My dog is running a temperature!

A guide to managing fever until Veterinary intervention

My dog is running a temperature

Your dog looks like it’s down in the dumps. Unlike his usual self, Rover has been lazing about all day. Rover hasn’t touched his food and doesn’t seem to be drinking much. It’s lovely weather, yet he’s shivering and it seems to be feeling cold. What’s wrong with your boy?

The above signs are all typical symptoms that indicate that your dog might have a fever. However, even though your dog is showing all the above symptoms together with vomiting, nasal discharge, or a dry hot nose, there is only one way of knowing that your dog does indeed have a fever; that is by checking its rectal body temperature using a thermometer.

What is a fever?

Fever is a reaction induced by the body where the animal raises its body temperature as a reaction to an invasion by a pathogen causing a disease. This is an attempt to make the body inhospitable to the pathogen and hinder the invasion to give the immune system time to respond and heal on its own. Unfortunately, the high body temperature associated with fever doesn’t only harm bacteria and viruses, but it also harms the animal’s cells and can affect its normal metabolism if it is not kept in check. A dog is feverish if it has a rectal body temperature of more than 39.20C (102.50F). A fever is considered an emergency and can be potentially fatal if the rectal body temperature is higher than 40.50C (1050F). High body temperatures can affect the different proteins of the body which are essential to the normal functioning of the body, causing great harm to the animal’s metabolism. High fever can also result in permanent brain damage.

What can I do until I see a Veterinarian?

It is best to contact the veterinarian if your dog has a fever. No other person is equipped with the necessary knowledge as to how to help your dog feel better. However, one can do a couple of things to manage the situation while waiting for the veterinarian’s help. The following things can mean the difference between life and death if your beloved dog is running a pretty high fever.

When a dog has a fever the priority is to bring the dog’s core body temperature down to manageable levels. One must take in consideration that dogs do not have sweat glands like we do. Their sweat glands are situated between their toes but they lose most of their body heat by panting and through their body extremities. Dogs that have dark skin or coat can lose heat more easily to the surrounding environment. However, dark colours also absorb heat as easily as radiating it, and if these dogs are left in a sunny spot or under a hot bulb, this advantage can be a double edged sword and can easily work against them.

When a dog has a fever it is best to keep it in a shaded, cool place where air circulates easily. It is recommended to cover the dog with cool damp towels to start cooling it down. It is imperative to regularly check the dog’s body temperature when cooling the dog down. Losing too much body heat can also lead to hypothermia. Hypothermia can also be very harmful to a dog and can in some cases prove fatal.

If the dog is running a very high fever and needs to be cooled down rapidly, one can wet the dog’s feet with cold water or hose the dog down with cool running water. In very extreme cases one can use icepacks or ice baths. Icepacks should be wrapped in a towel in order to avoid direct contact of ice with the dog’s skin. It is very important, especially in such cases, to keep checking the dog’s rectal temperature with a thermometer. Take special care not to lower the dog’s core body temperature too rapidly as this can send the dog into hypothermic shock which can prove fatal. Special care should be taken when managing fever in small dogs since they are particularly prone to hypothermic shock due to their ability to lose body heat easily. Do ask the vet to show you how to properly take your dog’s rectal body temperature if you feel incapable or uncomfortable taking it that way. It is a very useful skill to have as a dog owner as it is one of the best methods to assess your dog’s condition while at home.

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