Hypothermia in dogs - Causes, symptoms and treatment

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As winter approaches, many guardians wonder if dogs can freeze to death and what to do to protect their furry from cold temperatures and changes in weather. Although some dog breeds are very well adapted to extreme climates, such as the Siberian husky or the Saint Bernard, the cold can cause numerous health problems in our best friends, especially if we are talking about puppies, hairless or small dogs.

Exposure to cold, snow, wind or heavy rain can cause anything from a cold or flu to hypothermia. In this AnimalWised article we invite you to learn more about hypothermia in dogs, its symptoms, causes, forms of treatment and prevention. In addition, you will also find some tips for take care of your dog in winter that every owner should know.

You may also be interested in: Hypothermia in Cats - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Index
  1. What is hypothermia in dogs?
  2. Symptoms of hypothermia in dogs
  3. Causes of hypothermia in dogs
  4. Treatment of hypothermia in dogs
  5. First aid for hypothermia in dogs
  6. How to prevent hypothermia in dogs?

What is hypothermia in dogs?

Hypothermia consists of a clinical picture of complex symptoms characterized by drop in body temperature. It can affect humans, as well as all wild or companion animals, such as dogs, cats or rabbits.

In adult dogs, the optimal body temperature tends to vary between 38ºC and 39ºC, but when this temperature is below 36ºC, We must be alert to the possible appearance of other symptoms, as this would indicate that we must go to the vet urgently.

Find out how to take a dog's body temperature.

Symptoms of hypothermia in dogs

Usually the first symptoms of hypothermia in dogs, Whether mild or moderate, they coincide with signs that a dog is cold, such as:

  • Tremors
  • Muscular stiffness
  • Cramps
  • Slow breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry Skin
  • Slow movements
  • Clumsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Drowsiness

In case that hypothermia is not treated quickly and appropriately, the dog will present a more severe decline in its health condition, including the following symptoms:

  • Low pressure
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Stare
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Collapse
  • Fainting
  • Sudden death

Causes of hypothermia in dogs

In the vast majority of cases, hypothermia in dogs develops as a consequence of the cold exposure or other severe weather conditions. For this reason, dogs that live outside the home and / or reside in regions with harsher winters can often be more predisposed to suffer from hypothermia, as well as to develop diseases associated with cold, such as kennel cough and joint problems, such as osteoarthritis in dogs.

On the other hand, some metabolic diseases and disorders, Like hypothyroidism in dogs, they can cause some difficulty in the individual when it comes to regulating body temperature and, as a consequence, the dog will be more vulnerable to low temperatures. We must also consider that small dogs, hairless or those originating from hot climates, tend to be especially vulnerable to the cold, since they are not adapted and do not have the natural protection of the furry ones that have been bred in regions with such climatic variations..

In addition, puppies They are particularly vulnerable to cold and bad weather, as their immune system is in full swing and their body is not yet ready to regulate its own temperature as efficiently as it is with adult dogs.

Likewise, elderly dogs also tend to suffer more intensely the arrival of winter and climatic changes, for which they require a series of specific care to maintain their good health..

Treatment of hypothermia in dogs

If you suspect that your dog suffers from cold and you have also observed any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is essential that you go to a vet urgently, since severe hypothermia can cause irreversible damage to the body, causing death in the most serious cases.

As the body temperature of dogs decreases, there is a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, which can cause the appearance of arrhythmias. The individual may also experience a decrease in oxygen in the blood, a slowing down of the metabolism and up to a multi-organ dysfunction syndrome.

The specialist will offer your dog a suitable environment to gradually increase its body temperature, for example by means of hot air devices, electric mats or infrared lamps, but it may also be necessary to use enemas and fluid therapy among others.

First aid for hypothermia in dogs

If your dog has several of the symptoms present in hypothermia in dogs, you should go to a veterinary center without delay. However, we recommend applying the following first aid while you go to the nearest specialist:

  1. Dry the dog immediately: in the event that the dog has gotten wet from rain or snow. We proceed to dry it immediately with a clean and dry towel. Humidity added to low temperatures tends to favor the development of hypothermic symptoms in dogs.
  2. Shelter him and provide warmth: when the dog is properly dry, we will need to provide heat to try to balance body temperature. For this, we can use another dry towel, a blanket, a coat or clothes for dogs. We can also hold the dog in our arms, lie down next to them or hug them to use our own body temperature to provide warmth, in addition to transmitting security and calm in that difficult moment.
  3. Balance blood glucose levels: to avoid a drop in body temperature and vital functions, the body must burn its energy reserves. That is, it consumes glucose molecules rapidly to try to keep its metabolism stable. Consequently, the dog may suffer a picture of hypoglycemia Suddenly, that is, a drastic reduction in the levels of sugars (glucose) in your bloodstream. This can lead to fainting, lethargy, and even a coma. Therefore, when identifying symptoms of hypothermia in our furry, we can offer a teaspoon of honey (preferably organic) to quickly replenish your blood sugar levels. However, honey should be avoided in puppy dogs.
  4. Check your body: Exposure to excessive cold and hypothermia can cause wounds or burns typical of frostbite. Therefore, it is recommended to carefully check the body of the dog, paying special attention to areas with an absence or low concentration of hair, such as the ears, muzzle, legs, anus, tail and genitalia. If you identify any injuries, it is essential to go quickly to the vet.

Logically, we must emphasize that these measures are first aid that allow us to act immediately and safely to help our best friends fight the cold and its associated health complications. However, it is essential to take them to the veterinary center to ensure that your body has not suffered damage after exposure to cold, and establish an appropriate treatment to keep your body temperature stable.

How to prevent hypothermia in dogs?

To prevent hypothermia in dogs, it is essential to provide them with adequate care during the winter, avoiding exposing them to climatic conditions that are unfavorable and dangerous for their health. At AnimalWised, we have prepared a complete guide on how to care for a dog in winter, where we talk not only about protection against low temperatures, but we also offer you very useful advice on diet, hygiene and preventive medicine..

This article is merely informative, at AnimalWised.com we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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