How to Protect Your Dog During Winter

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In many parts across the world, winters are quite extreme. The cold weather brings the risk of hypothermia, a precipitous drop in body temperature of your dog, along with it. While both humans and dogs are equally susceptible to the condition, dogs are affected more severely as they are smaller and have a higher normal body temperature. The normal body temperature of dogs is around 102oF. If it drops any lower than that, you should seek medical attention.

Causes of hypothermia

Exposure to cold is one of the most common causes of hypothermia. However, it can also affect dogs which are at normal room temperatures if they have a higher risk – very old and very young dogs, and any dog under anesthesia. Smaller breeds are also affected disproportionately as they lose body heat faster through their skin.

Hypothalamic diseases, like hyperthyroidism, can cause hypothermia as this part is responsible for regulating the body temperature. If your dog has been out in extreme weather for a long time, particularly if his/her skin or fur is wet or if they have been submerged in icy water, you should check for signs of hypothermia immediately. It can also be caused by shock, which can be diagnosed by checking the gums of the dog. If they are white or extremely pale and your dog is more lethargic than usual, seek immediate medical attention.

As mentioned above, dogs can get hypothermic if they have to undergo anesthetization for extended periods. However, veterinary anesthesiologists are trained to watch out for it and treat them if it happens. So, regular dog owners do not have to worry about it.
Diagnosis

Excessive shivering followed by lethargy is the first sign of hypothermia. Frostbite on ears, paws or tail can be another sign. You will see a pale bluish or gray discoloration, that will cause your dog to experience pain if you touch it. The areas that are affected can swell up and develop ulcers or blisters. If the case of frostbite is extreme, the skin will turn black and die. Theses are the successive stages:

  • Shivering, weakness and lack of alertness.
  • Low blood pressure, muscle stiffness, stupor, and slow breathing.
  • Dilated and fixed pupils, inaudible heartbeat, breathing difficulties, and coma.

How to treat it

If the body temperature is below 98oF, take your pet to the emergency care. Otherwise, you can raise the body temperature through the following methods:

  • Warm a thick blanket on a radiator and wrap your dog in it.
  • Wrap a towel around a hot water bottle and place it against the stomach. Ensure that you do not use an unwrapped bottle, as it
  • might burn your dog.
  • If he is conscious, make him drink warm fluids.

Make sure that your dog stays still as excessive movement can lead to loss of body heat. If there is a slight drop in temperature during rewarming, do not be alarmed. It is a sign of the colder blood that is closer to the surface mingling with the warmer blood inside the body, and should stabilize soon.

To avoid such situations altogether, take frequent and shorter walks with your pet and get protective jackets and boots, especially if it is not bred for the cold. Pay more caution if your dog is hypoglycemic. Do your part as the pack leader to protect your pup.