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Your dog and Hypothermia

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on February 4th, 2021

Hypothermia doesn’t just happen to humans – it affects dogs too.

And it can be deadly.

If not treated immediately, your fur friend is in danger. Every pet owner needs to protect their dog against the elements. One misconception is that it must be extremely cold for the condition to set it, but that’s not true.

Dogs with wet fur in a chilly breeze can experience hypothermia just the same as ones left in frigid temperatures.

That’s why it’s important for owners to assess conditions before leaving or taking their dogs outside any time of the day. A good rule of thumb is if it’s too cold for you, it’s likely too cold for them. You wouldn’t want to stay outside with no way to get warm and neither do they!

A dog’s breed comes in to play too. Small, short-haired dogs – like a Chihuahua – aren’t going to have the same cold tolerance as, for example, a Husky. Older dogs are more susceptible than younger ones and canines with existing medical conditions such as diabetes would be less resistant. Dogs with short legs may get cold sooner because their torso is closer to the ground. Very young and very old pets can also be susceptible.

If you need help determining your pet's temperature limits, consult your veterinarian.

Every year, the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society investigates thousands of complaints about animals left unprotected from winter weather. Exposure to harsh conditions can cause serious illness or death to animals, particularly during periods of freezing rain and rapid temperature fluctuations.

The saddest stories are those where the animal dies and the owner didn’t even realize what was happening. That’s why you must be wary of hypothermia even when it’s not extremely cold outside.

Causes of hypothermia in dogs

Some dogs are more susceptible to hypothermia than others. Very young and old dogs are at a higher risk, as well as those with short fur. Some may have issues with a condition that makes it hard to regulate their body temperature. The following are a few common factors involved in the development of hypothermia, regardless of your dog’s age, breed, or health.

1. Too much time outside

Dogs have a great chance of developing hypothermia the longer they are out in the cold. Bring your dog inside as soon as they finish their business. If you’re on a winter walk, make sure you use cold weather protection – such as a coat - to keep your pet warm and safe. No pet should be left outside for long periods in below-freezing weather.

 2. Wet fur or skin

It doesn’t have to be cold for your fur friend to develop hypothermia. It can happen in mild weather, too. If your dog loves going for a swim, make sure you towel them off afterward. Moisture on the fur and skin cools the dog’s body temperature. Once you add the wind chill factor to the mix, a little dampness can become dangerous.

Signs of canine hypothermia

A dog shivering in the cold might not seem like a big deal. Shivering in dogs should be cause for concern. The symptoms of hypothermia get worse the longer your dog is exposed. See a vet immediately if your dog experiences any of the following signs:

  • Strong shivering and trembling
  • Fur and skin cold to the touch
  • Excessive whining; appears restless or anxious.
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sleepy or lethargic demeanor
  • Blue gums
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Trouble breathing
  • Trouble walking

The proper way to treat it:

Just like humans, the quicker you act, the better. If hypothermia is left untreated, it can develop into heart issues, frostbite, kidney failure, coma, or cause death.

Once you’ve identified signs of hypothermia in your dog, take the following steps:

  • Remove your dog from the cold
  • Put them in a warm room
  • Dry your dog off thoroughly
  • Wrap them in a blanket pre-warmed in the dryer
  • Apply heating pads wrapped in a cloth to your dog’s core if they are completely dry
  • Give your dog warm fluids to drink

Continue to check your pet’s temperature as you try to warm them up. If it’s below 35 degrees C, they could be at risk for severe health risks, and you should take them to a vet immediately.

After your dog is treated, follow up with your vet. It’s best to make sure your dog didn’t sustain any health problems from the ordeal.

Remember, the best defense against hypothermia is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Having an insurance plan such as Pet + Us is also a great way to help care for your pet and keep them healthy. Talk to your broker today.

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