Dog Hypothermia Symptoms
The first signs of hypothermia are similar to what you would see in humans: low activity level, hunching of body posture, and shivering. These are all ways that your dog’s body will actively conserve heat.
Shivering is an important protective mechanism to keep the body warm. When muscles lose their ability to shiver because they’re too cold and aren’t getting the signal from the brain to shiver, then that important protective mechanism is gone.
Another first sign is cold paws. Extremities like the paws, tail, ear tips, and nose are naturally cooler in relation to the other parts of the body such as the chest and abdomen. When the body needs to conserve heat, the blood vessels in the extremities will constrict to minimize blood flow. This helps to keep oxygenated blood circulating to vital organs like the brain and heart.
These signs are just the beginning of possible hypothermia. Mild to severe signs of dog hypothermia are listed below:
- Cold extremities
- Decreased activity
- Hunched body posture
- Stiff muscles
- Stumbling/lack of coordination
- Shivering stops
- Decreased responsiveness
Severe signs— These should warrant an immediate visit to the emergency vet
- Pale or gray gums
- Fixed dilated pupils
- Non-responsive or unconscious (coma)
Dog Hypothermia Treatment
Mild to moderate hypothermia can be reversed with treatment when acted upon immediately.
Options for treatment at home include:
- Ensure your pet is dry and then wrap them in a warm blanket (Tip: Heat blankets in the dryer first.)
- Place your pet in a warm environment such as indoors or in a warm room.
- Fill water bottles up with warm water and place up against your dog’s core while they’re wrapped in a blanket.
Continue these efforts until shivering stops and your dog returns to normal activity. Try to avoid electric heating blankets or thermal pads as these can cause contact burns on your dog’s skin.
It is a good idea to invest in a rectal digital thermometer so that you can monitor your dog’s temperature through the re-warming process. If it gets above 98°F, you can stop your efforts since it can be easy to overheat your dog. If it gets below 94°F, and you notice your dog stops shivering, consider taking your dog to the vet for medical attention.
At a veterinary hospital, treatment can include warmed intravenous fluids, warmed-air blankets, and special equipment monitoring to ensure your pet’s condition is not worsening.