Hypothermia In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

If your pet doesn't have enough from his fur or fat, the body is vulnerable to exposure and may require surgery. Hypothermia usually occurs due to a lack of foresight from the owners and, if not acted on in time, could result in death.
Hypothermia In Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment
Eugenio Fernández Suárez

Written and verified by the vet Eugenio Fernández Suárez.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Hypothermia in dogs is something that every dog owner should be aware of, especially during the winter months. This condition takes place when your dog’s body temperature drops at a deadly degree.

When does hypothermia in dogs occur?

Hypothermia in dogs occurs when the body temperature drops to 32 degrees Celcius. A dog’s normal body temperature should be around 38 degrees Celcius, which is somewhat higher than human’s. However, a temperature below 35 degrees is cause for concern.

Your dog’s body temperature might drop due to the outdoor temperature being very low. Even if it’s not that cold out, puppies are especially vulnerable to developing hypothermia. 

Hypothermia in dogs following an operation

Your dog can also develop hypothermia after a surgical procedure. Veterinarians often have to open the abdominal cavity for many operations.

During operations, the internal organs are exposed to a temperature lower than their body temperature. This is especially dangerous during long operations because the organs are not protected by fat, skin, and fur.

This is why there are post-surgical surveillance periods, where your dog will remain under observation for at least an hour in the clinic. They will monitor the animal’s temperature to ensure it rises. They also make sure it is not rising too quickly. Ideally, it should rise one degree per hour.

Normally, in veterinary hospitals, this condition is avoided by using electric blankets and heating in the hospital room.

A dog using an electric blanket

What are the symptoms?

In general, hypothermia in dogs starts to develop by signs of weakness or tremors and obviously a drop in body temperature. You can check your dog’s temperature by inserting a human thermometer in your pet’s anus.

Severe cases of hypothermia have signs of muscle stiffness and difficulty breathing. In addition, you will notice a decrease in pulse due to it being difficult to find. Severe hypothermia will eventually lead to a coma and death.

You can also test for hypothermia in dogs by checking their ears. If you see some of the symptoms but don’t have a thermometer, you can feel your dog’s ears.

Cold ears and tremors may indicate that your dog is beginning to develop hypothermia. The cold can also produce symptoms similar to those of dehydration in the skin. Tight, dry skin can also be a symptom.

How to treat it?

You will need to raise the animal’s body temperature. In a mild case, taking your pet to warm place and cover him with a blanket is enough. If you do this, then be sure to check if his body temperature increases.

However, in more serious cases, you will need heaters and immediately take him to the vet. If you don’t take action quick enough, it could cost you your pet’s life.

Dog dressed up for the snow is sitting on a snowy bench

Hypothermia is especially serious when it causes problems in mobility because it can damage their paws and cause the muscle to weaken and paralysis.

If your dog is having problems moving around after spending the day in the cold, you should immediately take him to the veterinarian.

If you are going somewhere cold, you can help protect your dog from the cold by using coats specially designed for pets. You should always keep in mind when to use pet clothes.

Remember, having your dog dress up — just because you might think it makes him look cute — is very unpleasant for your dog. However, it’s totally different if you’re using them to protect your dog from the cold and rain.

Finally, as always, even though being informed is important, any issues with your pet’s health should be handled by qualified professionals.


The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.