If you have no other recourse, you can try to warm the pet yourself, using one of three techniques: passive external, active external and active internal. Whichever you use, your goal should be to gradually raise the pet’s internal temperature -- don’t shock it by dropping it into a hot bath or placing it near a space heater or fireplace.
In addition to the familiar shaking you observe in cold animals, look for signs of hypothermia such as a low pulse, uncontrollable shivering, slow breathing, dehydration, cold skin or lack of mental faculties. If the pet is not moving and you can’t detect breathing, a pulse or heart rate, it may still be alive and respond to gradual re-warming.
If the pet has a mild case of hypothermia, it may be able to re-warm itself once you have removed it from the cold. If the pet is wet, dry it thoroughly with a towel. Once the pet is in a warm environment, shivering may create enough thermogenesis to adequately raise the pet’s inner body temperature.
If hypothermia is more serious, but still mild, you can provide more assistance to the pet, gradually raising the pet’s body temperature by working to warm the outer body. You can cover the pet with a blanket and hot water bottles, especially near areas such as the head, neck and chest. If the pet is alert, you can try a warm shower or bath. Place water bottles in blankets, rather than applying directly to the animal.
In cases of sever hypothermia, avoid external re-warming, such as wrapping the pet in a blanket or massaging its extremities. You might re-circulate cold blood from the outer areas of the body deeper into the animal and create shock. If the animal shows no signs of life, Hypothermia.org recommends beginning CPR in conjunction with your re-warming efforts. Veterinarians use additional, more complex techniques to treat severely hypothermic animals, and your best course of action may be to call a vet before you begin any attempt to help a severely hypothermic animal.
The information in this blog should not be construed as medical advice, and is provided solely for educational purposes.
For more information on animal hypothermia, visit these websites:
Hypothermia in Cats
Hypothermia in Dogs
By Sarah Zumhofe