever can be lowered with medication if necessary. In addition, the veterinarian can find out what type of infection it is and administer medication accordingly.

Attention! Fever can be dangerous!

Yes, fever is basically useful and good for the body. But it can also be dangerous! If the core body temperature rises too high, serious complications can occur. Potentially life-threatening is fever in dogs from a temperature of 41° Celsius.

A golden retriever is on a drip in an open cage at a veterinary hospital. Label reads: In case of very high fever, treatment at the veterinarian is essential.
In case of very high fever, treatment at the veterinarian is essential.

What happens if the fever is too high?

The dog’s body proteins are not designed for values beyond 41° C. Thus, at this level, the fever begins to damage not only harmful organisms, but also the body’s own cells.

Above a value of 42° C, there is even an acute danger to life. Such temperatures are an absolute emergency and the dog should be presented to a veterinarian immediately. This is especially true for puppies, which do not yet have good mechanisms for defense against inflammation and diseases such as kennel cough or parvovirus.

In light of this, if you suspect a fever, it’s important to take it regularly and keep a close eye on your dog’s elevated temperature.

For lighter cases: Home remedies and helpful measures

You can also take some steps at home to help your feverish dog.

  • First of all, rest is the key so that your dog can recover well. Physical exertion and stress should be avoided if possible. This allows the body to focus entirely on activating the immune defense. So it is better not to take long walks with the dog during this time. A small gear for loosening is quite enough.
  • To keep your dog as comfortable as possible despite a fever, his resting place should be in a dark and cool (not cold) place. You should have a good view of this berth. This way you will always have an eye on your dog and you will notice if his condition deteriorates.
  • Sufficient water is also important and beneficial for a dog with a fever. Maybe you know the need to drink a lot when you have a fever from yourself. Your dog is no different. Of course, the four-legged friend should always have access to fresh water anyway. If the dog has a fever, fluid intake is even more important. If your dog stops drinking for an extended period of time, be sure to visit the vet.
  • Some home remedies that help humans with fever are also suitable for your dog. Moist wraps can help lower the body temperature somewhat in dogs. Use cool water for this, but it should definitely not be ice cold.
Close-up of a dog drinking from a water bowl. You can see the tongue caption reads: Especially when he has a fever it is important that your dog drinks enough.
Especially when he has a fever it is important that your dog drinks enough.

Caution. Actions you should avoid

Extreme measures such as showering or bathing in ice-cold water, on the other hand, are not advisable. Extreme temperature differences only unnecessarily strain the dog’s circulation and can even become dangerous.

Absolutely taboo is also the administration of drugs that are approved only for humans. Do not give your dog any pills or fever reducers without veterinary advice. These can be toxic to your dog and even cause death.

Conclusion about normal temperature and fever in dogs

If you have read this text carefully, you know the most important basics and facts about the important temperatures in your dog.

If you follow the listed information and tips, you will be well prepared for a fever episode of your dog. You are now a little closer to a healthy and happy life for your four-legged friend.

For all further questions and uncertainties, the veterinary practice of your confidence is the right contact. There you will find answers to all your further questions about the increased temperature of your four-legged friend.

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