Figuring out what is causing your pet’s fever can occasionally be problematic. Our pets can’t tell us where it hurts, so it is up to your vet to figure out how to best treat the problem.

What is a fever?

Simply put, a fever is an elevated body temperature in response to infection or inflammation.

A fever shouldn’t be confused with what we term “non-pyrogenic hyperthermia,” which is elevated body temperature due to increased exercise, extreme environmental heat or heat stroke, or prolonged seizures.

What is a normal body temperature for pets?

A normal body temperature in our pets is higher than it is in us. A rectal temperature of 101 to 102.5 is considered normal for cats and dogs.

And that’s right – I said rectal temperature. It's generally the more accurate and safest method of taking temperature in a pet. 

How fevers affect pets

In general, fevers affect pets by:

  • Making the patient feel terrible, and usually lead to lack of appetite and a decreased nutritional state
  • Leading to the production of endotoxins, which can complicate illness.
  • Straining the ability of the heart to function normally.
  • Causing seizures and brain damage, if they are prolonged.

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How to tell if your pet has a fever

Unfortunately, you cannot tell if your pet has a fever in any way other than taking a rectal temperature. The wetness or dryness of your pet’s nose, as well as whether or not your pet’s nose is warm or cold, is irrelevant in terms of internal temperature.

If your pet is acting lethargic, shivering or doesn’t seem interested in eating, he or she may have a fever.

What to do if your pet's temperature is too high

If you suspect your pet does have a fever, call your vet and arrange to have your pet seen as soon as possible. In the meantime, do not give over-the-counter human medications! Many, many, many things can cause fever, and the sooner your vet figures out what is causing your pet’s fever, the sooner he or she can be on the road to recovery.

Sometimes the source of a fever is obvious, and sometimes it takes a little more digging (in the form of blood work, X-rays, ultrasounds and more blood work) to get to the bottom of the problem. All of these tests can add up, which is where pet insurance that covers diagnostic testing can help. The dreaded “fever of unknown origin” often takes some time to figure out, but rest assured that your vet is trying her hardest to provide the best care for your pet.

Nobody likes to be sick, and our pets are no different. While fevers serve an important biologic function, they make us feel terrible. If your pet is showing signs of a fever, get her into the vet quickly to get her back to her old self.

Feb 27, 2012
Pet Health

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