What You Need to Know about Hypothermia in Dogs

Although you may be led to believe that your dog loves winter with all the playing in the snow and cuddling in front of the fireplace, it is important to be aware of the serious health dangers that the dipping temperatures present for your beloved pet. Frostbite and hypothermia are two such major winter-related health issues among dogs, and often, frostbite can lead to the development of hypothermia. Being aware of a disease can go a long way in preventing it, so here’s what you need to know about canine hypothermia:

What is Hypothermia?

It is a condition where your dog’s body temperature drops to below the normal range, which is 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia can be of three stages:

  • Mild (body temperature of 90°-99°F)
  • Moderate (between 82° and 90°F)
  • Severe (body temperature dipping to below 82°F).

Dogs with this condition lose their body heat faster than they can replace it, which causes the temperature inside to plummet. If left untreated, hypothermia can lead to more health complications like heart problems, neurological issues including coma, labored breathing, and kidney failure. This may even lead to fatal consequences, so it is vital that you take proper measures.

What Causes Hypothermia?

Cold exposure is the most common and obvious reason behind hypothermia in dogs, but it can even occur at normal room temperatures if the dog is too young or old or suffering from a medical condition. Smaller breeds and ones with lesser fur can be more prone to developing this winter disease. Here are some of the ways in which your pet may get hypothermia:

  • Prolonged exposure to the cold (like being kept outside or walks that are too long)
  • Immersion in cold water for a long time
  • Damp or wet skin and fur (for example, from playing or walking outside in the snow)
  • Shock
  • Being under anesthesia for long in case of surgery or other medical conditions
  • Diseases like hypothyroidism

Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For

Knowing to identify the initial signs of hypothermia in pets can help you seek medical care at the earliest, so observe your dog in winter for the following symptoms:

  • Intense shivering
  • Listlessness or lethargy
  • Rapid or slower breathing than usual
  • Frostbite on the body—keep checking the ears, tail, foot pads, and scrotum for hidden signs
  • Increase in urination
  • The body and fur feels cold when touched
  • Paleness in the gums and eyelids
  • Dilated pupils

What to Do

If you notice any signs of hypothermia in pets, the best thing to do is to contact the vet immediately. In the meantime (or if the vet is not available right away), take the following emergency care measures:

  • Wrap the dog in blankets that have been warmed by the dryer or radiator.
  • Give warm fluids to drink if the dog is conscious.
  • Wrap a hot water bottle in a towel (this is vital to avoid burns) and place it against the stomach.
  • Keep checking his body temperature with a rectal thermometer.

As they say, prevention is always better than cure. The notion that dogs can live outdoors in any season is thankfully changing as more people are understanding how weather can harm their pets. So this winter, take the adequate actions needed to keep your furry companion protected from the cold. When it comes to outdoor safety, keep your pooch warm and cozy by investing in a dog coat for your short-haired companions—long-haired breeds have a built-in warming system. Whether you will be exploring in the woods or romping around in the backyard, keep a first aid kit handy in case of an emergency. Remember to run this information by the pet sitter if you have to leave your dog with them during the holiday season. Similarly, knowing this can be helpful if you happen to be pet-sitting for someone. Just a little care can save your pets from a lot of pain and health issues.

Article provided by Tamara Gilmore of pupjobs.com