Preventing Hypothermia in Pets Year-Round

Keeping your pet warm and dry during the winter is an obvious priority, but as daytime temps increase, it can become less of a worry. This makes sense, but as winter gives way to spring, we must anticipate a few more frosts and cold snaps. To be sure, significant dips in nighttime temperatures can present unique challenges to your pet. Recognizing the various symptoms of hypothermia in pets can help, and preventing this dangerous medical condition is vital to your pet’s health.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia occurs when a pet cannot sustain normal body temperature. The capabilities of the central nervous system become compromised, and blood flow, breathing, and consciousness become impaired. There are three phases:

  1. Mild hypothermia occurs when body temperature falls a couple degrees below normal (90-99°F).
  2. Moderate hypothermia is 82-90°F.
  3. Severe hypothermia falls below 82°F.

What to Watch For

Clinical symptoms of hypothermia in pets include:

  • Shivering
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Glaze over the eyes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Collapse

Important Steps

If you suspect your pet has hypothermia, wrap him or her in a warm blanket immediately to raise internal body temperature. No matter the severity or mildness of symptoms, it’s best to have your pet examined right away. Please call us, and we’ll give you directions for easy transport of your suffering pet.

What About the Coat?

Many pets have thick, burly winter coats protecting them from the elements. These animals certainly have a higher tolerance than their thin-coated cousins, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to frostbite and hypothermia.

Other Body Types

Smaller pets and those with shorter legs get colder faster since their bodies are closer to the ground. Younger pets and seniors have their own challenges with the cold, as they don’t adjust to extreme external temperatures very well. Likewise, pets with medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, have difficulty regulating body temperatures.

Preventing Hypothermia in Pets

The good news? It’s easy to prevent hypothermia in pets. For example:

  • Shorten your pet’s time outside. If he or she is accustomed to long walks, break them up throughout the day, if possible.
  • Do not allow your pet to endure seasonal extremes outside while you’re away from home or asleep.
  • Check your pet’s feet afterwards. Packed ice or snow can cause painful cuts to the pads.
  • Trim the hair between the paw pads to reduce adhesions of frozen moisture.
  • Dress up your pet in a snug-fitting sweater or vest. Booties may also be appropriate.
  • Dry off your pet as soon as possible.

If you have a free-roaming pet, please make sure to call them inside for the evening. Many cats find shelter inside the hood of a freshly-parked car. Before starting up your car, tap on the hood.

If we can assist you with additional questions about hypothermia in pets, please give us a call. As long as your pet isn’t exposed to extreme temperatures and harsh elements, we’re positive you can enjoy a lovely spring season.