- Wrap your pet in a dry towel and remove to a warmed area. Avoid rapid heating. You can increase your pet’s body temperature by placing it on a heat pad or using insulated hot water bottles, but these should not have direct contact with the skin as they can easily burn. Animals should not be left on a heat mat for extended periods of time as these can cause burns – especially in weak animals that are not able to move off the heat source.
- Bubble wrap and reflective blankets can be used to reduce loss of body heat. Ensure the paws and tail are covered as these are common sites of heat loss.
- If your animal has any signs of depression or weakness, or signs of frostbite, seek veterinary attention immediately.
WHAT IS IT?
Hypothermia is a condition where the core body temperature drops below the normal range. The normal ranges for dogs are 37.5°C – 39.2 °C.
The lower their body temperature, the more severe the clinical signs will be. These include:
- Cool and pale extremities (such as paws, ear tips, tail tip)
- Signs of frostbite [See article for Frostbite]
- Decreased breathing rate
- Dullness, depression, reluctance to move
- Slow heart rate
- Weak pulse
- Irregular heart rhythm (cardiac arrhythmia)
Hypothermia can be due to prolonged exposure to low environmental temperature (eg. left out in the winter) or as a result of disease, trauma, surgery, and drug related changes in heat production and thermoregulation. Hypothermia often occurs in pets that become lost and are exposed to the elements.
Veterinary care consists of warming and supportive treatment, which may include providing gently warmed intravenous fluids, the use of forced air warmers such as Bair huggers, and provision of warmed humidified air.
Todd J & Powell LL (2009) Hypothermia. In: Small Animal Critical Care Medicine. Ed. Silverstein DC & Hopper K. Missouri, USA: Saunders Elsevier.