Issue Description Hypothermia occurs when the core body
temperature falls below the normal range (99 to 100 degrees
Fahrenheit). This occurs when heat loss exceeds heat production.
Causes Loss of body heat occurs through four
Conduction is an exchange of heat between two objects of different
temperatures, such as from the warm dog to the cold rock upon which he
Convection is the loss of heat due to the movement of air from
around the body. An example of Convection is when wind carries away
warmed air from around the dog and replaces it with colder air which
the dog then needs to warm back up.
Radiation is known as the transfer of heat by an infrared process
between two objects of different temperatures.
Evaporation of water from the skin, mucous membranes, and through
the respiratory passages is also a significant source of heat loss.
Symptoms Hypothermia can be divided into 3
Mild: Above 36 C or 96 F. Shivering is increased. Lethargy and
increased muscle tone are noted.
Moderate: 32-34 C or 90-94 F. Typified by stupor, incoordination ,
loss of shivering reflex, and unconsciousness.
Severe: 28-26 C or 82-86 F. Collapse, agonal breathing, and fixed,
Treatment Field treatment of hypothermia focuses on
prevention of further heat loss. Passive rewarming includes insulating
from cold surfaces, gently drying the dog; wrapping in blankets,
towels or "space blanket"; and body to body contact. It is not
necessary the handler to remove all of his own clothing, but curl
around the dog so that there is as much body contact as possible
depending on the size of the dog. Covering both with a sleeping bag,
or jacket will help prevent further heat loss. Watch carefully for
painful rewarming reactions as the dog may strike out and injure the
handler or itself. Active external rewarming is applied only to the
thorax (the core) of the dog. Methods used include: a circulating warm
water blanket wrapping only the thorax; a warm water bath, taking care
to leave the extremities and head out; heat packs and hot water
bottles placed around the dog to create a warm tent of air; and heat
lamps and floor heaters. The treatment needs to take place in a
controlled environment where the temperature of the water and the dog
can be closely monitored. Precautions include: monitoring the hot
water bottles to insure that the heat does not flux back from the dog
to the bottles; avoiding direct contact with skin to prevent
possibility of burns; and placing a thermometer between the lamps and
the dog. Internal rewarming is generally reserved for severely
hypothermic animals and includes: warmed IV fluids and inspired air;
peritoneal dialysis; and flushing stomach or rectum with warm isotonic
fluids. This is only done in a hospital setting under the care of a
Prevention For handlers who frequent working their dogs in
cold weather conditions, these addtions to their first aid kits should
1. Absorbent towels for drying dog;
2. Space blanket or other heat reflective blanket;
3. Thick sport weight or wool socks (kid's size to fit paws) 2 pair;
4. Cold weather dog jacket if appropriate for dog;
5. Vaseline based ointment.
Prevention of frostbite and hypothermia is possible by observing your
dog frequently and providing the necessary support before trouble
arrives. If your dog does not have an adequate coat, provide it with
an artificial coat. Have a pad to insulate the dog from the cold
ground when it must be in one place. Make sure that when you take a
break and warm up, you get out the pad and give food and water. Check
the temperature of the ears, scrotum and face, watching for signs of
frostbite. As the "thinking" 1/2 of the team, it is the handler's
responsibility to monitor the canine partner.