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Can Dogs Get Hypothermia?

Can Dogs Get Hypothermia? | BetterVet


With cooling winter temperatures, it may seem as though the threat of weather-related hazards to your pet has passed. But wait - can dogs get hypothermia? Many pet parents believe that dogs have enough fur to keep themselves warm and do not imagine that dogs could be susceptible to hypothermia. However, snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures pose as much risk to your dog as they do to you. If you’re cold, chances are your pup is cold as well. 

Hypothermia, frostbite, and other cold weather maladies can affect your dog quickly when the weather is chilly. Luckily, dog hypothermia is preventable, and with a little knowledge and attention, you and your dog can stay safe, warm, and cozy this winter. Read on below for additional information. Don’t forget, if you have any questions, concerns, or worries, you can always book a video consultation or schedule a visit with our vets.

Hypothermia in Dogs

Hypothermia is a dangerous decrease in core body temperature that can lead to serious, detrimental effects on the rest of the body. Your dog’s brain, liver, heart, and lungs may all be at risk, and the effects can range from mild damage to complete failure. In even mild cases of hypothermia, your dog’s body attempts to preserve these vital internal organs by shunting blood away from the less critical areas, such as the paws, ears, tail, and limbs. By withdrawing blood supply from these areas, it puts your pup at risk for frostbite. In severe cases, hypothermia can lead to coma or death. When in doubt, bring your pet inside during extremely cold weather.

Causes of Hypothermia in Dogs

Dog hypothermia is most commonly due to  prolonged exposure to cold conditions. Other environmental factors may influence her risk, such as wind chill or wet conditions; both strong wind and damp fur can decrease your dog’s natural ability to insulate herself. 

Additional risk factors to consider in your dog include extreme weather such as snow,, extended outdoor time, young or old age, overall health, coat length/type, and body size and weight. Smaller, thinner dogs and dogs with short or no hair coats are at increased danger of hypothermia when the weather is cold. 

Chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid imbalances, or kidney/liver disease can affect your dog’s ability to regulate her temperature. Certain medications such as sedatives can also inhibit her ability to control her internal body temperature. 

What Are the Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs?

Initial signs of mild hypothermia are: 

  • Shivering
  • Slow or sluggish movement
  • Curling up to you or on herself to try to conserve body heat
  • Ears, tail, and paws may feel cold
  • Hunched body posture

Signs can progress quickly, and more serious signs include:

  • Profound slowness/stumbling
  • Mental confusion
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Discolored painful extremities (frostbite)
  • Cessation of shivering
  • Shallow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Prevention of Hypothermia in Dogs

In most cases, hypothermia in dogs is completely preventable. Do not allow your dog to remain outside in the cold for prolonged periods of time, or when they are wet or the weather is damp. 

Offer them a warm bed in a dry part of the house, and monitor air and wind chill temperatures when your pet is outside. Other options to help prevent hypothermia in dogs include a doggy sweater/jacket, booties to wear during a walk especially on snow or ice,, and avoiding long walks if your dog is adversely affected by the cold or at increased risk for hypothermia. Remember that an appropriate diet and plenty of fresh, clean water are vital for a healthy dog in any weather.


When in doubt, keep your dog inside during colder weather. Hypothermia is much easier to prevent than to treat. A few simple steps and remembering to limit outdoor time when it is too cold, too windy, or too wet can keep you and your pet safe and warm this winter. If you think your dog may have hypothermia, have her assessed immediately as this can rapidly become a severe emergency.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a dog’s normal body temperature?

Your dog’s normal temperature is between 100℉ and 102.5℉. A decrease of even a few degrees can lead to effects of hypothermia. Severe hypothermia occurs when the dog’s body reaches a temperature of around 82℉. If your pup spends a lot of time outdoors, it may be wise to invest in a rectal thermometer. 

How is hypothermia in dogs treated?

Warming is the most important treatment, and mild cases may be able to receive treatment at home. Bring your dog indoors, and ensure she is dry. You can use warm towels from the dryer, or even a hairdryer on the lowest setting (about 12 inches from your pup’s skin). 

Hot water bottles, space heaters, and electric blankets/heating pads must be used with caution, as it is very easy to burn your pet, especially if she is unconscious or unable to move herself away from the source when she gets too warm. 

In more severe cases, your dog may need aggressive warming and other measures such as IV fluids and pain management. This will usually require a visit to a veterinary hospital.

When should I call the vet if I think my dog has hypothermia?

If your dog’s body temperature is below 95℉, call a veterinarian immediately for advice or head for the nearest open emergency service. Your pup may require more aggressive warming such as warm IV fluids. 

If you do bring your dog to a veterinarian, keep the heater on in the car during transport. Your veterinarian will perform an exam and determine the best course of treatment. Other disease processes may cause or contribute to hypothermia, such as septic shock, low blood sugar, or other organ system dysfunction. Your veterinarian may recommend additional diagnostic tests to ensure your pup receives the most appropriate treatment for her condition. 

Even if your dog’s condition appears to be less serious, the best course of action is to speak with your veterinarian.

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