Signs & Symptoms of Winter Hypothermia in Dogs
All dogs can be susceptible to winter hypothermia, even though certain breeds over others are at severe risk for it. Hypothermia is a situation which occurs when the dog’s body temperature falls below normal and their body’s warming mechanism is totally unable to keep up with this loss of heat.
Most dogs grow thicker coats as winter and cold weather approaches, simultaneously burning an excess of calories n the fall. Unfortunately, even this is unable to prevent winter hypothermia if the wind chill increases because of high wind speeds and low temperatures, dropping even the most durable of dogs in the winter.
Signs of Hypothermia
The very first thing a dog does when developing the low body temperature of hypothermia is to begin shivering. Small dogs are at a greater risk than large dogs because they have less surface area and lower body weight. This uncontrollable shivering develops because the normal flow of blood begins to be routed away from the dog’s extremities to their internal organs.
Once the shivering begins to stop, it is because the dog’s mechanisms for maintaining their body temperature is failing. This slowing down or stopping of shivering in the dogs is not a good sign. When the shivering stops, their blood vessels are beginning to dilate and their body temperature is rapidly dropping, combined with many other signs.
- Excessive whining and shivering
- Anxious attitude and looking for shelter or protection
- Blood vessels are dilating
- Low body temperature (groin area is cold to touch)
- Mental sluggishness, slow movements and dullness
- Drop in pulse rate
- Drop in blood pressure
- Shallow and slow breathing
- Dog is unresponsive
- Unconscious state develops
- Death occurs eventually
Determining Treatments for Winter Hypothermia in Dogs
When a dog is found or suspected to have winter hypothermia, how to determine a course of treatment depends on the body temperature and how low it is. A body temperature below 101.5 to 102.2 degrees F. and the severity of symptoms may end in death, requiring immediate transportation to the veterinarian.
If this is the case, what may be applied at the vet is intravenous injected warm fluids, lukewarm enemas of water, and warm oxygen. Dogs can be saved only by intervention and early recognitions of hypothermia, but typically most severe winter hypothermia in dogs will end in death.
On the other hand, mild hypothermia can be controlled by moving the dog out of the cold and indoors, wrapping the animal with a thermal blanket until the body temperature begins to rise. But if the condition is slightly worse, heating pads or radiant heat applied to the groin or trunk area needs to be done. Use some form of protective layer between the skin of the dog and the direct heat source to prevent burns.
Which Dogs are Most Likely to Develop Hypothermia?
- Dogs who are short-haired
- Small-sized dogs
- Dogs who have become wet by falling through ice, etc.
- Young puppies under six-months of age
- Elderly dogs
- Dogs who have health issues (arthritis, diabetics, heart disease, etc)
- Dogs who are obese or underweight
- Outside dogs who have no access to shelter that is dry and warm
- Breeds of dogs who have short legs and have their stomach, groin area, chests or lower extremities in snow or icy water for extreme periods of times (such as Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, Scotties, Pekingese, Cairn Terriers, or Basset Hounds)