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Low Body Temperature in Dogs

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Hypothermic animals are actively treated until a normal body temperature is reached. Movement should be minimized to prevent further heat loss and a potentially deadly irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia) while the patient is being warmed. During re-warming, an initial drop in body temperature can be expected, as contact is made between warmer “core” blood and the cold body surface.


Mild hypothermia may be treated passively, with thermal insulation and blankets to prevent further heat loss, while moderate hypothermia requires active external re-warming. This includes the use of external heat sources, such as radiant heat or heating pads, which can be applied to your dog's torso to warm its “core.” A protective layer should be placed between the dog's skin and the heat source to avoid burns. For severe hypothermia, invasive core warming will be necessary, such as the administration of warm water enemas and warm intravenous (IV) fluids.


Further essential treatments, especially for severe hypothermia, include breathing aids, such as oxygen, which may be administered with a face mask, and IV fluids for blood volume support. Any fluids should be warmed first, to prevent further heat loss.


Living and Management


Throughout treatment, the patient’s body temperature, blood pressure, and heartbeat should be monitored. It is also important to check for frostbite, another risk that may develop in cold temperatures.




Hypothermia can be prevented by avoiding prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. This is especially important for dogs that are considered to be at-risk. Factors that increase an animal's risk for hypothermia include very young or old age, low body fat, hypothalamic disease or hypothyroidism, and previous anesthesia and surgery.


Sick or newborn dogs with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) are at risk for hypothermia even in normal environments. Long-term care may be necessary, such as incubation to keep the body temperature stable. Prevention of hypothermia in anesthetized animals requires keeping the animal warm with blankets and monitoring its body temperature after surgery.



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