Q: Do dogs suffer hypothermia and, if so, what are the signs?
A: Yes. Under the right conditions dogs, and indeed any warm-blooded mammal, can suffer hypothermia.
- Hypothermia in dogs occurs when an animal’s core body temperature falls and stays below the normal range.
- The normal body temperature range for a dog is 38°C to 39.5°C (100.5°F to 102.5°F).
- Dogs with low body temperature will aim to conserve heat by shivering, raising the “guard” hairs in their coat to create an insulating layer of air covering their body, and by constricting the blood vessels in their feet, ears and tail, so that more is available to ow through vital organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and lungs.
- In cold climates, the reduced blood flow warming the extremities will make these parts more susceptible to frostbite.
Recognising hypothermia in dogs
The onset of hypothermia will be recognised as intense shivering, leathery (slowing down and a greater reluctance to keep moving), muscular stiffness and an increasing lack of co-ordination. Unless rectified, the dog’s condition will deteriorate, its heart and breathing rates will slow, the pupils will dilate and it will collapse and go into a coma.
Though it is unusual to see dogs suffer overt hypothermia in the milder winters we have experienced in recent years, it is as well to understand that some dogs are much more susceptible to the cold than others. These include small, shorthaired dogs, wet dogs and dogs that are kept outside for prolonged periods of time with insufficient shelter and space to exercise.
(Shooting UK Editor: Fleece coats such as those manufactured by Equafleece can be useful and worth investigating.)
Puppies inefficient at regulating temperature
Puppies under six months old and dogs that suffer diabetes, heart disease, hormone imbalance or kidney disease are not able to regulate their body temperature as effectively, while elderly and arthritic dogs, with painful joints, aren’t able to move around as much to keep themselves warm.