Pet Health: Cats, dogs and poisonous plants

Pet Health: Signs of Hypothermia

Despite their natural fur coat, low temperatures can cause a dog’s body temperature to fall below normal (38.3 – 39⁰C), leading to hypothermia. Hypothermia can be mild, moderate or severe, where if a low body temperature is prolonged, could lead to complications and even become fatal.

Causes

Like humans, hypothermia can occur in dogs in the following situations:

  • Exposure to cold temperatures for a long time
  • Wet fur and skin
  • Swimming in cold water for a long time
  • Shock

Symptoms

Symptoms of hypothermia may vary depending on the severity, however you may notice the following:

  • Hunched stance
  • Shivering
  • Cold pale gums
  • Cold extremities (ears, feet)
  • Hunched sleeping position (not stretched out)

Diagnosis and care

  • If your dog is unconscious, go to the vet immediately.
  • If you suspect your dog’s temperature has dropped below normal and your dog is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, go to the vet immediately.
  • Wrap the dog in blankets, place in a warm room and provide them with warm fluid to drink.
  • Warming pads may be used, however, to prevent burns, there should always be a protective layer between these and the pet’s skin – at least 4 layers of towels at a minimum.
  • Treatment to continue until the pet’s body temperature reaches normal range. Your vet will check every ten minutes for signs of stabilising and improvement.

If you have any concerns, visit or call your veterinarian to ensure your pet’s wellbeing.

Prevention

  • Rule of thumb – depending on the breed and activity of your dog, if you need to rug up outdoors, your pet will need their coat and other accessories too.
  • Do not expose your pets to freezing temperatures for an extended amount of time, such as sleeping outdoors in winter without adequate insulation and shelter.
  • For sick, elderly or newborn dogs, keep them warm with optional blankets for use and away from drafts.
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