The Brrr is On: Protect Your Pet From Exposure to Freezing Temperature

In Dog Behavior, Dog CPR, Dog Jobs, dog training, dog walker, Pet First Aid, Pet Safety, Winter and Pets by Cara Armour

By Arden Moore

When I moved to Dallas, Texas several years ago, I expected to endure hot temperatures starting in the late spring and continuing through the early fall. But I didn’t expect Texas, as well as other states in the country with warm climate reputations, to be socked by bitter cold temperatures this winter.

Play it Safe – keep them warm

To play it safe, I place my dogs, Kona, my terrier mix; and Emma, my toy poodle-Chihuahua mix; in proper fitting canine coats and sweaters before taking them out in the fenced backyard for potty breaks and for brief neighborhood walks when the sun is shining. I also inspect them when we come back in, paying close attention to any ice buildup in between their paw pads.

Most of the nation is blanketed by snow, ice and freezing cold right now. And that can spell the dangerous condition of hypothermia in our dogs and cats. Keep in mind that our pets’ healthy body temperature ranges between 100 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit – about two degrees above ours.

Watch Out for These Warning Signs

When that body’s core temperature starts to drop, the risk of hypothermia increases. Here are the warning signs:
• Intense body shivering
• Trouble breathing
• Stiff muscles
• Weakness
• Gums turning bluish
• Swollen skin

Long-term exposure to the bitter cold can also make the situation worse for pets who young, old or dealing with a chronic health condition, such as circulatory issues, heart disease, kidney disease and hypothyroidism.


Have an Action Plan

As I teach in our Pro Pet Hero instructor course, on-the-scene pet first aid is crucial. The action plan calls for you to:
• Get your pet out of the direct cold, ideally inside your warm house.
• Wrap the pet in a blanket or towel – or inside your coat for small pets.
• Use warm water – not hot water – in a sink or tub to melt away ice or de-icing chemicals in the paws and coat. Never use hot water as it can trigger shock in a pet who may have hypothermia.
• Hug your pet for body heat but do not rub his skin. You risk damaging more skin to a pet who may be developing frostbite. The skin is the body’s largest organ and damage to the skin can overtax the body’s immune system and impact other body systems.
• Monitor your pet’s vital signs.

The definition of pet first aid is to provide on-the-scene care, stabilize the pet and safely transport to the nearest veterinary hospital. Always call ahead so the veterinary team can prepare for immediate treatment for your pet.

Depending on the severity of the exposure to sub-freezing temperatures to your pet, the veterinary team is likely to give your pet warm intravenous (IV) fluids, monitor his heart with an electrocardiogram, wrap him in warming blankets that circular warm air around the body and give warm oxygen therapy.

Bottom Line

While a lot of attention seems to focus on preventing pets from getting overheated or developing heat stroke during summer months, do not overlook the equal dangers to your pet of developing hypothermia during the winter cold months.

Quick Tip for Cold Temps

If you and your dog love taking hikes year-old, pack a Mylar blanket on winter hikes. This lightweight blanket can be used to warm your dog. It can also melt snow to collect water to drink.

Learn Pet First Aid

Learn more about ways to keep your cats and dogs safe by visiting Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR – ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home page for more details.