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Health & Wellness

Tips for treating frostbite in pets

Here’s how to quickly warm them up

Pet parents may think that because our pets have fur, they’re more protected from extremely cold temperatures. The truth is that no one is completely safe from frostbite, so it’s important to know how to avoid it. Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough explains the basics of frostbite.

Frostbite in pets

Frostbite is skin damage or injury caused by extremely cold weather. Freezing temperatures cause blood to move from places like the paws, ears and tail to their chest and belly. Both the movement of blood and the cold weather can cause the skin on those areas to freeze.

Cats and dogs can be affected by frostbite, but in slightly different ways. Both commonly feel the effects on their tails, ears and feet — but dogs’ private areas can be impacted, too. 

Keep your pet safe by limiting their time outdoors while temperatures are low — it’s especially important to deter them away from outside water at this time, too. 

How to recognize signs of frostbite

  • The affected areas will turn from pink to very pale or even blue. If the area has been out in the cold for too long, it may turn black.
  • Their skin will be cold to the touch.
  • Icicles may sit around the impacted area.
  • You may see blisters or skin ulcers.

However, there are some steps to help your frostbitten pet: 

  • Move your pet to a warm and dry area. 
  • Warm a towel (until it’s comfortable, not scorching hot) in the dryer and wrap it around the affected area. Do not warm a frostbitten area if you cannot keep it warm. More exposure to the cold could cause more damage.
  • Do not rub or squeeze the area, as this can cause more damage.
  • Contact your vet or take your pet to a veterinary emergency hospital as soon as possible.

What to do if the area warms up? 

Mild cases of frostbite can heal without any permanent damage. If the area warms up, it’ll be red, swollen and look irritated. Talk to your vet about the best treatment to help your pet’s recovery. 

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What to do if it doesn’t warm up? 

Unfortunately, if the frostbite is severe, the affected area can’t be saved and surgery may be necessary. Talk to your vet about your pet’s treatment options. 

Prevention

The best way to protect your pet is through prevention. If it’s too cold for humans outside, it’s most likely too cold for your pet. For bathroom breaks, wrap them up in jackets and boots. If your pet is frostbitten, these tips will help you help them quickly and safely.

The Dig is the expert-backed editorial from Fetch Pet Insurance. We're here to answer all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park.

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