Getting too warm or too cold can both be problems for your dog. Heatstroke is more common than hypothermia, but both are possible problems for our canine friends. Common sense will help prevent these problems, and some thoughtful care can help dogs that suffer from these ailments.
In very hot weather, you need to keep your dog quiet and cool, with plenty of fresh water and shade available. High humidity added to high temperatures is an even more deadly combination. This is no time to leave your dog in your car, which can become a fatal furnace in just a few minutes. This is also not a good time for those long games of fetch with your fanatic retriever. Your dog may not want to stop, so you have to judge and control his activity.
Normal body temperatures for dogs range from 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, normal heart rates range between 60 to 160 beats per minute, and normal respiratory rates range between 10 to 30 breaths per minute. Heart rates vary greatly with the size, age, and activity level of your dog. Hot weather and exercise can increase the breathing rate. Know your dog's normals!
A dog suffering from heatstroke will pant, have trouble breathing, and may vomit or act disoriented. The heart rate may go up, and the dog could even go into seizures and die. Dogs sweat via their footpads and pant for temperature control. Putting ice cubes in the groin area, wiping pads with ice, and dribbling cool water in the dog's mouth may be all you need to do to help him cool off. A fan is also helpful, but don't submerge your dog in an ice bath. Going too cold too fast can be dangerous, too. Try not to lower your dog's temperature below 103.5 degrees. He is safe at that temperature, and the thermometer reading will soon drop even more. If your dog has heatstroke, be sure to contact your veterinarian, even if your dog seems totally recovered. Kidney problems may show up a day or so later and other metabolic abnormalities as well.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
A dog that has been out in the cold too long, especially one that has been wet as well, may suffer from hypothermia and even get frostbite. Dogs with hypothermia may shiver and act disoriented. Their heart rates drop, and they need to be warmed up. This should be done gradually with tepid water baths or warm towels.
Frostbite will show up days later — usually in extremities such as ears, toes, and tail. Because these body parts don't have the extra tissue to keep them protected against the cold, they are the most common areas for frost-bite. These areas may feel extremely cold, and the skin might appear white. It could be days before you know if the tissues are truly dead. If they are, they will dry up and slough off. Dogs with frostbite may need antibiotics to prevent infection in the areas of damaged tissue.