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Unexplained fever in a dog.

Species: Dog
Breed: American Pit Bull Te
Age: 2-5 years
Hi Dr. Marie,

My pit bull Indy has always been in pretty good health but has recently developed some sort of infection. About 3 wks ago I took her to the vet because she was running a fever of 104.3 and cried in pain when I touched her right side shoulder area (at the top near the spine and ribs). The
Vet did xrays and blood tests, nothing on xrays but showed high white blood cell count. He said it was not a result of parasites. Gave her cephalaxin for 1 week and rimaldin for pain. We had taken a fall together a few days prior when our hammock broke. I thought that explained the pain but obviously not the fever. She seemed to get better, was eating drinking and playing normally. Then approx a week and a half ago, I noticed she was listless and had been off her food. Took her temp and again it was up to 104. I gave her a 500mg dose of cephalaxin that night and took her back to the vet in the morning. Throughout the night I stayed up with her, making sure she drank water and kept ice packs on her to reduce the fever. The vet said to continue antibiotics for one more week, 500mg cephlaxin once per day. I took her back for the follow up, she has been lethargic and refuses water unless I hand feed it to her. She hasn't had a normal bowelmovement in several days. The last time was three days ago, and was soft and thin. Before that it was thin but hard. Her temp has been fluxuating between 101 and 104 all week regardless of medicine. The vet said to stop the antibiotics and start a probiotic Proviable-DC, twice a day with food. We started that two days ago. She has refused her normal dog food for two weeks, so I have been cooking for her. Chicken and beef in broth with green beans, crushed flax seed, with some rice. Today I gave plain oatmeal instead of rice. She is very excited about food since I stopped the commercial dog food. Her temp has continued to flux and she is still lethargic. She will play when I get her toy out but doesnt want to willingly go outside. She was drinking on her own today but is still running warm between 102-103.5. I did notice discharge from eyes and nose, watery mostly but with a dry rough nose. There have also been a couple times when she walked by me, I reached down to rub her on the back of her neck/shoulders and she cried out. However when I massage her and check her for sore spots she doesn't react. She doesn't seem to be tender in the abdomen at all but seems to be tender in her anus...I think probably because she has been getting her temp taken so often. I am at a complete loss as to what is wrong with her, no poisons or anything like that.. Although it is possible she ingested some temperpedic foam (she sometimes chews her bed) but nothing showed up at all on xrays. She hasn't been out of my sight at all for the last week, she is always with me or my husband. The vet said that if she doesnt get better in the next few weeks that we will run more diagnostics. I want her better now! Is there anything I can do or do you have any idea what may cause this? My vet sure has no clue. :( Please help.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh the poor girl. It sounds like she is so uncomfortable. We don't see a lot of cases where dogs have an unexplained fever. This is what concerns me the most about her symptoms.

Is she spayed? If not, I would ask the vet about the possibility of a uterine infection called pyometra. I know that this seems to not fit with the pain in her shoulder, but any time I see a fever and a high white cell count in an unspayed female, pyometra is something I think about. (It's possible that the fall from the hammock was coincidental and is what is causing the shoulder pain but not the fever.

Next, I would ask your vet if you live in an area that sees tick borne diseases such as lyme disease. Lyme can cause vague pain and a fever. It is treated with antibiotics, but not usually cephalexin. If lyme is a possibility your vet will likely want to test for it and may start her on an antibiotic called doxycycline.

Regarding the possible foam ingestion, I could see this causing a fever (if she had intestinal obstruction and the intestines ended up being damaged to the point of leaking.) However, we would definitely be seeing more symptoms like consistent vomiting and possibly trouble defecating.

One other possibility would be some type of autoimmune polyarthritis. This is not very common at all. Usually we would see some swollen joints, but it's not always obvious to the untrained eye. The way to diagnose it is to tap the swollen joints.

And finally, it's possible she has a type of meningitis. We do not see this often in dogs, however.

I am concerned by what you have written and I would urge you to have her see the vet again. If your vet is really at a loss they may consider referral to a specialist if there is one in your area.

I hope she improves soon!
Dr. Marie
Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.