What An Animal Experiences As It Freezes To Death

Cold Weather will be here this weekend. If you have not taken the time to make sure that any animal you have outside has adequate shelter from the freezing cold, you need to do it now. 

Common Sense says any shelter you provide should have a floor a min of 6 inches off the ground. The floor needs to be insulated and the walls and top of the shelter thick enough to provide adequate in protecting the animal from the freezing temperature and wind. The animal should have some type of bedding such as straw (NOT HAY) or a heating lamp inside. 

Here is a very good guideline as to whether your animal has adequate protection.


In order for you to see and feel the urgency of getting an animal to adequate shelter from the cold, I have taken the time to explain to you what the animal goes through as it freezes to death., unless it is gotten inside and given medical attention in time.

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What An Animal Experiences As It Begins To Freeze To Death

Freezing to death is something that you never want to experience. I am going to describe here according to the medical profession just what happens to the body when any animal or human gets  hypothermia. After this description you can decide for yourself if it is cruel for an owner of any animal to subject it or them to this type of pain and eventual death.

The body has ways of trying to protect itself from the cold, but if exposed to freezing temperatures for too long, it's game over. Hypothermia can occur when it's not freezing outside, if you're wet or do not have adequate shelter. (According to one of the top Vet Schools in the nation, any animal left without adequate shelter has a great possibility of dying at 20 degrees windchill factor and if wet it can be above freezing temperatures)

Blood Flow In the Animal's Capillaries Begin To Constrict

In cold temperatures the body prioritizes trying to keep the internal organs warm. Blood flow in the capillaries which are close to the surface of the skin begin to constrict as the exposure continues. Within a few minutes the legs, torso and paws start to feel the cold gradually resulting in stinging, burning, numbing pain as the web of surface capillaries start to send blood coursing away from the skin and extremities deeper into the body. The Body is now allowing the extremities to freeze in an attempt to keep its vital organs warm.

The Animal's Heart Rate and Respiratory Rate Accelerate

At the same time the body is starting to restrict the capillaries, the heart rate speeds up, the breathing becomes accelerated and the blood pressure is now rising.

The Animal Starts To Shiver

As the body reaches 97 degrees, the muscles along the neck and shoulders begin to tighten in what’s known as "Pre-Shivering Muscle Tone". Sensors have signaled the temperature control center in the animal's hypothalamus, which in turn orders the constriction of the entire body's surface capillaries into full constriction. The Body starts to shiver violently in an effort to generate additional heat by contracting its muscles rapidly,  at 95 degrees "Mild Hypothermia" is starting to set in.

The Animal's Body Is Now Producing More Urine

As Mild Hypothermia begins to set in, the body begins to produce more urine because of the increased blood flow to its vital organs. The Animal will then start to feel like it needs to pee. This feeling continues to get worse as the Hypothermia increases, causing the body to lose control of its bladder. Then animal has now urinated on it's self, wet from the urine, this makes the hypothermia speed up. Eventually, the muscles will start to stiffen even more, making it difficult for the animal to move.

 The Animal Is Now Starting To Get Confused

The animal has now slid into the temperature range where the enzymes in its brain is starting to become less efficient. With every one-degree drop in its body temperature below 95, the cerebral metabolic rate falls off by 3 to 5 percent. When its core temperature reaches 93 degrees, mental function becomes even more severe and how to protect it self slips into amnesia, and nibbles at it consciousness. At 90 degrees a "Hypothermia Stupor" has now set in.

The Animal Has Now Crossed The Boundary Into "Profound Hypothermia"

By the time its body core temperature has fallen to 88 degrees, it's  body has abandoned the urge to warm itself by shivering. It's  blood is thickening like crankcase oil in a cold engine. The oxygen consumption, a measure of  metabolic rate, has fallen now by more than 25%.  The kidneys, however, start to work overtime to process the fluid overload that is occurring as the blood vessels continue to constrict and squeeze fluids toward the body's core. The Body again begins to urinate soaking the animal even more and increasing the freeze rate of the body.

The Animal's Heart Rate And Breathing Is Now Slowing Down Dramatically

At 86 degrees, the heart, its electrical impulses hampered by chilled nerve tissues, becomes arrhythmic. It is now pumping less than two-thirds the normal amount of blood. The lack of oxygen and the slowing metabolism of your brain causes the animal to hallucinate.

The Animal Has Now Entered Into The Late Stages of Hypothermia

Sometimes during this period there is a phenomenon that occurs called "Terminal Burrowing." Using every bit of its last remaining strength to preserve its life, it will spring up and try to get into any small enclosed space for warmth. One explanation for this behavior is that it's triggered by the most primitive part of the brain—the brain stem—as a survival instinct. The burrowing behavior occurs right before the animal loses consciousness. The heart rate and breathing rate are so slow that staying awake is now impossible.

At This Point The Organs Shut Down

At 85 degrees the vital organs will start to fail and thankfully death follows ending the agony.


31 Reviews
Blue Earth, MN
My dog froze to death

We had deep snow and subzero temps the day before Valentine’s Day in 2020. I got all three of our dogs into the dog park but when we were ready to leave the gate would not open due to the deep snow and a problem with the latch. So I lifted each dog over the chain link fence. All three of them ran off which surprised me because they had been waiting by the gate, already cold and ready to go home I thought. Only two returned. I assumed that the third had been hit by a car as I waited for a call from the police. My wife kept driving back to the dog park, where they sometimes return when they get loose. I stayed home hoping for a scratch at the door. No call ... until 25 days later. His frozen body was spotted on the grounds of the canning factory on the other side of town. I’m still grieving the loss of the best four legged buddy that I’ve ever had. It was horrible to find out that he had frozen to death but not knowing was even worse.

March 2020

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Katy Tx 77449
Need stricter laws

My neighbors 2 dogs live outside ???? percent of the time. They have no dog house at all. Since they have a covered patio animal laws will not help the dogs at all. I feel so bad for the poor dogs and hope they live through the cool n rain. I have asked if their dogs can come sleep at my house but the owner said they are fine. So far they are still alive. I wish there was something more I could do but I don’t know what. Thank you for posting this and I will share on Nextdoor hoping they will read this.

January 2020

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I have a malamute, hes built for the winter.. but I would never leave him 0ut long enough even if it's what he wants. This is very heart breaking that people have the need to leave dogs outside because they dont want them in their house, then dont have one!

December 2019

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31 Reviews

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17 Jan 2019

By Trader