A fever is generally thought to be a protective and helpful response to infection, but it can also be dangerous to the body because it raises the body temperature. Since no warm-blooded animal can survive once its temperature is over 108 °F (42.2 °C) due to a coagulation of body proteins, monitoring your pet for signs of fever is important. If you notice any problems with your pet's behaviour and health you should immediately consult a veterinarian. 

Regulation of Temperature
In mammals, the brain regulates body temperature in very much the same manner as a thermostat regulates a building's temperature. A true fever results in response to circulating proteins called pyrogens, which cause the thermostat to "reset" at a higher temperature. A number of different pyrogens have been identified and include substances such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and tumour by-products.

Ways to Take Temperature
Taking your pet's temperature is similar to the process used for taking an infant's temperature. Obviously, your pet's temperature should never be taken orally (by mouth) as a glass thermometer would break and do great damage. 

Rectal Thermometers: The rectal thermometer is the device most commonly used to take temperatures in dogs and cats. There are two types of rectal thermometers: one type is made of glass and has a thick stem and bulb the second type is digital. Unfortunately, most pets are not overly enthused about the prospect of having their temperature taken in this manner for obvious reasons. If you attempt to take your pet's temperature rectally, be sure to take these precautions: 

  • Have an assistant help control your pet's head and stabilize your pet's body to prevent sitting and squirming during the procedure.

  • Lubricate the tip of the thermometer with petroleum jelly, K-Y jelly or liquid soap.

  • Holding the tail erect, gently insert the thermometer. Do not force.

  • Remove the thermometer in two minutes (or if you are using the digital type, when the thermometer beeps).

Ear Thermometers: Taking your pet's rectal temperature is likely to be stressful for your pet (and for you). A digital thermometer that obtains a temperature reading from your pet's ear canal may be a better alternative. This technology has the advantages of comfort, speed and accuracy. 

Is an Elevated Temperature in an Animal Always a Fever?
Because of the dynamic balance between the body's heat production and heat reduction capabilities, it is generally not practical or accurate to identify a specific temperature as a fever. Any given body temperature must be viewed in the context of the animal's activity level, environment and behaviour. An exercising dog, for example, may have an elevated temperature, but it would be incorrect to say the dog has a fever. The rise in temperature is expected and normal given the activity. But the same dog, acting listless, could exhibit a similar rise in body temperature; in this instance, the rise in temperature is indicative of a fever.

The Physiology of Body Temperature
While exercise may cause a temporary increase in body temperature, normal body temperature fluctuation in dogs and cats is typically less than 4 °F over a 24-hour period. Below is a table of animals and their normal body temperatures. 

Normal Animal Temperatures


    Dairy Cow

Causes of Fevers
Most fevers are the result of transient viral or bacterial infections that may or may not require treatment, although veterinary consultation is recommended. 

Fevers in pets may also be due to a number of other reasons. Some of the major causes of fever are: 

  • immunological factors 

  • pneumonia

  • sinus tachycardia

  • heat stroke

  • dehydration

  • reaction to a transfusion

Fevers may also be the result of an unknown factor. Finding the origins of an unknown fever can be difficult. Some animals may even have genetic reasons for their illness. For example, pets may suffer from chronic bacterial infection due to a genetically weak immune system. You should consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the exact nature of your pet's illness. 

Treatment for a Fever
If your pet has a fever, you may want to consider some easy home treatments. However, should your pet fail to improve, or if you have any questions regarding its condition, consult your veterinarian to develop the proper treatment for your pet. 

Here are some simple fever remedies:

  • Wash your pet's belly with a cool washcloth

  • Give your pet a cool (not cold) bath, warm enough that he doesn't shiver.

  • Wrap your pet in a cool towel.

  • Give your pet plenty of water (unless he is also vomiting). 

Closely monitoring your sick pet for changes in his condition is important. Always report any potentially dangerous conditions to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will determine the cause of your pet's fever and may have to prescribe medication. Remember, a persistent fever is often an indicator that something (other than just fever) is affecting your pet's health. 

Common Misconceptions

Many owners believe that giving their pet aspirin will help cure it of a fever. This is not true. In fact, aspirin may actually cause serious harm to your animal, as will many other methods used for treating fevers in humans. Always check with your veterinarian before giving any medication to your sick pet.

Another misconception about animal fever is the idea that a cat's or dog's nose gauges its temperature. Although a pet's nose may be warm and dry when she's suffering from a fever, this is not always the case. In order to record a correct temperature for your pet you should use a thermometer. 

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