Health & Wellness
You may think that because our pups have fur, they’re better protected from frigid temperatures. Unfortunately, the truth is that no one (not even dogs!) is entirely safe from frostbite, so it’s essential to know how to avoid it. Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, Dr. Aliya McCullough, explains the basics of frostbite.
Frostbite is skin damage or injury caused by freezing weather. In freezing temperatures, blood from a dog’s ears, tail, belly, genitals, chest and paws travels to their core to keep their vital organs warm — making those areas without the normal flow of blood more susceptible to frostbite.
If a dog's paws are frostbitten, Dr. McCullough says they may be discolored (look for blue or black coloring), swollen or have blisters. Their feet (outside of their paws) will also likely be cold and painful to the touch, so be cautious if you’re handling a dog with frostbitten paws.
You can keep your dog safe from frostbite by limiting their time outdoors while temperatures are low. It’s especially important to deter them away from outside water at this time, too.
“Pet parents should pay close attention to their pets while outside if the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and consider the wind chill, wetness, cloud cover and activity before venturing outdoors,” Dr. McCullough explains.
According to Dr. McCullough, dogs with chronic conditions, like diabetes or heart conditions, have a greater chance of getting frostbite, so monitor these pups closely in cold temperatures. There are some telltale signs that a dog has frostbite, including:
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The first step is to contact your vet or emergency pet hospital as soon as possible, Dr. McCullough recommends. You should also do the following:
Mild cases of frostbite can heal without any permanent damage, Dr. McCullough says. If the area warms up, it’ll be red, swollen and look irritated. However, it’s a painful process and dogs are at risk of infection. Veterinarians will likely recommend antibiotics or pain medication during this time.
Unfortunately, if the frostbite is severe, the affected area can’t be saved, and surgery or amputation may be necessary. Talk to your vet about your dog’s treatment options.
The best way to protect your dog is through prevention. If it’s too cold for humans outside, it’s likely too cold for your pup. For bathroom breaks, wrap your pet up in jackets and boots. If your pup is frostbitten, these tips will help you help them quickly and safely.
The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.
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Photo by Josh Frenette on Unsplash