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Dog fever: what EVERY dog handler should know about it?

Dog fever

A dog, like any warm-blooded animal, has a specific body temperature that is relatively constant and largely independent of the ambient temperature.

Maintaining the body temperature within a certain range is necessary for metabolic changes and maintaining health.

The animals are equipped with mechanisms to keep the temperature at a similar level.

You can list here:

  • coat,
  • subcutaneous tissue,
  • regulation by evaporation (sweating, choking),
  • spasm and relaxation of blood vessels.

The production of heat in the body takes place during metabolic processes and during the work of the muscles.

The excess of generated heat is lost through radiation, conduction, evaporation, convection and with faeces and urine.

Internal temperature is regulated by a thermoregulation center in the hypothalamus of the brain.

When we talk about a dog's fever? You will find out later in this article.

  • Dog fever
  • Dog fever symptoms
  • Dog fever medications

Dog fever

Dog fever

Normal body temperature in dogs is 37.5 ° - 39 ° C.

There are diurnal fluctuations, in the morning (around 6 o'clock) the body temperature may be 0.5 ° - 1 ° C lower than in the afternoon, which is related to the light intensity.

Body temperature in small, young and pregnant dogs is slightly higher than in large breeds, males and older animals.

Physical effort as well as excitement and stress can cause a temperature increase of 1-1.5 ° C.

A raised body temperature may be caused by a fever or overheating (hyperthermia).

It is important to distinguish between the condition hyperthermia that is overheating of the body from fever.

Hyperthermia is a condition characterized by elevated body temperature.

The development of hyperthermia occurs when the body produces more heat than it can give off to the environment.

Therefore, the body overheats when the outside temperature is high (e.g. car interior on a warm day) and during heavy physical exertion in untrained animals under unfavorable environmental conditions (high temperature and humidity).

Hyperthermia can lead to heat stroke, and if not treated quickly enough, it causes death.

There is a particularly high risk of overheating the body to dogs of flathead breeds, in whom heat dissipation through the respiratory system is impaired.

The cause of the dog's high fever

The cause of the dog's high fever

Dog fever, In contrast to hyperthermia is a state in which, under the influence of substances that cause fever, i.e. pyrogens, the body temperature changes to a higher temperature at the set point, i.e. in the thermoregulation center in the hypothalamus.

A tenth of a degree increase in temperature above the norm is low-grade fever.

Dangerous to life is an increase in body temperature above 42 ° C, with body heat 43 ° C tissue damage occurs.

The nervous system is particularly sensitive, high fever can lead to coma or death.

A significant increase in body temperature can also cause:

  • kidney damage,
  • damage to the heart muscle,
  • disorders in the functioning of the digestive system and muscles.

Pyrogens, i.e. factors leading to an increase in body temperature, may be external (exogenous pyrogens) or internal (endogenous pyrogens).

Endogenous pyrogens can be produced in the body by stimulated molecules of the immune system, such as macrophages.

The exogenous pyrogens include toxins produced by microorganisms and non-infectious agents, for example:

  • immune complexes,
  • tissue breakdown products formed during inflammation, necrosis or cancer,
  • certain medications.

Exogenous pyrogens usually, due to the large size of the molecule, cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, so usually their action is indirect and consists in stimulating the body's cells to produce endogenous pyrogens.

They could be interleukins, tumor necrosis factor if interferon.

Endogenous pyrogens travel with the blood to the brain, where they induce the production of other factors, including prostaglandins, which stimulate the thermoregulation center to raise the body temperature.

There is a reduction in heat transfer (less blood supply to the skin) and its storage in the body (hair loss).

In addition, muscle spasms (tremors, chills) increase heat production.

The action of antipyretic preparations is to inhibit the synthesis of endogenous factors (prostaglandins) responsible for the increase in body temperature.

Some non-steroidal analgesics also show this effect.

Reddening of the skin and chaffing are symptoms of a fever that is going away.

The most common causes of fever are infectious agents (bacteria, viruses) and the products of their metabolism (toxins).

The following may also be responsible for the rise in body temperature:

  • immune diseases,
  • injuries,
  • even properly, aseptically performed operations.

Possible causes of fever are also local disease processes (abscesses, injuries), cancer, reaction to drugs.

Dog fever symptoms

Dog fever symptoms

A moderate fever may be beneficial for the body.

It increases the body's resistance and improves immune responses, and may inhibit the growth of certain microorganisms.

The unfavorable phenomena accompanying fever are increased metabolism and the body's need for oxygen.

Prolonged fever is associated with increased catabolism and leads to emaciation.

The fever is usually accompanied by general symptoms such as:

  • lack of appetite,
  • bad mood,
  • dehydration,
  • reluctance to move and play,
  • depression,
  • apathy.

At home, you can easily measure your dog's rectal temperature. However, self-administration of antipyretic drugs is contraindicated.

It is always first necessary to establish the origin of the animal's fever.

Of course, a single administration of the drug in an emergency, after telephone consultation with a veterinarian, should not be harmful.

However, keep in mind that medicines for humans are usually harmful to animals, and can cause your dog to:

  • liver damage,
  • kidney damage,
  • hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

So let's not experiment on our dog by giving him drugs without a specific recommendation from a doctor.

Therefore, self-measurement of the temperature in an animal should have an auxiliary function in assessing the dog's health condition.

So if the well-being of the charge arouses our anxiety, the dog is moody, depressed, has a weakened appetite, lack of willingness to live, but at the same time shows no other symptoms, measuring the body temperature can help us make a quick decision about visiting a veterinary clinic.

So if the temperature is elevated and the dog is apathetic, it is best to see a doctor.

A fever is usually a sign of ongoing inflammation in the body, and prompt treatment always has better results and a better chance of a full and quick recovery.

However, if the body temperature is normal and the dog shows no symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, shortness of breath, abnormal discharge or bleeding from the natural orifices of the body (mouth, nasal cavity, anus, vulva, penis), you can wait to visit the clinic and observe the animal for the next 24 hours.

However, if there is no improvement, it is safer to see a doctor, as many illnesses go without a fever.

Dog fever medications

Dog fever medications

Antipyretic drugs used in veterinary medicine in Poland include metamizole.

Anti-inflammatory drugs that also work against fever include:

  • carprofen,
  • meloxicam,
  • tolfenamic acid.

They are available in the form of injection and in oral form (tablets, suspension).

These drugs bring about a reduction in elevated body temperature within hours of administration.

In the case of fever caused by infectious diseases, administration of an antibiotic also suppresses the fever, but the effect must be waited at least for a day.

Therefore, usually in the initial stage of the disease, antimicrobial drugs are combined with antipyretics.

In immune-related fever, steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually recommended.


For my part, I advise you not to experiment with antipyretic drugs on your own and if your dog has a body temperature above 39 ° C, it is safest to go to the veterinarian.

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