It’s cold outside! You feel it and your dog feels it too, even if he or she may not show it. Dogs have a normal body temperature of 99.5-102.5°F, which is higher than the 98.6°F average humans live with.
With that warm body temperature and all of that fur, what happens when they are exposed to wind chill, snow, freezing rain, and frigid water?
Do dogs get hypothermia like humans? In this article, we’ll discuss what happens if your dog gets hypothermia, ways you can treat dog hypothermia, and how to prevent this potentially life-threatening condition.
What is Hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a lowering of the core body temperature, usually due to prolonged exposure to low temperatures. The body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing confusion, shivering and other symptoms. If left untreated, hypothermia can be fatal.
For dogs, hypothermia occurs when their core body temperature gets to 88°F or lower.
Can Dogs Get Hypothermia?
Yes, all dogs can get hypothermia if exposed to cold enough temperatures. This can occur from outdoor exposure in winter months or exposure to frigid water.
Senior dogs, puppies, small breeds, short-furred dogs, and those with metabolic or heart conditions are the most susceptible to developing hypothermia because they have a decreased ability to regulate their own body temperature.
Hypothermia can sometimes be tricky to detect because the beginning signs tend to be subtle. As the body gets colder, the ability to warm back up is lost, creating a problem that can get suddenly worse.
It usually progresses as follows:
- Metabolic processes like breathing and heart rate slow down as a survival mechanism.
- The body will start to shiver to generate heat in a process called thermoregulation.
- Activity levels slow down so that energy is conserved.
- The central nervous system slows down, causing signs that look like your pup may be drunk.
- Loss of consciousness.
- All metabolic processes can come to halt after a downward spiral to conserve heat.
When your dog’s body temperature gets as low as 88°F, their body will lose the ability to conserve heat and start the process above.
How can you tell if this is happening? Well, there are certain signs to look for.