When living in a region where snow and cold weather are common in the wintertime, it is important to know about frostbite in dogs. Prevention is key and treatment needs to be swift. Dog frostbite can lead to your pet having serious and even life-threatening complications if the right actions are not swiftly taken. Be aware of the temperature outside this winter!
What is Frostbite?
Frostbite is damage caused to a dog’s skin and tissues due to extreme cold. Dogs are susceptible to frostbite in temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
Your dog’s breed can affect how susceptible they are to frostbite. Cold weather breeds, such as huskies and malamutes, are less prone to getting frostbite. However, they can still get it as the bottoms of their paws have less fur than their bodies. In addition, the time your dog spends out in the cold can cause frostbite. If left untreated, frostbite can turn into hypothermia.
Hypothermia is when an animal’s body temperature drops drastically. This is almost always caused by cold weather. Hypothermia slows the heart rate and breathing which can cause other health problems as well.
Hypothermia can be caused by frostbite in pets whose paws are not protected. Hypothermia can also cause frostbite. Dogs are at risk for hypothermia if exposed to temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
Causes of Frostbite
When cold temperatures threaten, blood vessels constrict and narrow. They do this to preserve core temperature. Unfortunately, it leaves the toes (or paws) and other outer parts unprotected. The tissue freezes in these areas and causes damage.
The longer a dog is out in the cold the more affected they will be by the temperature. Frostbite can turn to hypothermia very quickly.
The most vulnerable parts of your dog are:
Small dogs, short haired dogs, puppies, and senior dogs are more vulnerable than large adult dogs. Dogs with diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions that reduce blood flow are more susceptible to frostbite.
Symptoms of Frostbite in Dogs
Signs of frostbite include:
- Pain when the body part is touched
- Blisters or skin ulcers
- Areas of blackened or dead skin
- Swelling of the affected areas
- Discoloration of the affected areas
- Coldness or brittleness of affected areas
The treatment for both dog frostbite and hypothermia begins with warmth. You need to immediately try to warm up your pet.
- Build a fire in the fireplace or turn up the heat in your house
- Wrap your pet in blankets and hold them
- If they are wet, get them dry as quickly as you can
- You can use warm water bottles to help raise the temperature as well
If their temperature does not improve, they need to be taken to the nearest emergency veterinarian for assistance.
If your dog has frostbite, don’t do the following:
- Rub or massage the area
- Use a hair dryer or other heating tool
- Heat a frostbitten area if you are still outside
Preventing frostbite is an important step. To prevent frostbite, you can:
- Put booties on your dog’s paws when they go outside
- Make trips outside quick
- Do not leave your dog outside for long periods of time
- Do not leave your dog unattended outside
- Check your dog when you get back inside for symptoms of frostbite
You Can Protect Your Dog from Frostbite
Whether you live in a cold area or are visiting a cold area, make sure to follow the prevention steps as much as possible. If your dog gets frostbite, get inside, and treat them immediately. Hopefully you understand frostbite better and feel ready to protect your dog during the cold winter months.
For any questions or concerns about dog frostbite in Zion, IL give Gray Animal Hospital a call at (224) 304-0668 or book an appointment with us online.