In many places, January and February are when the coldest temperatures for the whole year roll in. When we are in the true depths of winter, it is important we take precautions to protect our pets from these dangers. Dogs on average have a much higher body temperature than humans, meaning that when a dog’s temp drops to our average temp, this is dangerous for them. It is easy for them to become hypothermic, so it is critical you know the signs and how to protect your dog. Here are some tips for how to ensure your dog stays safe and warm.
How Do Dogs Get Hypothermia?
When your dog is exposed to extremely cold temperatures and snow, they are at risk to become hypothermic. Smaller breeds, very young dogs, and very old dogs all have higher risks because of their immune systems and body types. Dogs are at a higher risk for hypothermia when their skin and fur are wet or they’ve been in water that is icy and cold.
Signs of Hypothermia
One of the first signs you’ll notice in your dog is shivering. After this excessive shaking, they will become lethargic. Look at your dog’s paws, ears, and tail- if they are pale, gray, or bluish, this may mean your dog has frostbite on these areas. In more extreme cases, they can develop blisters or turn black.
Find a thermometer and measure your dog’s temperature. If they are between 90 to 99°F, this is mild hypothermia, which is accompanied with weakness, shivering, and lethargy. If their temp is between 82 to 90°F, this is more serious and they will start to suffer more symptoms, like muscle stiffness, low blood pressure, stupor, and shallow, slow breathing. When they get to below 82°F, this is extremely severe and you should seek help immediately. The dog’s pupils will be fixed and dilated, their heartbeat will be inaudible, they will have difficulty breathing, and are most likely near coma, if not already.
How to Help Your Dog
The first step is to take your dog to the vet immediately. If you are unable to get there quickly or can’t at all, start taking steps to make your dog warmer. Wrap them in warm blankets (which can be done by throwing some in the dryer.) Heat up water, put it into a water bottle, wrap the bottle in a towel, and place on your dog’s stomach. Give warm water to your dog to drink as well. Keep your dog as still as you can. Check their temperature every 10 minutes. Keep them wrapped in blankets once they hit 100°F, but you can remove the water bottle. If your dog appears to be back to normal, be sure to schedule an appointment with your vet ASAP. They will want to make sure their is no damage to their body.
Prevention is Key
To prevent from getting this far, take steps to avoid it. Be sure you get your dog a coat and booties if they are a breed that isn’t meant for cold. Make sure your dog is bundled up for walks if they are a young puppy or an elderly dog. If your area is extremely cold, find ways to stay active inside the home. Keep walks very short and sweet.
While many dogs were bred to sustain the cold, many others weren’t. So be sure to take these steps to reduce any chance of hypothermia.