Fever in dogs

Fever also known as pyrexia is defined as a higher than a normal body temperature. This normal body temperature is common to all animals of a particular family. In the case of dogs, the normal body temperature is between 99.5 – 102.5ºFahrenheit. When a dog exhibits a temperature of 103.5º Fahrenheit or 39.7º Celsius, it can be categorized as fever.

Fever is considered a healthy response by the immune system that elevates the body temperature to ward off bacterial and viral threats to the body. The fever itself is not a disease but the response of the body to the threat faced by it. Fever may be caused by:

  • Infections
  • Tumors
  • Metabolic diseases
  • Endocrine diseases
  • Some drugs
  • Variety of toxins
  • Unknown origin

Although it is tempting, never put your dog on any medication unless your vet recommends it. Some drugs are toxic to your dog and medication should only begin after a proper diagnosis has been done. A visit to the vet would be called for where the dog’s medical history is looked into. The vet would also conduct a thorough physical examination to reveal any signs of wounds, infections or clinical signs of any disease in the dog. Blood, urine, culture and sensitivity tests would be called for if required and would reveal the underlying cause of the fever. In case these draw a blank, a vet may then proceed to X-rays, ultrasound, MRI or CT scans that reveal the presence of any tumors, abscesses or infections. When none of these can draw a conclusive result, it would be categorized as a fever of unknown origin.

Treatments would be based on the conclusions drawn on the above studies. A course of antibiotics with fluid therapy is the most common approach to the treatment of fever in dogs and should take care of most conditions. Some dogs may respond to the treatment immediately while others may do so over a longer period. If the fever is caused from an infection within the body, a surgery would be done to remove it. Anti-pyretics (or drugs that reduce elevated body temperatures) would be used only as recommended by the vet.

Once the vet has put the dog on medications, the pet owner would have to ensure that the dog is not put to undue exertions. In fact, the vet would probably recommend rest and a diet high in nutrition and calories till the dog recovers. Most dogs do not seem to eat well in such conditions and a high calorie liquid supplement would be recommended. The prescribed medications are to be adhered to without fail even if the dog seems to have fully recovered.

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