What should a dog's temperature be?

A dog’s temperature should be between 38 to 39.2° Celcius (101° and 102.5°F). Your dog’s body temperature is naturally higher than a human’s, so it’s not always a cause for concern if they feel warmer than you. But, if your dog has a temperature of 39.5°C(103°F) or higher they are considered to have a fever, and in this case, you should call your vet for advice.

What is a dog fever?

Fever is an increase in body temperature because of an increase in the body’s thermoregulatory set point. Dogs are considered to have a fever when their body temperature is equal to or above 39.5°C (103°F). Many different conditions can cause a fever in dogs, and in some cases, the cause is not clear (this is known as fever of unknown origin or FUO). Possible causes of fever in dogs include viral, bacterial and fungal infections, immune-mediated disease, inflammation and ingestion of toxins, among many others. Your dog might also have a fever after receiving vaccinations, but this should resolve within a day. Fever is an important component of the immune response and can increase the activity of the body’s white blood cells, which helps to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. But fever can also lead to loss of energy, lack of appetite and dehydration and if your dog’s temperature reaches above 41.1°C (106°F) it could be fatal. That’s why if you think your dog has a fever you should contact your vet or out of hours, your nearest emergency vet right away for advice.

When dogs have a high temperature as a result of hot external temperatures or excessive exercise in humid conditions, the condition is referred to as hyperthermia or heat stroke which can have tragic consequences if not treated quickly. Find out more about heat stroke here.

Image of a young dog for Vets Now article on dog fever
Dogs are believed to have a fever when their body temperature is above 39.5°c

Does a dog have a fever if its nose is hot?

Contrary to popular belief, the temperature and moisture of your dog’s nose isn’t a reliable indication of whether they have a fever or other illness. A warm, dry nose alone doesn’t necessarily mean your dog has a fever, it could be down other factors such as a warm dry environment or a result of their recent activity. If your dog’s behaviour has changed, for example they have stopped eating or drinking, become lethargic, started doing the toilet more or less than usual or started showing signs of pain, distress or discomfort this is a more clear indicator that they are unwell and need veterinary care. Find out more about changes in behaviour here. However, you know your dog best and if you are concerned about their wellbeing for any reason it’s always best to call a vet for advice.

Signs of fever in dogs

Although there are no definitive signs of fever in dogs some signs which could indicate a fever include:

  • Lethargy
  • Depressed mood
  • Shivering
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Pain/discomfort

Can I give my dog paracetamol to treat a fever?

You should never give your dog paracetamol to treat a fever or any other condition unless instructed by a vet. Paracetamol can be highly toxic to dogs if they are given the wrong amount. There is a form of paracetamol for dogs which your vet may prescribe in some circumstances and you should always follow their instructions and never give more than the prescribed dose.

Many human medications are toxic to pets, therefore only give your dog medication that your vet has told you to, making sure you give the correct dosage.