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What is Low Body Temperature?
Hypothermia is the term for an abnormally low body temperature. At below normal temperature levels, the body’s physiologic and metabolic functions are depressed. An irregular heartbeat, trouble breathing, and impaired consciousness to the point of coma may result.
Symptoms of Low Body Temperature in Dogs
- Heat-seeking/burrowing in blankets
- Mental depression
- Shallow breathing
- Stiff movement
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Labored breathing
- Slow, weak heartbeat
- Fixed and dilated pupils
- Unconsciousness or coma
TypesHypothermia may be classified by cause:
- Primary hypothermia: The body exhibits normal heat production. Low body temperature results from exposure to low environmental temperatures.
- Secondary hypothermia: The body exhibits abnormal heat production as a result of injury, illness, or drugs.
- Mild: Body temperature of 90 - 99°F (32 - 35°C)
- Moderate: Body temperature of 82 - 90°F (28 - 32°C)
- Severe: Body temperature less than 82°F (28°C)
Causes of Low Body Temperature in Dogs
- Exposure to external cold, wet and/or extreme drafts can result in heat loss.
- Smaller animals have high surface-area-to-body-mass ratios and are more susceptible.
- Injury can prevent seeking heat and/or thermoregulation
- Certain drugs such as those used for anesthesia in surgery can inhibit the body’s ability to regulate temperature.
- Newborn pups are more susceptible to hypothermia even at normal room temperatures.
- Geriatric pets can be more susceptible to hypothermia.
- Hypothalamic disease affects the brain’s regulation of body temperature and can contribute to heat loss.
- Hypothyroidism, low thyroid hormone production, can contribute to heat loss.
Diagnosis of Low Body Temperature in Dogs
The best chance of recovery from hypothermia comes with early diagnosis and treatment. If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of hypothermia such as heat-seeking, weakness, lethargy, or others mentioned above, carefully and gently wrap the pet in blankets and transport them to the veterinarian.
At the veterinarian, a mercury or digital rectal or auricular thermometer will be used to measure the pet’s body temperature. A thorough history will often be obtained to aid in determining the possible causes of the observed symptoms. A physical examination for heartbeat irregularities or abnormal breathing can establish whether the hypothermia is mild, moderate or severe.
Blood tests may be performed to determine possible alternative contributors to the hypothermia such as the presence of drugs, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, or other physical disorders. Analysis of the urine can also reveal possible reasons for abnormal thermoregulation. The veterinarian may choose to monitor the pet’s heart rhythms with an electrocardiogram (EKG).
Treatment of Low Body Temperature in Dogs
Therapeutic goals are directed toward rewarming the patient and preventing additional body heat loss. The body can be safely rewarmed at 0.5-1.5 degrees Celsius per hour. Three rewarming techniques are available and used according to the degree of hypothermia severity.
- Passive External Rewarming
- In mild hypothermia, the animal’s own metabolism continues to produce heat. Blankets or other insulating covers will aid in preventing further heat loss. Natural body functions such as shivering will also contribute to rewarming.
- Active External Rewarming
- Moderate cases of hypothermia require the use of external heat sources such as hot water bottles, heating pads and radiant heaters.
- Active Internal Rewarming
- Severe cases of hypothermia require the use of invasive warming. Administration of warm intravenous (IV) fluids can aid in bringing body temperatures back to normal levels. Oxygen administration may also be used to promote recovery.
- Treatment risks:
- Rewarming must be conducted carefully and body temperature monitored constantly to avoid complications.
- After drop is a phenomenon seen as the body temperature continues to decrease during rewarming. Rewarmed blood moves to the extremities, pushing cold blood from the extremities inward to core organs.
- Rewarming shock can result from rapid rewarming causing a sudden drop in blood pressure. Combined with low cardiac output, this can potentially further compromise the circulatory system.
Recovery of Low Body Temperature in Dogs
Recovery from hypothermia can be complete if the condition is diagnosed early and treated. Follow up appointments at and/or two weeks following treatment may be suggested to monitor the patient for any long-term complications.
In moderate to severe cases, long-term damage can occur to organs that were not supplied with sufficient circulation while at low body temperature. The extent of long-term damage may not be detectable for days or weeks post-treatment. The veterinarian may suggest various follow up appointments to monitor physiologic processes post-treatment for hypothermia.
Patients who are at high risk for hypothermia may require long-term care, such as incubation, to keep the body temperature stable.
Cost of Low Body Temperature in Dogs
Low Body Temperature can be an expensive treatment in dogs and can range from $500.00 to $3000.00 depending on the cost of living and severity of your Dog's low body temperature. On average, the national cost of treating low body temperature in dogs is $750.00.
Low Body Temperature in Dogs Treatment Advice
Low Body Temperature Questions and Advice
My dog was in a fight last night her heart beatsv148 in 15 sec.she. her temperature is 98.8 she will not eat drink move gyms are gums are dark but I do get white when touch I think she's in shock she is a rescue who was skittish I brought her a long way from scared to happy home now my female lab beat her
With the high heart rate, darkness of the gums and general lethargy and reluctance to drink the cause may be due to excessive pain, dehydration, shock, loss of blood (internal bleeding) or all four of these; this should be treated as a medical emergency and you should visit your regular Veterinarian or Emergency Veterinarian as soon as possible to stabilise Jema’s condition. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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Hi, my pet is 8 years old. From the past 2 weeks, he is not eating anything, meat or dog food, milk or any liquid. He is fainted, lethargic now and shivering. His body temperature has now slightly dropped and is currently 101"F. Be informed that he was blind 6 months before and his veterinarian said it is due to age factor. Need your advice please.
There are various causes for a loss of appetite including infection, gastrointestinal obstruction, tumours, liver disease, autoimmune disease, pain or poisoning; Penzi has a temperature of 101ºF which is within the normal range of 100-104ºF, but if the temperature is falling slowly keep an eye on it. In this case, since Penzi is lethargic and has fainted, an emergency visit to your Veterinarian would be required to determine the underlying cause of the loss of appetite so that treatment can be directed. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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Our boxer is approximately 7 years old and has been having incidents where she becomes very lethargic..just stand with her head down as though in a daze. Also pants and feels cold to the touch. Will not eat but drinks a lot of water. Seems like at these times her vision is affected as she is afraid to step down as though she can't judge the distance. Very uncomfortable and can't rest easily. These spells last nearly a whole day and then she seems fine again. Any idea what this is?
Sometimes dogs may feel cold to the touch due to their hair making a difference in temperature between the skin and your hand; a rectal thermometer is the only reliable way of judging temperature. It is possible that Abbie has an hormonal condition causing these symptoms which can have effects on appetite, activity and behaviour; a visit to your Veterinarian for an examination during an episode would help determine the cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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Low Body Temperature in Dogs Treatment Experiences
I was freaking out when my dachshund Julez started breathing slowly and shivering when we were out for an early morning hike on a camping trip. We rushed her to the car and covered her with blankets to her core and rubbed her paws (not sure if that did anything). Her breathing returned to normal around 45 minutes later. It was frightening to say the least.
Dog was left outside on accident in cold weather for a few hours (it started snowing). We realized once we got home. We brought him inside, covered in blankets, put a thermal pad on his stomach between the blankets, and started a fire. He was OK in a few hours but we were worried. He was shivering non-stop and couldn't walk very well.
A new litter arrived and the mother kept a distance from one of the newborns. We realized this a bit late, and because a newborn has absolutely no control over her own body temperature, we had to move her to a heat lamp. Luckily it had only been around 20 minutes before we realized it. Advice to anyone breeding or with a pregnant dog, watch the litter, they need to be around mama to keep their heat.
Not mine, but heard a story about some lady that left her dog outside in the snow (absolute animal cruelty). If you wouldn't stay outside in the weather without protection, don't leave your dog out there. Hypothermia is no joke, especially during the winter time.
dog healed quick when I put her in a blanket.. recovered in less than an hour.. no eason for a vet visit
Our Corgi likes to eat snow. We had just received a light dusting outside and he ate too much of the stuff. We were only out for 10 minutes or so. He started shivering as soon as we came inside. His tongue and gums were very cold and pale. We wrapped him in the heated blanket on our bed, and I snuggled and rubbed on his neck for close to an hour until he stopped shaking. After he warmed up he was back to his normal sassy self. We had probably 5 potty breaks over the next two hours.
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The statements expressed are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified by your local veterinarian.