How to Comfort a Dog with a Fever

If you think your dog has a fever, take his temperature, get him to drink, and apply cool, wet cloths while you call your veterinarian.


The two keys to relieving your dog’s fever are hydration and cooling his body temperature. Encourage your dog to drink water by mixing some low-sodium broth with water and wiping a few drops on his tongue. If he is willing to eat, you also can add water to his food to increase his moisture intake.

To help lower your dog’s body temperature, apply cool wet cloths to his ears, paw pads, and belly. You can run a fan by him and put him in an air-conditioned room or car if you’re traveling. Note: Dogs can suffer heat stroke, which is an emergency.

Even mild fevers merit a call to your dog’s veterinarian, however. A normal dog temperature is 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  A temperature of 103 degrees or higher is considered a fever in dogs, and 105 degrees or higher requires immediate emergency veterinary care. The most accurate measurement of your dog’s body temperature is with a rectal thermometer.

How to Identify a Dog Fever

Signs a dog has a fever include:

  • Lethargy and low energy level
  • Poor appetite
  • Panting
  • Shivering
  • Glassy eyes
  • Body feels hot
  • Runny nose
  • Vomiting

None of these signs are a sure-fire indication that your dog has a fever. And do not trust the old hand-on-the-forehead test, as your dog can feel warm to the touch if he is overexcited, stressed, or has been playing in direct sunlight.

The only way to verify that your dog has a fever is to take his temperature with a rectal thermometer. We recommend getting a digital thermometer as it will give you a fast, accurate reading.

If you are unable to take your dog’s temperature, call your veterinarian and explain what symptoms your dog is showing so they can guide you on the best way to proceed. While a mild fever is concerning, a severe fever or a suspected fever with other signs of illness may be an emergency.

How to Take Your Dog’s Temperature

Dip the tip of your thermometer in some plain lubricant or Vaseline, then gently insert it into your dog’s anus about one inch. We recommend having a helper to hold your dog’s head – most dogs tolerate having their temperature taken quite well, but it is still an uncomfortable experience and some dogs react strongly.

Once the thermometer has been inserted, press the measurement button. Many digital thermometers will beep once when they start reading and then again when the reading is finalized.

When you are done, clean the thermometer with soapy water and dry it before putting away. This ensures that it will always be ready to go when needed.

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Kate Basedow, LVT is a long-time dog enthusiast. She grew up training and showing dogs, and is active in a variety of dog sports. She earned her Bachelors Degree in English from Cornell University in 2013, and became a licensed veterinary technician in New York in 2017. She has been writing professionally about dogs for most of her life, and has earned multiple awards from the Dog Writers' Association of America. Kate currently has three dogs at home, as well as a cat, two zebra finches, and six ducks.