Recently in the Baltimore area a blizzard hit with extreme conditions. The Baltimore area has not experienced the amounts of snow this winter season has brought to the area in many years. During the blizzard everyone knows to stay inside and of course that should include our pets. But as common sense turns into panic that your snowed in and must immediately dig out your car to go get milk, toilet paper, beer or cigarettes you might have accidently just left your dog or cat outside. If this is you and you just got back to find that special someone left outside, don't panic, first of all animals have a much lower body temperature than we have, but the cold can still give them hypothermia or frostbite! Hypothermia is a lowering of the body temperature, it is a condition of general body cooling in contrast to frostbite which is localized. Hypothermia can be mild body temperature (86-89F or 30-32C), moderate (71-77F or 22-25C), and severe (32-46.5F or 0-8C). These temperatures are considered low rectal temperatures. Some signs are pulse (slow to none); breathing (slow to none); mental status (responsive to unconsciousness); cold skin; low rectal temperature. If you observe your animal shivering that is an example of themogenesis, it is the simplest and slowest re-warming method your animals' body does that should alert you they are cold. There are three warming techniques ( passive external, active external, and active internal). Passive external examples are for mild hypothermia and include warming with a blanket , hot water bottle, hair dryer, etc... Active external examples are for moderate hypothermia and include warm not hot water in a shower or bath, and or wet warm towels. Active internal examples include breathing into the animals mouth with warm air, a small amount of warm water or fluids if the animal can drink. Always immediately contact your veterinarian with an emergency.
Frostbite is the actual destruction of tissue. Most always external parts such as tail, paws, ears, etc... Unlike hypothermia frostbite must be warmed quickly, do not rub affected areas of frostbite as the red area may bleed and is extremely painful at the touch. Do not use hot water on any area you think might be affected by frostbite. Always use warm water on the affected area console your pet and consult your veterinarian immediately. There are many of us who ignore our own signs of health troubles especially when we are outside shoveling thousands of pounds of snow, but don't forget while your back, hands, feet and heart are cramping and you can't stand up anymore, remember you left your pet outside to watch now they just might be frozen. Also, if you bought a cute leather jacket or coat for your pet unless it's waterproof it won't help. You can read more about Hypothermia and Frostbite here.