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How to Check Your Dog's Fever Without a Thermometer: A Simple Guide - PawSafe

How to Check Your Dog’s Fever Without a Thermometer: A Simple Guide

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

checking dog's fever without a thermometer

Many dog owners know the importance of keeping an eye on their furry friend’s health. One way to do this is by monitoring their body temperature. A fever in dogs can indicate an underlying illness or infection, and it’s important to catch it early. While using a thermometer is the most accurate way to check a dog’s temperature, there are other methods that can be used to detect a fever without one.

If you suspect your dog is sick, it’s essential to see your veterinarian, however, it’s also important to make sure your dog has access to warm dog bed and plenty of hydration. An fever in dogs could mean anything from an infected wound, to a simple cold.

According to Dr. Sarah Packman, DVM, other symptoms of fever (pyrexia) in dogs include lethargy, loss of appetite, shivering, and coughing. If a dog is displaying any of these symptoms, it’s important to monitor their temperature and contact a veterinarian if necessary. While it’s possible to detect a fever without a thermometer, it’s important to remember that a thermometer is the most accurate way to check a dog’s temperature and should be used if possible.

It’s important to note that these methods are not always accurate, and a thermometer is the best way to get an accurate reading of your dog’s temperature. If you suspect your dog has a fever, it’s best to take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Understanding Fevers In Dogs

When a dog’s body temperature rises above its normal range, it indicates that the dog has a fever. According to MSD manuals, fever in dogs is usually caused by an underlying infection, inflammation, immune disease, or cancer. and it is important to identify and treat the cause of the fever.

Signs of Fever in Dogs

Dogs with a fever may exhibit a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Loss of appetite;
  • Lethargy or weakness;
  • Shivering or trembling;
  • Warm or dry nose;
  • Red or inflamed eyes;
  • Coughing or sneezing;
  • Vomiting or diarrhea; and
  • Increased heart rate or breathing.

It is important to note that some of these symptoms may also be present in dogs without a fever, so it is essential to look for multiple signs before assuming that a dog has a fever.

Normal Dog Temperature Range

The normal body temperature range for dogs is between 99.5°F and 102.5°F (37.5°C and 39.2°C). However, the temperature may vary slightly depending on the breed, age, and activity level of the dog.

To determine if a dog has a fever, it is essential to know its normal body temperature range. It is also important to note that a dog’s body temperature may rise slightly after exercise or in hot weather, so it is essential to take this into account when checking for a fever.

In conclusion, it is crucial to understand the signs of fever in dogs and their normal temperature range to identify and treat a fever effectively.

Ways To Check A Dog For A Dog For A Fever Without A Thermometer

Checking your dog for a fever is one of the first steps to figuring out if your dog is sick. Here are a number of ways to get a good idea if your dog has a fever if you don’t have a thermometer on hand:

1. Feeling Your Dog’s Ears

A dog’s ears can often serve as a helpful thermometer. A dog’s normal body temperature ranges between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. When unwell, this may rise, and one of the places this can manifest is in the ears.

Feeling the Ears:

If your dog’s ears feel hot to the touch, it can be an indicator of elevated body temperature. However, this is not a definitive way to diagnose a fever, as there could be other reasons for warm ears, such as inflammation or infection.

2. Checking the Dog’s Nose

One of the easiest ways to check if a dog has a fever is by examining its nose. A healthy dog will have a moist and cool nose. If the dog’s nose is dry or warm, it may indicate a fever. However, it is important to note that not all dogs with a dry or warm nose have a fever, and not all dogs with a moist and cool nose are healthy.

3. Examining the Dog’s Gums

Another method to check a dog’s fever is by examining its gums. A healthy dog will have pink gums. If the dog’s gums are pale or white, it may also have a fever. To check the color of the gums, gently lift the dog’s upper lip and examine the gums near the front teeth.

In addition to checking the color of the gums, it is also important to check the capillary refill time. To do this, press a finger against the dog’s gum and release it. The gum should turn white briefly and then return to its normal pink color within two seconds. If it takes longer than two seconds for the gum to return to its normal color, it may indicate a fever.

4. Checking for Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration is another common symptom of fever in dogs. Checking for signs of dehydration is important to ensure your dog stays healthy. Signs of dehydration include:

To check for dehydration, gently pinch the skin on the back of your dog’s neck. If the skin does not quickly return to its original position, your dog may be dehydrated. Another way to check for dehydration is to look at your dog’s gums. If they appear dry or sticky, it may indicate dehydration.

Capillary refill time and gum stickiness can also be used to check for dehydration. Capillary refill time is the amount of time it takes for the gums to return to their normal color after being pressed. Normally, it should take less than two seconds. If it takes longer, it may indicate dehydration. Gum stickiness can also be a sign of dehydration.

If you suspect your dog may be dehydrated, make sure they have access to fresh water at all times. You can also offer them small amounts of water frequently throughout the day. If your dog is severely dehydrated, it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately.

Remember, monitoring your dog’s hydration is important to ensure their overall health and well-being.

5. Comparing your dog’s body heat to another dog

One way to check if your dog has a fever without a thermometer is to compare their body heat to another dog. This can be done by feeling the skin on their belly, ears, or paws. However, it’s important to note that every dog’s body temperature can vary, so it’s best to compare your dog to another dog of similar breed and size.

To do this, find a friend or family member who has a dog of similar breed and size to your own. Have them bring their dog over to your house or meet at a park. Make sure both dogs are calm and relaxed before attempting to compare their body heat. Or if you live in a multi-dog household, just compare with one of your other dogs.

Next, feel the skin on both dogs’ bellies, ears, and paws. Pay attention to any noticeable differences in temperature. If your dog’s skin feels warmer than the other dog’s, it’s possible that they have a fever. You should feel a marked heat in the dog with a fever compared to a healthy dog. 

It’s important to note that this method is not as accurate as using a thermometer and should not be used as a substitute for professional veterinary care. If you suspect your dog has a fever, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

6. Assessing the Dog’s Behavior

A change in a dog’s behavior can also indicate a fever. If the dog is lethargic, has a decreased appetite, shivering, or is vomiting, it may indicate a fever. However, it is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other health issues, so it is important to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.

It is important to note that these physical check methods are not always accurate and can only provide a rough estimate of a dog’s temperature. If a dog is suspected of having a fever, it is important to consult a veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.

Professional Consultation

If you suspect your dog has a fever and are unsure about how to proceed, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian. A professional consultation can help you identify the cause of your dog’s fever and provide treatment options to help them recover quickly.

When to Consult a Vet

If your dog’s fever persists for more than 24-48 hours, it’s time to seek professional help. Additionally, if your dog is exhibiting other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, or difficulty breathing, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian as soon as possible.

What to Expect from Vet Visits

During a veterinary visit, your vet will perform a physical examination of your dog to determine the cause of their fever. Research on fevers in dogs shows vets may also recommend additional tests such as blood work, urinalysis, or X-rays to help diagnose the underlying condition. Once the cause of your dog’s fever has been identified, your vet will provide treatment options to help your dog recover.

It’s important to be honest with your vet about your dog’s symptoms and any other health issues they may have. This will help your vet make an accurate diagnosis and provide the best possible care for your furry friend.

Remember, professional consultation is always the best option when it comes to your dog’s health. By working with a veterinarian, you can ensure your dog receives the care they need to recover quickly and stay healthy.

Preventive Measures

Regular Health Checks

Regular health checks are an essential part of maintaining your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. It is recommended to take your dog to the vet for a check-up at least once a year. During these check-ups, the vet will examine your dog’s overall health, including their temperature, and identify any underlying health issues.

In addition to annual check-ups, it is also important to keep an eye on your dog’s behavior and any changes in their eating habits, energy levels, or bathroom habits. If you notice any significant changes, it is best to consult with your vet as soon as possible.

Maintaining a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet is crucial for your dog’s overall health and can help prevent a range of health issues, including fever. Ensure that your dog is getting all the necessary nutrients by feeding them a high-quality, balanced diet. Avoid feeding your dog table scraps or unhealthy treats, as this can lead to obesity and other health issues.

Ensuring Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is essential for your dog’s physical and mental health. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight, improves muscle tone, and reduces the risk of developing health issues such as arthritis. Ensure that your dog gets enough exercise by taking them for daily walks, playing fetch, or engaging in other physical activities.

By following these preventive measures, you can help keep your dog healthy and prevent the development of a fever. However, if you suspect that your dog has a fever, it is important to consult with your vet as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of a fever in dogs?

The symptoms of a fever in dogs may include lethargy, loss of appetite, shivering, coughing, sneezing, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, it is important to note that these symptoms may also be caused by other health conditions, so it is best to consult a veterinarian if you suspect your dog has a fever.

How can you tell if your dog has a fever?

One way to tell if your dog has a fever is to feel their ears and nose. If they are hot and dry to the touch, your dog may have a fever. Another way is to observe their behavior. If they are lethargic and not interested in their usual activities, they may have a fever. However, the most accurate way to determine if your dog has a fever is to take their temperature with a thermometer.

What is a normal body temperature for a small dog?

A normal body temperature for a small dog is between 100.5°F and 102.5°F (38°C to 39.2°C). However, this may vary depending on the breed and size of the dog.

What are some home remedies for treating a dog’s fever?

Some home remedies for treating a dog’s fever may include giving them plenty of water to drink, keeping them in a cool and comfortable environment, and providing them with a healthy and balanced diet. However, it is important to consult a veterinarian before administering any home remedies to your dog. 

Many recommended home or natural remedies for dogs like elderberry are often toxic to dogs, so be careful when looking up natural remedies for dog fevers or sick dogs online.

Can you feel a dog’s forehead to check for a fever?

Dogs do not have a forehead like humans, so feeling their ears and nose is a more accurate way to check for a fever.

Is lethargy a common symptom of a dog with a fever?

Yes, lethargy is a common symptom of a dog with a fever. Dogs with a fever may also be less interested in their usual activities and have a decreased appetite.

Final Thoughts

Checking your dog’s temperature without a thermometer can be a useful skill to have in emergency situations. While it is always recommended to use a thermometer for accurate readings, the methods discussed in this article can provide a quick and easy way to check if your dog has a fever.

It is important to remember that these methods are not foolproof and may not always provide accurate results. If you suspect your dog has a fever or any other health issue, it is always best to consult with a veterinarian.

Additionally, it is important to monitor your dog’s behavior and symptoms in addition to checking their temperature. Fever is just one symptom of many potential health issues, and it is important to consider all factors when assessing your dog’s health.

Overall, being knowledgeable about your dog’s health and having the ability to check their temperature without a thermometer can be helpful in emergency situations. However, it is always best to consult with a veterinarian for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Feeling the Ears for Heat

One way to check if your dog has a fever is to feel their ears for heat. A dog’s ears are a good indicator of their body temperature, as they have a lot of blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. When a dog has a fever, their ears may feel warm or hot to the touch.

To check your dog’s ears for heat, gently place your hand on the inside of their ear flap, near the base of their ear. If their ear feels warm to the touch, it may be an indication that they have a fever. However, it’s important to note that a warm ear does not necessarily mean that your dog has a fever, as their ears may naturally be warmer than other parts of their body.

If you suspect that your dog has a fever, it’s important to monitor their symptoms and consult with a veterinarian if necessary. In addition to feeling their ears for heat, you can also look for other signs of a fever, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and a dry nose.

Overall, feeling your dog’s ears for heat can be a helpful tool in determining whether or not they have a fever, but it’s not a foolproof method. If you’re unsure whether or not your dog has a fever, it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian for a professional diagnosis.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.