As winter leaves us and spring approaches, the weather has decided to remain cold, if not colder! As your cats run around the neighbourhood in the crisp, cold air and your dogs do their daily walks on the freezing frost; here are some tips from us on how to effectively help your pet, if they experience hypothermia (low body temperature).

The most highly presented case is of a pet who has recently had a prior car accident or injury and then stays outside for a long duration of time. This then causes an overexposure to the cold weather. However, there have also been cases of pets with no prior injury who can experience hypothermia. Other causes would include a dog being submerged in cold water for an long period of time; shock induced hypothermia; and the pet having wet fur or skin for an extended timeline. When patients have a surgical procedure performed, hypothermia is one of the top five risks that can occur during anesthesia. Your veterinarian, however, will always ensure to provide heating pads or warm blankets during this case scenario.

A dog or cat with hypothermia will exhibit the following signs: collapse, disorientation, unconsciousness, shallow breathing, weakness, muscle stiffness and slow pulse. Shivering can also be seen; however, it is not a commonly associated sign with pets facing hypothermia. You can apply a thermometer rectally and check what body temperature your pet has. The normal body temperature range for a dog is considered to be anywhere between 38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celsius. The normal body temperature range for a cat is seen to be between 37.5 to 39.2 degrees Celsius. These ranges were derived from the ‘The Merck Veterinary Manual’.

If you feel that your furry companion may show any of the fore-mentioned signs, please bring him or her to your local veterinarian as soon as possible. If your pet’s fur is wet, the best, immediate thing to do is to completely dry them with a towel. Another tip to help them, is to place water bottles filled with warm water around them. This will help to increase their body temperature. It is important to not fill the water bottles with hot water. This can be more damaging to your pet’s health status than helpful. You can also place blankets in a dryer and then place their warmth around your pet’s cold body. A heating pad is also another useful source; however, please ensure you keep it at a low setting when using it on your pet. If you notice your pet has numb, white skin, this could be an indication of frostbite or frozen skin being present. It is important to note that you should not rub this part of the skin or apply warm water bottles to it. Please show it to your veterinarian right away for appropriate medical assistance.

Hypothermia can be easily prevented by avoiding the over exposure of cold temperature to your pet. Certain pets who are very young, have heart disease, less body fat, kidney disease or a hypothyroid patient, are more susceptible to experiencing hypothermia. When it comes to walking your dog out in the cold weather, you can simply provide him or her with dog boots, winter coats or other accessories, to aid towards the fight against the cold.

Dr. H. Bhullar DVM

Dr. Sifti Bhullar, DVM