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Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs and What to Do About It

’Tis the season of dropping temperatures! With or without snow, it’s possible for your dog to catch cold. Be sure he or she doesn’t get so cold that hypothermia develops! If you see any of these signs and symptoms, bring your dog to your local veterinarian for quick and effective treatment.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is the condition of having an abnormally low internal body temperature. For dogs, this means their temperature has dropped below the normal body temperature of 37.8˚C (100.1˚F) to 39.1C˚ (102.5˚F).

An abnormally low core temperature can lead to complications that are quite severe. Protect them as much as possible, and watch for symptoms that indicate they’ve been too cold for too long.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

When your dog is exposed to freezing temperatures for a prolonged period of time, the first worrisome symptom to note is shivering. His or her body shivers to create heat, which also signals that the blood vessels in the paws, nose, ears, and tail are constricting in order to send that heat to their most important organs like the heart and lungs.

Signs of your dog’s dropping body temperature are:

  • Their limbs are becoming very cold
  • Their breathing will be very rapid
  • Increased urination
  • Their hair is standing on end (the doggy version of goose bumps)
  • Shivering
  • They will become lethargic
  • Disorientation
  • Pale gums
  • Slow, shallow breathing

Quickly take your pup to a veterinarian or to an animal hospital for immediate medical help if you see the signs that are suggestive of hypothermia:

  • He or she is still very cold, but has stopped shivering
  • He or she is not only lethargic but also disoriented
  • Their rapid breathing has slowed and is now shallow
  • Their nose, ears, paws, and tail look pale
  • Their internal body temperature has fallen below 36.7˚ C (98˚ F)

Which Dogs Need Protection the Most?

Dogs who are most at risk for hypothermia are those:

  • Who are very young or very old
  • With low body fat
  • With very little or very thin fur
  • With hypothyroidism because the thyroid regulates body temperature
  • Who are not used to cold weather
  • Small breeds such as Chihuahuas who can lose heat more quickly because of their size

The usual causes of a dangerous drop in a dog’s core temperature are:

  • Exposure to cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time
  • Icy cold, wet fur and skin and paws
  • Cold water exposure for long durations

Here is What to do for Your Cold Dog

As long as your dog is not showing a serious drop in core temperature, you can treat the problem at home. Consider investing in a rectal thermometer so that you can take their temperature yourself and find out exactly how cold he or she is. (There’s nothing wrong with asking your vet for help with this part however, especially if this makes you both uncomfortable!)

Quickly warm blankets in the dryer, wrap them around your dog, and place him or her in a warm room. A hot water bottle or a hot pad warmed in the microwave can be wrapped and placed on your dog’s tummy. Make sure this heat pad is well-wrapped in a towel so that it doesn’t burn them by accident! Give your pup warm fluids to drink.

Do not put your pet into a warm bath! The sudden shift in temperature exposure could be too much for your dog to handle and only make the situation worse.

If you are concerned about your pup, bring them to a dog hospital right away. Have your veterinarian check for any long-term, negative effects from your dog’s hypothermia experience. The above methods we just described are good for starting the heating process on the way to your vet clinic.

Tips for Caring for Your Pet When the Weather is Cold

The best defense against hypothermia is a good offence, which means making sure your dog is not exposed to extreme cold for long periods of time.

  • If it is cold outside, walk your dog more frequently for shorter lengths of time.
  • Give your pooch a winter wardrobe! Outfit him or her in a protective jacket and even booties if they’re not used to the cold or is considered to be an “at-risk” dog (e.g., any small, skinny, sick, or old dog—especially if they’re arthritic—or a puppy, or any dog with a single layer of hair and no undercoat).
  • Keep your pooch out of water, even from melting snow puddles or regular rain puddles.
  • Even when inside of a car, your pet may freeze in the winter. The weather may be suitable for taking your dog on a brisk walk, but that same temperature can cause hypothermia to set in if he or she is sitting in a cold car. Make sure they’re kept warm!
  • If your pet is left alone in a cold house, their core temperature may drop enough that they start to shiver. Think of your pets when you lower the house temperature on workdays.
  • Don’t leave your dog tied up outside for extended periods when it is windy and cold.
  • When taking your dog for a walk, avoid ice salts, which can irritate the feet and paws of animals.
  • Little balls of ice may sometimes get caught between your dog’s toes. This not only hurt dogs, they can also cut into their feet. Remove any icy bits from their paws immediately if you discover this. It’s best to train your dog to accept wearing booties to prevent this cold weather hazard from occurring in the first place.
  • Make sure your dog always has good shelter and warmth whenever you must take them outside. If the weather becomes dire, keep your pup indoors at all times.
  • Antifreeze, which is used a lot in the winter for vehicles, is very poisonous to dogs. Make sure any containers you have around the house are well out of the reach from your dog’s tongue. Wipe up any antifreeze that spills. If your dog somehow manages even one lick of antifreeze, take them to your veterinarian right away!

Winter can be a dangerous season for pets. If you’re a dog owner, please exercise caution when you’re taking your beloved dog outside, and keep watch for the aforementioned signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Early-stage hypothermia can be treated quickly and easily at home, but your dog should be taken to a veterinarian or an animal hospital right away if they show any signs of later-stage hypothermia. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry by having them come in even if it’s early-stage.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Dog

Christmas is here again, and you’re ticking off each person on your shopping list. But wait—did you forget about Fido? Maybe you’re not sure what to give your dog for a Christmas present. Fortunately, we have a lot of gift ideas for dogs to offer you including lots of DIY (do it yourself) gift ideas.

Of course, when it comes to anything involving your dog, be wary of their overall health and safety. Whether it be a toy or treat, if you’re not sure about a certain gift, ask your veterinarian.

Idea 1: Fancy Store Bought Items

If you’re someone who considers your dog as your fur baby, then these ideas may be right up your alley. How about some doggie perfume? Yes, they have scents made especially for your dog at pet supply stores, but please do make sure to read the labels carefully and consult your vet if you’re concerned about allergies. Along with the scent theme, there are doggie candles as well. However, it may be best to avoid the candles altogether (that way there is less risk of fire accidents for you and Fido) and instead opt for vet-recommended sprays and scents to give to your anxious pooch.

If your dog will wear them, you can get some adorable Christmas-themed sweaters, jackets, and booties. If the cold weather arrives early, the booties may especially come in handy!

Let’s say you’re a fitness buff, and you’d like your pooch to be one too. Consider investing in a doggie treadmill or another such piece of doggie-centric fitness equipment (so long as you have the room in your home and your budget, of course!). If you and your pup are outdoor enthusiasts, reflective gear and backpack pet first aid kits are great stocking stuffers!

Idea 2: Store Bought Basics

There are many different types of toys you can buy your dog in the store. Basics include food or treat dispensers, which makes them work for their treat, is mentally stimulating, and makes for good exercise. You can also find non-stuffed squeak toys, which are great for playing tug of war, but be wary when it comes to the squeaker (especially if your dog likes to tear things apart!).

Don’t forget the treats! There are a lot of special Christmas-themed dog treats you can purchase, Again, make sure you carefully read the ingredients and be sure they’re right for your dog, especially if they have food or even skin allergies.

Speaking of treats and food, you can get them a new food dish or dishes perhaps if their old ones are looking dingy and worn out. For on-the-go dogs, you can get them a doggie water bottle.

Is their leash or collar looking worn out too? Perhaps it’s time for new ones. You can also get personalized dog tags to attach to their new spiffy collar.

Maybe their dog bed or pillow is looking like it has seen better days? It could be time for a new one, and there are so many awesome pillows out there!

Idea 3: Endless DIY Projects 

The Internet offers endless amounts of DIY projects you can make for your dog. Pinterest has grown to be one such resource for crafting your own doggie stuff, such as:

  • Dog beds
  • Christmas tree ornaments
  • A toy box to store all their playthings
  • Treat jars
  • Baked goods (be sure to account for any possible allergies in your dog, and make sure the ingredients are dog-friendly!)
  • Personalized stockings and dog toys, using fabric and tennis balls to create an animal or perhaps braid some fleece for rope

That’s just to name a handful! 

Idea 4: Activities

If you have snow this Christmas, skijoring would be a fun activity for both you and your dog, provided you like skiing. Skijoring involves your dog pulling you by running ahead in the snow while you’re on cross-country skis. Be sure to stay on a trail or straight road to prevent accidents and injuries!

Maybe go out for the day at an indoor dog park if it’s too icky outside (providing you can get there). If there are no local parks nearby, perhaps pampering your pup at a doggy daycare would be fun, or sign them up for an indoor training course.

If it’s cold outside and they have everything they need as far as dog care goes, the best gift you can give your pooch is some much-needed cuddle time by the fire, or on the couch, or on your bed—wherever is comfy. Snuggling with your fur baby gives them attention, affection, and love, not to mention it will keep you both warm on a cold day.

Is it time for their winter trim? Treat them to a doggie spa day and go for the full package, nails included. If there is no spa nearby or they’re closed, consider taking Fido to your veterinarian—they can offer grooming and nail trimming too, as well as some cuddles!

If you know any other dogs in the neighborhood that get along with yours, set up a playdate with toys and treats. Maybe get together at the nearest dog park, and while the dogs play, you and the owners can get to know each other over a hot drink. 

You’ve heard of hide and seek for kids, right? Well, who says it’s just for them? Try hiding a treat or favorite toy of your dog’s and make them come find you. If you have kids, this is a great game for the whole family to play. Get the kids to throw the dog’s favorite toy or treat to get them away while you all go hide. 

If you have snow, and your dog likes it too, just playing about in the yard makes a great gift (being careful all the while, of course). Make doggie and human snow angels and just playing around in the snow is a great bonding experience.

Some of the best gifts aren’t bought at a store but come from the heart. Just spending time with your dog and making sure they are happy can be a great gift, especially if you’re low on funds for Christmas shopping.

When in Doubt, Ask for Help

Your dog’s safety and health are very important! During this time of the year, there can be many things that you might not be sure of, like treats and toys etc., and that’s okay. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian or an expert about any dog-related items you’re not sure about. Asking for help makes sure you and your dog have a happy and healthy holiday season! 

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospitaland a clickable link back to this page.