by Dr. Nandita Fernandes
Our Virginia “on- again and off again” winter is well underway at the moment and so I wanted to remind all of our pet owners to be vigilant of signs of hypothermia and please please please keep your furry friends inside the house. Remember if it is too cold for you to be outside, then it is too cold for your pet to be outside!
Being outside and exposed to cold environmental temperatures can drop the body’s core temperature causing your pet to exhibit signs of hypothermia. Clinical signs of hypothermia can range from shivering, stiff muscles, pale gums, lethargy, low heart rate and respiratory rate, collapse or even coma.
If your pet is geriatric, a small breed dog, a young dog, thin pet or short haired/hairless pet they can be even more sensitive to cold temperatures. A pet that is struggling to maintain his/her core body temperature and losing body heat faster than he/she can replace it is a pet that is hypothermic.
In order to help you prevent hypothermia in your pet, we recommend keeping your pet indoors and taking him/her outside for short bathroom breaks. There are a variety of fashionable jackets and pet clothing that you may purchase from pet stores to keep them warm and there are also booties to wear on their paws to prevent them from losing heat through their footpads and to also protect them from the caustic chemicals used to treat our driveways and roads.
Treatment of Hypothermia:
If your dog is collapsed or in a coma please take him to the nearest Emergency room for immediate supportive care.
Mild hypothermia can be combatted by wrapping your pet in a blanket till the shivering stops and getting it back in a warm space. You may place small socks over your pet’s feet to decrease heat loss through paw pads. Please do not use heating pads as it is easy to burn your pet’s skin.
If your pet’s temperature has dropped below the 90-94-degree range (normal core temperature is 99.5 – 102.5) then the pet is going to need heat support and emergency supportive care. If not treated, this could be fatal.
The bottom line is – keep your pets indoors and provide play toys, interactive puzzles and chew toys for environmental enrichment indoors.