Pet Winter Safety: Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Taylor winter pic 2

When cats and dogs are exposed to the cold for too long, their body temperature – which is usually between 101°F and 102.5°F – can drop fatally. Here’s what you need to know as you keep a close eye on your pets in winter.

Signs of hypothermia symptoms in dogs and cats include violent shivering, followed by listlessness, weak pulse, lethargy, muscle stiffness, problems breathing, lack of appetite, rectal temperature below 98°F, coma and cardiac arrest.

Treatment for hypothermia can be simple but should be applied with caution. First, bring your pet into a warm room, then give your pet a solution of four teaspoons of honey or sugar dissolved in warm water to drink. You can also put one or two teaspoons of corn syrup on their gums if your pet is too weak to drink. This provides an immediate energy boost.

Place warm, towel-wrapped water bottles against your pet’s abdomen or at the armpits and chest, then wrap her in a blanket. These blankets may be warmed in a dryer prior to wrapping around you pet. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a hypothermic pet, because this can cause burns or make surface blood vessels dilate, which compromises circulation to vital organs. Call your veterinarian immediately.

The best way to manage hypothermia is to avoid it. Always provide warm, dry shelter for pets when they’re outdoors.

Signs of frostbite in dogs and cats

Frostbite happens when a part of your pet’s body freezes. For cats, that may involve the paws, tail or ears; for dogs, the tail, ears, foot pads or scrotum. Severe winter weather, especially when windy or humid, can lead to frostbite. Watch for pale, gray, or blue skin at first; red, puffy skin later; pain in ears, tail, or paws when touched; skin that stays cold; and shriveled skin.

Treatment for frostbite should begin immediately. Apply warm (not hot) water for at least 20 minutes to the frostbitten area. Do not use hair dryers, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm up a frostbitten pet as this may cause burns. Handle the affected areas very carefully; don’t rub or massage them because it could cause permanent damage. Call your vet immediately.

When the temperature gets frigid, keep your pets’ safety in mind. Just like us, our feline and canine friends need shelter, warmth, food and care. Limit outdoor play time for your four-legged babies just as you would for your two-legged tots.