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Hypothermia in Dogs

Despite their thick fur, extreme low temperatures can cause a dog's body temperature to fall, leading to hypothermia. If sustained, low body temperature may lead to several complications and even become fatal. To prevent this, immediate care is paramount.

 

What To Watch For

The first sign of hypothermia is paleness and strong shivering. This may be followed by listlessness to the point of lethargy and frostbite of certain body parts such as the tail, tips of the ears, scrotum, and foot pads. If left untreated, coma and heart failure may occur.

Primary Cause

Hypothermia can occur in any of the following situations:

  1. Exposure to cold for a long time
  2. Wet fur and skin
  3. Submersion in cold water for long time
  4. Shock
  5. Anesthesia given for a long duration

Immediate Care

  1. Warm some blankets on a radiator or in the clothes dryer with haste.
  2. Wrap the dog in the blankets.
  3. Wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and place it against the dog’s abdomen. Do not use it unwrapped, as this will burn the skin.
  4. If the dog is conscious, give him warmed fluids to drink.
  5. Check the dog’s temperature every 10 minutes: if it is below 98°F (36.7°C), get immediate veterinary attention.
  6. Once the temperature is above 100°F ( 37.8°C), you can remove the hot water bottle to avoid overheating. Keep the dog in a warm room.

Prevention

Hypothermia can be prevented by avoiding prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. This is especially important for dogs that are considered to be at-risk. Factors that increase an animal's risk for hypothermia include very young or old age, low body fat, hypothyroidism, and anesthesia. Dog clothes, boots, and other accessories can help breeds with thinner fur and those less used to cold weather.

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