Winter brings freezing weather including snow to many parts of the world.
With the cold comes another danger for our dogs: hypothermia, which is a dangerous drop in body temperature. The name comes from the Greek words “hypo,” meaning under, and “therm,” meaning heat.
The normal temperature range for dogs is 101°F to 102.5°F (38.3 to 39.2°C). If a dog’s temperature drops to the human range of 97.6°F to 99.6° F (36.4 to 37.6°C), this is actually a danger point and the dog needs medical attention.
Causes of hypothermia in dogs.
The most obvious cause of hypothermia is of course exposure to cold, but dogs can get hypothermia even at normal room temperatures. Examples of dogs at risk are very young and very old dogs or any dog that was under anesthetic (pay attention to your pet just out of the vets).
Hypothermia can also affect smaller breeds disproportionately (especially those not bred for colder climates such as the Chihuahua) because they experience a faster loss of body heat through their skin.
Signs of hypothermia in dogs.
If your dog has been out in the cold for a long time; particularly if his fur or skin are wet or if he has been submerged in icy cold water, you should check for signs of hypothermia immediately.
The first sign of hypothermia is excessive shivering, which is often followed by lethargy.
The condition can also be caused by shock, which you can diagnose by checking the dog’s gums. If they are extremely pale or white and your dog is lethargic, then seek veterinary attention immediately.
Another sign may be frostbite, especially on the paws, ears and tail. You can spot this as a discoloration, often pale, gray, or bluish.
Frostbitten areas also feel cold or brittle and your dog will experience pain if you touch them. The affected areas can swell or develop blisters or ulcers. In cases of extreme frostbite, skin will turn black and die.
Emergency hypothermia treatment for dogs.
If your dog’s temperature is below 98°F (36.7°C), take her to the vet or emergency care center immediately. Otherwise, you need to raise your dog’s body temperature by applying heat in the following ways:
Warm some blankets on a radiator or in the dryer as quickly as possible, then wrap your dog in them.
Wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and place it against your dog’s stomach. Do not use an unwrapped bottle, as this may burn your dog.
If your dog is conscious, give her warm fluids to drink.
Be sure that your dog stays still and avoids excessive movements, as these can contribute to a loss of body heat.
Prevention of hypothermia in dogs.
Obviously, the best way to prevent hypothermia is to avoid extreme cold for extended periods. Take more frequent but shorter walks, and consider getting protective booties and jackets for your dogs, especially if they are of a type not bred for the cold.
In the case of dogs that might have extra susceptibility due to being underweight, puppies, elderly, or ill, bundle them up warmly. Be especially cautious if your dog is hypoglycemic.
To speak to Cristina about hypothermia in dogs and ways to prevent it contact Natural Look Dogs here.