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6 Common Signs Your Pet Has a Fever

By Tuesday February 21st, 2017Blog

When your pet is sick, it can be hard to know how serious the problem is – after all, pets can’t describe their symptoms or tell us how they feel. An elevated body temperature, more commonly known as a fever, is a common sign of illness that you are surely familiar with in humans. It is usually a sign of infection, but can also be caused by certain auto-immune diseases or even some types of cancer.

Many owners have questions about reliable ways to tell if their pet has a fever, since this is often a sign that their illness needs veterinary attention. Read on for some easy ways to help you figure this out.


Just like humans, dogs and cats often shiver when they have a fever. This is because when their body temperature is abnormally high, it makes the surrounding air feel colder in comparison. As a result, they feel chilled and shiver even if the room is warm.

Of course, there can be other causes of trembling or shivering in pets, including pain or anxiety. But if your pet is shivering and doesn’t seem painful or stressed, you should be concerned that he may be feverish for some reason.


Many owners notice that their pet’s ears feel unusually hot when having a fever. You should be cautious with this particular sign, since a dog or cat’s normal body temperature is higher than a human’s – so it’s normal for their skin to feel a little warm compared to ours.

But if your pet has a fever, his ears are usually the most noticeable area that will feel warmer than normal. This is because the ears have lots of blood vessels near the surface of the skin, as well as thinner hair than the rest of the body. These characteristics make it easy to detect a temperature change in this area, similar to feeling the forehead in humans.


In some cases, your pet’s nose may feel unusually warm and dry if it has a fever. This sign is not as reliable as some of the others, so if your pet has no other symptoms of a problem, there’s probably no need to worry – the nose can sometimes be warm and dry after exercise, or because of low humidity in the air.


Most pets that have a fever are not feeling well, and will act depressed or lethargic. Of course, there can be many other reasons that your pet might lay around and act tired – this can also be due to pain, nausea, or weakness. But along with the other signs we’ve discussed, a lack of energy and seeming tired or sluggish is often a clue that your furry companion may have a fever.


Similar to acting lethargic, there can be many reasons that your dog or cat might not be eating. They may be nauseous or painful, feeling weak or tired, or even stressed or anxious. However, a loss of appetite is also a common sign of fever. Just like humans, feverish pets are often not interested in food and may not want to eat.


When in doubt, the best way to know for sure if your pet has a fever is to take his temperature. This is how your veterinarian checks for a fever during an exam – in most cases, there is no reason that you can’t do this easily at home if you wish.

To get an accurate reading, you will need to take your pet’s temperature rectally. This is not as hard as it sounds, especially if you have someone to help you! You can use a regular thermometer purchased at the drugstore – a digital, quick-read model is recommended for ease of use. Apply a small amount of water based lubricant such as K-Y Jelly to the tip, and gently insert approximately 1-2” (2-4 cm) into the rectum until the temperature reads.

Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is anywhere from 100 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 to 39 degrees Celsius), so don’t be alarmed if your pet’s temperature is a bit higher than yours – this is normal! 🙂

Generally, if the temperature reading is higher than this range, this is cause for concern. A veterinary visit would be recommended to help determine the cause of the fever and get your pet started on appropriate treatment.