QUESTION:My springy little mutt, “Sandy,” just loves winter! Whenever it snows, she runs right outside to play. We had an early snowstorm just before Halloween, and I let her out to play. When she came back in after about an hour, she was whimpering and limping. I didn’t see any cuts on her paws, but she was shivering quite a bit. I wrapped her in a towel and held her on my lap for a while. I guessing she got cold and scared, but that has never happened to her before. She usually stays outside for at least an hour and I have to call her back in. -- Daryl J., Leominster, Massachusetts 

answer: You did the right thing by checking Sandy as she came inside and warming her up. If she doesn’t display any unusual behavior going forward, then your first guess is correct, that she got mild hypothermia from being out in the snow.

Pets need to acclimate to changing temperatures in the fall and winter. A cold snap in the fall can feel more bitter than colder but steady winter temperatures. 

Other factors can also put a dog at risk for hypothermia. Make sure that Sandy always has water in her bowl, and that water is available during her outside romps, as hydration helps to maintain body temperature. Excessively wet or snowy conditions can speed heat loss. Providing a sheltered spot outdoors will give Sandy a place to take breaks and dry out. 

A cold injury can take longer to recover from than we realize. For now, limit Sandy’s time outside in the cold to about 30 minutes, and check on her every 10 minutes. If she is shivering or whimpering, bring her inside. And if you have continuing concerns, don’t hesitate to contact the veterinarian.

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