I grew up thinking that you could tell if a dog had a fever by touching his nose. A cold and wet nose meant no fever. But, in fact, that’s not a good indicator.
Just as with people, a dog can have a fever for a variety of reasons, including viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Ingestion of poisons can also cause a fever. Some dogs run a fever after they get vaccinated.
The only reliable way to find out if your dog is running a fever is by taking his temperature. An electronic ear thermometer specifically for pets and available online and at pet supply stores is the easiest way to check it. A probe is inserted into the ear very briefly, and the monitor gives an LED readout. A dog’s temperature runs between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees F., which is higher than that of humans.
“I usually add on one degree since it’s hard to get it into the canal and will typically run lower with an ear thermometer,” says Heal House Call Veterinarian Erin O’Leary. She recommends getting a baseline reading when your pet is feeling good.
Instead of focusing on the fever, however, note symptoms. If your dog is acting lethargic, is vomiting, is coughing, has lost her appetite, is shivering or is otherwise behaving abnormally, temperature or not, make an appointment to see your vet.
Give a cold shoulder to the cold-nose approach.
Photo credit: “Dogs nose.” Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dogs_nose.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Dogs_nose.jpg