Extreme low temperatures can cause a dog’s body temperature to fall, leading to hypothermia.
A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101°F and 102.5°F, so anything below 100°F is considered hypothermia in dogs. If sustained, hypothermia in dogs may lead to several complications and can even become fatal. To prevent this, immediate veterinary care is crucial.
What to Watch For
The first sign of low body temperature, known as hypothermia in dogs, is paleness of the skin and strong shivering. This may be followed by listlessness to the point of lethargy. If left untreated, coma and heart failure may occur.
Primary Causes of Dog Hypothermia
Hypothermia in dogs can occur as a result of any of the following:
Exposure to cold temperatures for a long period of time
Wet fur and skin
Submersion in cold water for an extended period of time
Hypothermia is common in anesthetized animals due to surgery. Your veterinarian monitors your pet’s temperature while undergoing anesthesia to prevent any problems. Depending on your pet’s size and the procedure they are having, your veterinarian may actively warm your pet with heating pads and special warming air blankets.
It can also result from several types of diseases such as kidney disease, hormonal imbalances and problems with blood flow. In those situations, hypothermia is unlikely to be so severe as to cause a problem for your pet, but this low body temperature can be an indicator that helps your veterinarian to diagnose and monitor your pet’s disease.
These are treated differently from dog hypothermia that is due to cold exposure. Seek veterinary care if your dog has a chronic disease that causes hypothermia.
Warm some blankets in the clothes dryer or with a hair dryer.
Wrap the dog in the warm blankets.
Wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and place it against the dog’s abdomen. Do not use it unwrapped, as this will burn the skin. A heating pad will also work—turn it to the lowest setting, wrap it in a towel and place it next to your dog. (Do not place the dog on top of the heating pad or leave a heating pad turned on for more than 10 minutes at a time. Always check the temperature of your dog’s skin while using it.)
Check the dog’s temperature every 10 minutes. If it is below 98°F (36.7°C), seek immediate veterinary attention.
Once the temperature is above 100°F ( 37.8°C), you can remove the hot water bottle to avoid overheating. Keep the dog in a temperature-controlled room.
Continue monitoring his temperature every 15-30 minutes until he is awake, walking around and behaving normally.
Prevention of Dog Hypothermia
Hypothermia in dogs can be prevented by avoiding prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. This is especially important for dogs who are considered to be at risk.
Factors that increase a dog’s risk for hypothermia include being very young or old, low body fat, heart disease, kidney disease and hypothyroidism.
Dog apparel, dog boots and other accessories can help keep dogs warm while outside. Apparel like a dog winter coat can be especially helpful for breeds with thinner fur and those less acclimated to cold weather.