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Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook

Hypothermia (Abnormal Low Temperature)

Prolonged exposure to cold results in a drop in body temperature. It is most likely to occur when a dog is wet. It is seen most often in Toy breeds and those with short hair. Hypothermia also occurs in shock, after a long anesthetic and in newborn pups. Prolonged chilling burns up the available energy and predisposes the body to low blood sugar.

The signs of hypothermia are violent shivering followed by listlessness and apathy, a rectal temperature below 97 degrees F (which is diagnostic) and, finally, collapse and coma.

Treatment: Wrap your dog in a blanket or coat and carry it into the house. If your dog is wet (having fallen into ice water), give the animal a warm bath. Rub vigorously with towels to dry the skin.

Warm chilled dogs by applying warm water packs to the axilla (armpit), chest and abdomen. The temperature of the packs should be about that of a baby bottle (warm to the wrist: 105-108 degrees F). Continue to change the packs until the rectal temperature reaches 100 degrees F. Warming with a hair dryer or air comb works well. As sensation returns it can be painful, and the dog may attempt to bite at the skin.

As the dog begins to move about, give some honey or glucose (four tablespoons of sugar added to a pint of water).

How to warm a chilled puppy is discussed in PEDIATRICS: Warming a Chilled Puppy.
Frostbite: Frostbite affects the toes, ears and scrotum. The skin at first is pale white. With the return of circulation, it becomes red and swollen and may begin to peel. Eventually it looks much like a burn, with a line of demarcation between the live and dead tissue. Dead skin separates in one to three weeks.

Treatment: Warm frostbitten parts with warm water soaks for fifteen to twenty minutes as described above, but don't rub too vigorously. Prevent infection by applying an antibiotic ointment. Cover with a bandage as described in Bandaging at the end of this chapter. As sensation returns it can be painful. Prevent the dog from biting at the skin and causing injury.

 


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