Search Menu
Finnish Lapphund laying in the snow.
Eerik/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Left in the cold for too long, dogs can develop hypothermia, a dangerous condition that occurs when the core body temperature drops too low. For dogs, mild hypothermia begins to set in when their temperature drops below 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Frostbite can also become an issue at extreme low temperatures. If left untreated, hypothermia can also result in cardiac and respiratory failure, brain damage, coma, and even death.

  • Mild hypothermia: body temperature of 90 – 99°F
  • Moderate hypothermia: body temperature of 82 – 90°F
  • Severe hypothermia: any temperature less than 82°F

Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs

Shivering and curling up for warmth are some of the first signs of mild hypothermia in dogs. Other signs to watch out for include the following:

  • Increased heart rate, followed by a slow heart rate
  • Rapid breathing, followed by progressively slower and shallower breath
  • Sluggishness and delayed reflexes
  • Depression
  • Paleness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of consciousness

What Dogs Are Susceptible to Hypothermia?

While most dogs will only experience hypothermia in cold temperatures, newborn puppies can suffer from hypothermia in normal temperatures. Small dogs, senior dogs, puppies, and short-coated dogs are at a higher risk of rapid loss of body heat.

Two French Spaniels laying together in the snow.

Treating Hypothermia in Dogs

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from hypothermia, bring your dog somewhere warm if possible and contact your vet immediately.

A dog with hypothermia will be treated until they reach a normal body temperature. Minimize your dog’s movement while they are being warmed up.

  • Mild hypothermia can typically be treated with insulation and blankets
  • Moderate hypothermia will require active external heat sources such as radiant heat (in addition to a protective layer such as a sweater)
  • Severe hypothermia requires invasive core warming such as warm IV fluids

Preventing Hypothermia in Dogs

A warm dog jacket or sweater and dog booties will help minimize the risk of hypothermia in dogs. However, clothing for your dog should never be used on an unattended dog or as a substitute for proper care, but rather as an adjunct. In general, it is safer for pets to be in an area where temperatures can be controlled.

Make sure your dog is dry before taking them out for a walk. If a dog is wet or damp, these areas are more vulnerable to frostbite.

Keep winter walks short when possible and limit time outdoors in extreme cold.

When in doubt, always consult your veterinarian.

Related article: Can Dogs Get Frostbite?
https://www.akc.org/wp-admin/admin-ajax.php
Get Your Free AKC eBook

Canine Body Language

Your Dog is Trying to Tell You Something. You have questions, we have answers. Download this e-book to get the explanations behind some of the strangest canine behaviors.
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download