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How do you know if your dog is too cold? Signs of hypothermia in dogs.

When your fur baby becomes exposed to the cold for long periods, they can develop hypothermia. Hypothermia in dogs is when their body temperature drops dangerously low, resulting in mild to severe symptoms such as shaking or a hesitancy to walk.

A dog's normal temperature is around 38.3-39.2°C (101-102.5°F) and it can be difficult to know how much heat they are losing. However, there are signs you can look out for, as a cue to immediately bring your dog inside.

Signs and Symptoms: The Stages of Hypothermia

If you notice your dog shivering in the cold, immediately move your dog to indoors and focus on warming them slowly by rubbing their paws. Do not place them near a heater.

There are stages of hypothermia in dogs, all with their own symptoms that can cause a dog to act differently. However, you’ll want to intervene the moment you recognize the symptoms of hypothermia, regardless of the stages.

Moderate hypothermia

When a dog’s body temperature is between 28-31.9°C (82.4-89.5°F), the signs and symptoms become more noticeable and severe. Additional signs of hypothermia to look for include:

* Curling up and hunched body posture

* Pale, blue, or gray gums

* Stumbling and difficulty walking

* Sluggishness and reduced activity levels

* Slowed heart rate

* Decreased or delayed reflexes

* Confusion

* Frostbite

Severe hypothermia

Severe hypothermia occurs when the dog’s body temperature is below 28°C (82.4°F). At this stage, you may notice your dog experiencing:

* Fixed and dilated pupils

* A more erratic heartbeat

* Slow breathing

* Loss of consciousness

Severe hypothermia can even lead to organ failure or death.

How to Treat Hypothermia in Dogs

If your dog is in the moderate or severe stages of hypothermia, take them to your vet or call the emergency vet immediately. At the clinic, your dog will be given treatments such as warmed intravenous fluids, while their heart and oxygen rates may also be monitored.

Mild cases of hypothermia may still require a visit to the vet for a check-up, but some simple first aid steps at home can make them feel more comfortable beforehand. Vets recommend:

  • Use a towel to remove moisture from the coat. “[This] may help slow down additional cooling,” states Taylor.

  • Layer fleece or thermal blankets to kick-start the warming process, adds Taylor.

  • Give warm bone broth for your dog to drink.

  • Get your room temperature up, at least to 24-26°C.

Do not use electric or other warming procedures as these can cause burns or worsen their condition by warming too rapidly.

Will My Dog Recover from Hypothermia?

The earlier a dog’s hypothermia is treated, the greater their chance of recovery.

Unfortunately, the longer that symptoms prevail, the more severe the after-effects may be.

In more serious cases of hypothermia-induced frostbite, the affected tissues can die and eventually fall off entirely. The area's most often impacted by frostbite are a dog’s ears, tail, feet, and toes. If you notice your pet’s ears and skin turning white or gray, be sure to rewarm the body part slowly with warm water and rubbing to encourage blood flow.

Your vet can run tests to check whether your dog’s kidneys and liver are functioning normally after a case of hypothermia.

How Can You Prevent Hypothermia?

Some dogs just don’t understand what “too cold” means and may howl until you do let them out to play. In these situations where it’s better to fulfill their needs, make sure your dog has the right clothing and accessories:

  • A dog coat or sweater to keep their body heat close

  • Winter dog boots to protect them from salt and chemicals on the road

  • Paw balm for a protective layer and post-walk soothing

  • Small breeds and breeds with low bodies (like Corgis, Dachshunds, and Beagles)

  • Breeds with short hair, like Chihuahuas, Boxers, or Pugs

  • Skinny breeds like Greyhounds or Whippets

Dogs with shorter coats can also find it trickier to maintain body temperature.

Know the landscape

Avoid venturing into new and unknown areas for walks when the weather is cold and unpredictable, as you never know if you might encounter difficulties. And keep cold Winter walks a bit shorter than normal. When you return home, ensure you dry your dog’s feet and fur.

The takeaway

If it's just to dang cold outside, you can focus on getting their energy out indoors with puzzle toys or sniffing games instead. Keep the outdoors for potty business only, especially in freezing weather. And don't forget your dog's paws! Freezing temps can cause sore and dry paws, but there are a variety of balms available to put on paws to keep them moisturized.

Make your Winter pet friendly. :-)

**Article courtesy of Chantelle Pattemore and Rover**

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