Hypothermia is a medical term used to describe a body temperature that is below normal. The most common cause of hypothermia is prolonged exposure to cold environmental temperatures. If left untreated, affected animals may develop signs of frostbite or may even die.
In addition to prolonged exposure to cold weather, impaired ability to regulate body temperature can also lead to hypothermia. This is most often associated with newborn puppies and older debilitated dogs. Certain illnesses, such as hypothyroidism, and impaired behavioral responses can also be a factor in the body's inability to maintain adequate temperature.
Normal body temperature for dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Signs of hypothermia range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the low body temperature.
What to Watch For
Diagnosis of Hypothermia in Dogs
Recording a low body temperature with a thermometer will confirm the diagnosis of hypothermia. Additional diagnostics may be carried out to identify an underlying cause.
Treatment of Hypothermia in Dogs
It is important to monitor the patient's temperature closely during the treatment period.
Home Care and Prevention
Sick or hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) newborns can become markedly hypothermic in a normal environment. It is important to keep these individuals warm, and possibly even monitor their rectal temperature.
If you are suspicious that your dog may be suffering from hypothermia, contact your veterinarian at once. In the interim, use blankets and insulation to start the rewarming process.
Preventing hypothermia is key. Do not leave your dog outside in freezing temperature for any length of time without access to shelter and warmth.