DOGS AND COLD WEATHER: Winter Safety Series – HYPOTHERMIA

Hypothermia

The key to remember is to minimize the amount of time you let your companion animals stay outside during the colder months.

by Jason Smith

Sled Dogs

Hypothermia is a condition where an animal’s core body temperature drops below what is normal for that particular species. Some people may think that dogs are not susceptible to hypothermia because of their furry coats; however, that could not be farther from the truth. If you leave a dog exposed to cold temperatures for prolonged periods, your pet is at risk of getting hypothermia.

The normal body temperature for a dog is 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit. When the dog’s core temperature falls below this, hypothermia has set in. Hypothermia is a serious condition that will require immediate first aid treatment and may require veterinary care.

WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR

Dogs with hypothermia may become lethargic and lose their appetites (Veterinary Information Network, n.d.). They may also go into shock or experience organ failure (Veterinary Information Network, n.d.). For these reasons, a veterinarian should see dogs that have gone into hypothermia.

FIRST AID: WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

When you encounter a dog with hypothermia, the first thing you should do is bring it in from the cold. Next, wrap the dog in warm blankets and use warm water bottles to help raise the dog’s body temperature. Then, seek veterinary attention immediately.

First Aid Steps

  1. Bring the animal inside.
  2. Wrap the animal in warm blankets and use warm water bottles to add heat.
  3. Seek veterinary care.

PREVENTION

Winter weather can have harsh effects on young puppies and older dogs, so bring your dogs in during the colder months. If you cannot bring them inside the house, at least bring them into the garage with a kennel (Berkowitz, 2011) and a soft, warm dry blanket (Gillham, 2011) to lie upon.

If you cannot bring the dogs into the house or put them in the garage, make sure that you have an outdoor shelter such as a doghouse that is large enough for the dog to stand up in and turn around in. This will allow the dog to move about and the movement helps to keep warm. The shelter should also keep your dog protected from the elements – wind and snow.

Dog sweaters can also help to keep your pets warm during the winter months (Berkowitz, 2011).

The key to remember is to minimize the amount of time you let your companion animals stay outside during the colder months. This means letting them out to do their business and taking them for short walks instead of longer walks.

In our next blog, we’ll give you some information about frostbite and steps you can take to prevent it and treat it.

 Do you have any tips to share concerning cold weather and dogs? Please comment below to share.

References

Berkowitz, L. (2011, January 10). When cold weather hits, don’t forget your pets. Houston Chronicle .

Gillham, O. (2011, February 4). Extra steps urged to keep pets safe in cold weather. Tulsa World .

Veterinary Information Network. (n.d.). Hypothermia. Retrieved December 4, 2012, from VeterinaryPartner.com: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=367

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