Dogs in cars are the most common concern. The flip side of the coin can also be dangerous. Hypothermia can occur in dogs when their body temperature falls below the normal level. This can lead to death in some cases. Pet owners should consider keeping their four-legged loved ones warm whenever possible.
While this may seem less important during warmer months, recent weather phenomena show us that unexpected temperatures can occur at any time. Dog owners have to ensure that their dogs are protected from the cold at all times of year.
Hypothermia can occur in two main situations: outdoors or in a vehicle. You should be aware of the dangers your dog faces, and how to recognize signs of hypothermia.
Consider the possibility of hypothermia for dogs left in cars.
Car hypothermia risk
Dog owners are well aware that summer is the worst time to leave their dog in a car because of the high heat. It is not common to consider the possibility of dogs being left in vehicles when it cools.
Although a car won’t get as cold as it gets hot, it has very little insulation. It will shelter you from rain and wind, but it cannot keep your interior warm.
In fact, the American Kennel Club American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states that cars can be “refrigerators” that trap cold air and cause animals to freeze to their deaths.
There are other options than allowing your dog to stay in the car. These are some other options:
- Ask the store if pets are permitted inside. Most stores, especially those that are locally owned, allow pets to come into their stores. Look out for signs indicating whether pets are permitted or not. Ask an employee if there is no sign.
- Consider bringing a passenger. Your dog will be able to have company and monitor the interior temperature. Your keys should be left with your dog so that they can turn the heat on if it gets cold.
- “Pet pods” are a lockable, individually-sized kennel that regulate temperature and offer a place for your pet to rest while you shop. These kennels are often located right in front of the store. They aren’t yet common, but companies are trying to make them more popular.
- Pick curbside delivery if the store offers it. You can drive your dog along and get all the necessary items.
- Pickup is an option. Not all businesses offer curbside delivery. Look into whether they offer pickup. It will take you much less time to bring your order in than shopping for them yourself. This will save your dog the hassle of waiting in the car.
- Reduce your list. You can reduce your list if you are bringing your dog along and you need to find something in a store that is not listed above.
- You can leave them at home. When possible, it may be best to leave your dog at home; by doing so, you protect them by leaving them in a temperature-controlled space rather than in the potentially freezing car.
Outside, hypothermia is a possibility
Many people believe that dogs’ fur keeps them warm in colder weather. Although it can help, it does not protect against all cold exposure. While dogs will react differently to cold depending on their breed, size and age, experts advise that your dog should not be exposed to temperatures below 45F. Hypothermia can occur at 32F for dogs with thin skin, older dogs, and dogs with small coats. All animals are at risk if they reach 20F or lower
The ASPCA said it was important to understand the context. “Remember, if you’re too cold for yourself, it’s likely too cold for your pet… Older dogs, younger dogs and dogs with shorter coats are more susceptible to hypothermia. You should monitor them more closely for signs and symptoms of hypothermia.”
These tips can help reduce hypothermia risk in dogs when the temperature drops outdoors.
- Pay attention to breed. It is common for small dogs, those with less fur, or older dogs to not be able tolerate cold temperatures well. Northern breeds like the huskies and samoyeds are more adaptable to cold temperatures. To ensure your dog is not suffering from hypothermia, research their breed.
- Pay attention to the time. Veterinarians state that dogs are safe to be outside in cold weather for 15 to 20 minutes. This should allow them to go outside for a few minutes and take a break.
- Buy them dog boots. After being outside in the cold, check your dog’s feet. A pair of dog boots may be able to protect your dog’s paws from being irritated by the cold or if they are exhibiting behavior that suggests walking on the cold ground is difficult. To prevent your dog’s shaking, make sure that they are securely fastened.
- You might also need a jacket. A thicker coat may mean that your dog doesn’t need extra protection from the cold. If your dog is prone to shivering, or if they are elderly or frail, you can help them stay warm by giving them a jacket or sweater.
- You might consider putting pee pads in the indoors. While you would prefer your dog to relieve themselves outdoors, it may not be practical for high-risk dogs. It may be beneficial for older, smaller, or very young dogs to have the option of using the indoor bathroom.
- A heated doghouse is available. Dogs love to be outside regardless of the weather. A heated dog house is a great option for outdoor-loving dogs. If your dog needs to heat up, they should always have an option to return to the house.
- Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Dog owners have the responsibility to ensure that your dog’s body temperature doesn’t drop below safe levels. You can help your dog stay warm in the winter months by becoming familiar with the signs of hypothermia.
Hypothermia signs in dogs
It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of hypothermia. These are the signs and symptoms of hypothermia in dogs. You can learn what to do if they appear, as well as what to do until your vet can help.
- Paleness. Hypothermia in dogs is indicated by color loss. For signs of hypothermia in dogs, check their gums and skin.
- Shivering. Dogs will also shiver in cold weather, just like humans.
- Lethargy. Hypothermia can cause dogs to feel tired and listless. Dogs may curl up to try and retain any body heat that they have.
- Breathing is shallow. Your dog’s heart rate may have slowed if their breathing has slowed.
- Coordination loss. Hypothermia can cause dogs to act disoriented or stumble around.
The ASPCA indicated that hypothermia can also be detected by whining and cool feet, ears, tails, and feet.
These symptoms are not the only ones that your dog may experience. Your dog could also get frostbite from prolonged cold exposure. Frostbite risk can be mitigated by wearing boots and a jacket.
The internal temperature of your dog can indicate whether they are at risk of frostbite. This chart can help you determine when your dog is at risk for frostbite .
What time does frostbite start in dogs?
|Mild||90-99 degrees fahrenheit|
|Moderate||82-90 degrees fahrenheit|
|Severe||< 82 degrees fahrenheit|
How to deal with hypothermia symptoms
You should immediately take your dog to a veterinarian or emergency vet if you see any of these symptoms. You don’t have to wait until your dog is sick to take steps to help him. Your vet can do more but you can start taking steps immediately to help your pet.
- You can warm them while they are on the move. You can quickly warm your dog if you’re out and about when you see signs of hypothermia. You can wrap them in a jacket and keep them close to you. If you’re near your car, turn the heat up. Use what you have to dry your pet if they are wet.
- Steps to warm your pet at home. You can take more steps to help your pet get warm again at home. You can layer blankets on your pet. They can also be placed around heated water bottles. Experts advise against heating pads as they can cause skin irritation in your dog.
- Examine their skin. Hypothermia can lead to frostbite in dogs. You should check for areas that are tender or irritated. You can make a note of any irritations or tendernesses so the vet can evaluate them.
- Warm fluids are best for them. Warm broth (not too hot) can be helpful in bringing their internal temperature up.
- If your dog is in distress, call an emergency vet. Your dog’s health is at greater risk if their body temperature remains low for too long. Your usual vet may not be able to see you within an hour of hypothermia. If that happens, call emergency vets immediately.
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