A well-trained retriever will trust and obey you completely. This makes it our responsibility to not put our retrievers in dangerous situations. Allowing your dog to retrieve on ice is just asking for trouble. For those that do not know, ice is always thinner toward the middle of a pond or river than on the edge, and it is never a good idea to send your dog to retrieve a bird downed on the ice.
If your retriever becomes trapped in sub-freezing water, it will not take long for her to become hypothermic. Most dogs become trapped in these situations when they are not able to get back up after falling through weak ice. Constant submersion in such water temperatures only requires a few minutes for core body temperature to drop so low that you will pass out. Most fatalities from freezing water occur from drowning after their body temperatures, and ability to swim, plummet rapidly sending them to an icy grave.
That being said, it doesn't have to be freezing for hypothermia to occur. Wind chill and constant exposure can also lead to hypothermic producing conditions. Symptoms of hypothermia follow a predictable pattern. The first symptom will be shivering, as the body tries to warm itself. This will progress to weakness, stiffness, and stupor. In the final stages of hypothermia the dog may lapse in to unconsciousness or coma, possibly leading to death.
If you believe that your retriever may be hypothermic, take immediate action to warm him up. If your truck is nearby leave everything and take the dog to the truck. Warm the truck up and put your dog in the floorboard under the heat or blow the heat out the vents toward the dog on the seat. In lieu of a warm truck, build a fire to produce some heat. Vigorously rub your dog. Preferably with a dry towel, but you're not necessarily rubbing to dry him off, as much as you're rubbing to create friction and produced heat and stimulation.
If you have a thermal blanket (the mylar sheets â€” not the plug-in electric type) in your emergency kit, you can use this as a thermal shield to reflect the heat of a fire or create a small warming chamber in the truck. This is much more effective than simply wrapping him up in the blanket. Of course, if no heat source is available or you will need to carry him a long distance to a vehicle, wrapping him is beneficial and will help trap body heat. If this is the case, even if you have him wrapped continue to rub vigorously to warm and stimulate him through the blanket.
You will know that you are making some progress by watching symptoms reverse themselves until eventually your retriever beings to shiver. This means that the temperature have risen to the point that the brain once again recognizes that he is cold and needs to warm up.
Most long-term hypothermic damage occurs to organs (such as the brain) that have not received adequate blood flow during the event, in which case it may be several days or weeks before you or your veterinarian know the entire extent of the damage.
info on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hypothermia in hunting dogs;
Canine Hypothermia Part 1
".... It doesnâ€™t have to be frigid conditions for a dog to show signs of hypothermia, exposure in cold water with some wind is all that is needed. Over the next few days we will discuss the signs and symptoms of canine hypothermia, the treatment if your dog is showing signs, and common sense ways to prevent it; but first I want to provide some basic information of what hypothermia is
Hypothermia is when the core body temperature drops due to exposure to cold. It can be deadly if ignored. A dogs normal body temperature is 101-102 degrees Farenheit. Hypothermia occurs once a dogâ€™s temperature, taken with a rectal thermometer, drops below 97 degrees. The temperature outside does not have to be below freezing for this to occur. In fact studies have show that 55 degree water, with 40 degree air temps and 10 mph winds are prime conditions for hypothermia to occur in a dog. Most of us duck hunters have all hunted in much worse conditions than these.
Canine Hypothermia Part II- Signs and Symptoms
Hypothermia can be divided into 3 categories or stages.
1) Mild: The dog begins to shiver and connot control the shivering. Your dog will begin to act lethargic or tired. Typically at this stage the dogs temperature is between 96-99 degrees F.
2) Moderate: Once a dogâ€™s temperature falls into the 90-95 degree F. range it lose itâ€™s ability to shiver. The dog will lose coordination and appear clumsy, at this point the dog may lose consciousnous. If it gets to this point, your dog lifeâ€™s is in serious danger.
3) Severe: 82-90 degrees F. At this point your dog will have collapsed, it will have trouble breathing, the pupils will be dilated and the dog will be unresponsive. If hypothermia gets to this point it is critical that the dog be warmed quickly and taken to an emergency vet center.
Like most things, if you pick up on the signs early, it is very treatable and will have no long suffering effects on the dog. Keep and eye on your pup when itâ€™s cold out so you can be sure he can share the blind with you again next time.
Canine Hypothermia Part III- Treatment
So now that we know what the signs and symptoms are we notice that are dog is shivering and seems clumsy and uncoordinated. Hypothermia is suspected, so we grab our Field First-Aid kit and check the dogâ€™s temperature; itâ€™s 94 degrees F. What now?
At this point the number one factor is to remove the dog form exposure to cold, and prevent any further heat loss. For most of us duck hunters that will mean drying the dog. Use towels, your coat, anything you can that will absorb the water from the dog. The next step is get the dog out of the wind. If you are in a blind this will not be too difficult, but if you are hutning from a boat or in flooded timber you may want to use your coat to make a wind block for the dog. Body to body contact can help as well. This doensâ€™t mean you have to get naked and huddle with the dog, but pulling the dog close or opening your coat and huddling with the dog will help the dog warm up. If you can get the dog to your truck, put the dog in the floor board, crank the truck and use the heater. This is about all that can eb done in the field, but anytime you have to do any of this an emergency vet visit is needed. Once at the vetâ€™s office their are number of things they cna do like warm fluid IVâ€™s and flushing stomach or rectum with warm isotonic fluids.
Canine Hypothermia Part IV- Prevention
Perhaps the easiest way to deal with hypothermia and your dog is to aviod it. This does not mean you cancel those cold weather duck hunts, but a few precautions should be taken when the mercury drops.
The first thing is transporting a dog to the field. If you have a dog box, put cedar shavings in the box to help insulate it. If you use the plastic or wire crates, use an insulated kennel cover. This will keep the cold wind of the dog as you drive to your hunting location.
Once you arive, put a neoprene vest on your dog. The neoprene vest does a great job at keeping the body warm even when wet. There are several manufactures and several models to choose from.
Keep the dog from sitting in the water. Sititng in the cold water will zap the warmth right out of the dog; so use a dog stand or find a spot in the boat or blind that is dry for the dog to sit.
Keep your wet dog out of the wind.
Dry the dog often. Try and help keep the dog dry, use towles, or better yet a chamois cloth, to dry the dog off when the shooting slows down.
Keep a bumper in your blind bag. If itâ€™s bitte rcold and the shooting is slow, throw bumper (on land) a few times and let the dog run some to retrieve it. Just getting the dog up and getting the blood flowing will help add warmth.
Hypothermia is serious and kills hunting dogs every year. Knowing the signs and symptoms, having some basic knowledge of first level treatment may one day save your dogâ€™s life. There is no better cure than prevention, so use good sense when the temperatures are cold, and you and your buddy can enjoy a lot more cold mornings together."
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