Despite their furry advantage, pets can still suffer from hypothermia, extreme exposureOur winters in the past few years have lulled us into an expectation of little snow and mild temperatures. When an unexpected cold snap occurred in the last few weeks it caught many off guard and unprepared.
By: Tom Bloom, Veterinarian Columnist, River Falls Journal
Our winters in the past few years have lulled us into an expectation of little snow and mild temperatures.
When an unexpected cold snap occurred in the last few weeks it caught many off guard and unprepared.
I, too, admit that I was not thinking about how severe our winters can become. Instead my thoughts were about mild snowy days to enjoy.
When the cold began, I was snapped back to Wisconsin winter reality with an early morning knock on the back door of the clinic.
“I am in trouble with one of my dogs,” said the concerned visitor. “She can’t get up. Yesterday she hunted fine but, this morning she can’t even eat.”
Fancy was more than weak from the hunt. She was suffering from extreme exposure and subsequent hypothermia. I could not find her core body temperature which means she was below 90? F, an often fatal temperature.
Fancy was semiconscious. I could get her to respond to aggressive stimulation but nothing more. When I moved her, she resisted with clumsy uncoordinated movements accompanied by eyes that rolled without purpose in her sockets.
Fancy’s membrane color was a blue-white with a subtle hint of pink. Her heart beat without purpose allowing a productive stroke in one out of four beats.
When a heart beats with no productive pulse death is usually imminent.
I could feel a pulse in Fancy just often enough to give me some hope. Fancy was cascading down and irreversible slide towards death unless drastic measures were taken.
I excused the owner and took the needed steps.
Immediately I put two liters of intravenous saline in the microwave and warmed them to 98?. Two IV catheters were inserted, one in each leg.
I debated about four.
The IV saline was started at a high rate risking the ability of her compromised heart but, I assumed if I could warm her the fatal heart rhythm would convert to a normal productive beat.
An intubation tube was inserted into her trachea and warmed oxygen was forced through her lungs. Hot water bottles and heated towels were placed on and around her.
I also treated her for shock with heavy steroids and antibiotics intravenously.
And then I waited and watched.
Fancy suffered no frost bite because her problem was mostly exposure and she was not in good condition. When the temperatures become extreme animals outside need extra food to burn for heat. They need more calories just to keep themselves warm.
A hunting dog being used in extreme wind chills is asking for trouble unless the dog’s body condition is top notch and adequate calories are being consumed.
When wind chills reach extremes like -30?F a dog can not consume enough regular dog food to stay warm. Performance foods should be fed that are very dense in calories often containing 50% more calories per ounce than regular dog foods.
Hunting in extreme times is dangerous and most likely should be avoided but short hunts with dogs that are well conditioned in good flesh should be OK if the dog is not overworked.
After the hunt a dog should be kept in a warm area out of the wind. A small insulated dog house will be fine but if it is really extreme it would be better to have the house in a shed.
A well conditioned acclimated hunting dog can tolerate some very difficult weather but it must be maintained for this extreme demand.
Fancy spent four days struggling in our clinic. It was 36 hours before Fancy could maintain her own body temperature with out support.
She did not stand for two days. On her first attempt to eat 36 hours later she vomited the meal along with some lining of her stomach. Her first stool was accompanied by small bowel lining that she sloughed as a result of poor blood flow.
Her heart converted to a normal rhythm in four hours when we finally got her temperature above 94?.
Fancy urinated within 12 hours of starting support and everyone in the clinic was happy to confirm some kidney function.
Miraculously just a few degrees from death, Fancy went home on day four pulling on her leash as if ready for the next hunt.
We are hopeful subsequent tests will confirm a complete internal recovery.More from around the web
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