Whether it is accidental or not, any dog that has prolonged exposure to cold temperatures is at risk for hypothermia.  Some dogs are more susceptible than others including toy breeds, breeds with short coats, puppies and very old dogs.  If you live in an area that experiences winter, cold temperatures must be taken into consideration.  Carefully monitoring outside time is the first step in preventing hypothermia and frostbite in dogs.

Dogs that have been submerged in cold water are likely to get hypothermia because their coats lose their insulating properties.  An example of when this could happen is during ice fishing.  It is not always easy to tell where the ice is thin, and dogs could fall through unexpectedly.  Other situations that may cause hypothermia in dogs  include shock, after a long course of anesthesia and in newborn puppies that get cold because of inadequately heated whelping quarters. 

Signs of hypothermia include:
•    Violent shivering
•    Temperature below 95 degrees F
•    Weak Pulse
•    Lethargy
•    Coma

If you believe your dog is experiencing hypothermia, begin treatment by wrapping him in a blanket and bringing him to a warm area, whether it is your house or a different building.  A wet dog must be dried vigorously.  If possible, take his temperature to determine if it is less than 95 degrees F.  It may also be beneficial to encourage your dog to swallow a sugar solution as hypothermia often results in low blood sugar. 

Although these situations often arise when you are away from home, it is extremely important to bring your dog to a veterinarian if symptoms don’t subside or if the dog’s temperature is below 95 F.  At this point, it would be helpful to apply warm water bottles wrapped in towels to your dog’s armpits and chest.  This will help the temperature to rise to a healthy level which is 100 degrees F.  Remember to not apply heat directly to your dog or use a hair dryer on him because they can cause burns.

A complication that can occur with hypothermia is frostbite.  It is when a part of the body freezes and often involves the tail, ear tips, pads of the feet and scrotum because they are the least protected by fur.  If your dog has frostbite, you will notice the skin to be pale white or blue at first, eventually turning black.  To treat this, you will want to apply warm water soaks to the frostbitten area for 20 minutes.  The tissue should become flushed again.  Frostbitten parts can be painful as sensation returns, so it is important to take caution.  Keep an eye on your dog so he does bite his skin, causing further injury.  You will need to take the dog to a veterinarian so they can take a look at the injury and provide further treatment if needed.

The best way to prevent hypothermia and frostbite is to be aware of your surroundings and to monitor your dog when he is out in the cold.  It is understandable that accidents are sometimes inevitable; but if you take precautions your dog will be less likely to come down with these conditions. 

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