Dog Hypothermia Signs & Prevention | Pupford

Dog Hypothermia: How to Recognize the Signs & Keep Your Dog Safe This Winter

*DISCLAIMER* If you’re reading this and believe your dog is experiencing hypothermia, take them to your veterinarian for immediate care!

As we enter the Winter months, the chilling cold is all too real for most of us! Being aware of the signs of dog hypothermia is more important now than ever.

Us humans are stocking up on down coats, scarves, and fluffy hats. We bundle up, turn the heat up and drink hot chocolate by the fireplace.

Staying warm and cozy is top of mind as the temperatures begin to drop, for yourself, your family and of course your pup!

Whether you are taking walks with your dog during these colder months or letting them explore the backyard for potty time, it’s important to keep in mind that although they have a built-in fur coat – your dog is still experiencing the blistering cold each time they step out. 

Let’s dive into how to recognize hypothermia in your dog, how to keep them safe and other must-know tips!

Keeping Your Pup Safe in Colder Temperatures

a dog walking in the snow | Pupford

As pet parents, it’s our number one goal to keep our best friends safe and comfortable during the cold months.

In Pennsylvania, they built specific laws around leaving your dog outside on a leash in the colder or hotter temperatures for more than 30 minutes (yay! PA!)

Keep in mind that if you have an older dog, they may not be able to withstand the colder weather for as long as a younger pup. Small dogs are also more susceptible to hypothermia in the winter, especially those with shorter hair. 

If you’ve just taken your pup to the groomer or given them a bath, keep them inside for a few hours and make sure they are fully dry before letting them out in the cold. You can even towel dry them more thoroughly or use a hairdryer to ensure the skin is completely free of moisture. 

Dog Winter Checklist

a dog running in the snow trying to avoid hypothermia | Pupford

During the colder months, when you let your dog outside for some fresh air or go on a walk with them in the beautiful snowfall, be sure to:

  • Dress them in a sweater or coat 
  • Use paw booties to protect their feet (you can also use dog paw balms and waxes)
  • Put dog-friendly ice melts around your backyard to protect them from falling, cuts and getting their paws too cold while standing
  • Keep your dog’s fur dry! Try to bathe them as little as possible during the winter months to avoid stripping their skin of essential oils. Use moisturizing dog shampoos to prevent dry skin.
  • Give your pup plenty of food and water. During the winter, your dog will burn more calories in order to keep themselves warm. Consider feeding your dog more often and adding in wet food to keep them more hydrated. Dogs that eat only dry food may be less hydrated since many pups get most of their water from food.  
  • Walk your dog late morning or afternoon instead of first thing in the a.m when it’s typically the coldest temperatures. 
  • Spend time outside playing when the sun is out. Use a toy that does not soak up moisture easily, such as a plastic frisbee. Tennis balls or furry toys will stay wet after hitting the ground.  
  • Make sure your pup has plenty of warm bedding and a cozy place to go after being outside. Furry blankets, warm towels, and a nice bed to snuggle up in after playing outside will help keep them warm and comfortable. Be sure that their bed is far from anywhere with a cold draft. 

Potential Signs of Dog Hypothermia

recognizing the signs of dog hypothermia | Pupford

Here are some signs that your dog might be way too cold (or even experiencing hypothermia):

  • Their fur and skin are cold to the touch
  • They have trouble walking and seem to have difficulty breathing
  • Strong shivering and trembling, followed by no shivering 
  • Sleepy or lethargic behavior 
  • They seem weak and in a stupor
  • Not responsive to stimuli (treats, calling out their name, food…etc)

If your pup is experiencing the above signs, you should check for:

  • Body temperature: According to PetMD, any temperature below 100 degrees should be a concern (here’s how to take your dog’s temperature)
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Dilated pupils: the black inner circle of their eye is larger
  • Gums are paler or blue
  • Inner eyelids are blue or pale

How To Treat Dog Hypothermia

*DISCLAIMER* If you’re reading this and believe your dog is experiencing hypothermia, take them to your veterinarian for immediate care!

If your pup is experiencing any of the symptoms above, it’s important that you act fast. Treating hypothermia at home first can help increase your dog’s temperature. The goal is to get them warm as quickly as possible. 

Here is what you can do to help your pup if they are experiencing signs of hypothermia and you aren’t able to get them to a vet immediately 👇

  • Warm blankets and towels in the dryer or with a hairdryer and wrap your pup tightly 
  • Heat water or a heating pad and wrap with a towel and place it near your dog’s abdomen. Be careful to wrap it enough so it does not burn the skin. Do not leave this on your dog for more than 10 minutes at a time and do not place your dog on top of the heating pad!
  • Check your dog’s temperature every 10 minutes. If it is below 98 degrees, immediately bring them to a veterinary clinic for attention. 
  • Once your pup’s temperature reaches 100 degrees, you can remove the heating pad or water bottle in order to prevent overheating. Then check their temperature every 15-30 minutes to be sure that the symptoms have calmed down. 
  • Give your pup warm water (you may want to consider using a heated bowl in the winter months) 
a black and white dog running in some snow | Pupford

Caring for your best pal during all seasons of the year is important for their comfort, health, and overall happiness.

Keep them warm, hydrated, well-fed and exercised all winter long. (PS- Need ideas for exercising inside, check out 21 ideas here.)

A great rule of thumb is, if you are cold then your pup is cold as well! When you start to feel a chill while being outside with your dog, assume they are feeling the same way and head back inside.

Overall, we would recommend avoiding leaving them outside for more than 30 minutes (or less, depending on their tolerance for the cold). Don’t turn your nose up to the adorable doggie sweatshirts, coats, and outerwear. Your pup won’t mind playing dress-up if it keeps them warm!

Above all, we hope your pup never experiences hypothermia!

Enjoy the beautiful winter season with your dog! It’s truly the best time for some pup snuggles 😁

Have more questions about keeping your dog safe in the winter? Ask them in the comments below.

Written by Devin Stagg

Since being deprived of dogs during his childhood, he and his wife decided to make up for it by having three dogs, two Lab puppies, and one grandpa Puggle. Meaning you won’t see him not covered in dog hair. When he’s not busy training his dogs and/or picking up their poop, you can find him cheering on Tottenham Hotspur and all Cleveland sports (yes, even the Browns).

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