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Can Dogs Get Frostbite?

Frostbite happens when the skin and underlying tissues freeze after exposure to extremely low temperatures. It is common for us humans to bundle up during wintertime, but the question is, do temperatures like this also affect dogs?

Frostbite is most typically seen in dogs on the paws, ears, and tail. These areas of the body are most vulnerable to cold and may also become wet in freezing temperatures. The ears and tail may take some time to develop frostbite, but the paws will almost certainly show signs immediately.

What is Frostbite?

Frostbite is skin damage caused by prolonged exposure to temperatures below freezing. When your dog is exposed to high temperatures, his tiny blood arteries compress to keep blood closer to the core of the body. As a result, your dog’s body heat is less likely to dissipate.

If blood circulation to the extremities is cut off for an extended period, tissue damage can occur. Your dog’s distal extremities include its ears, nose, tail, and paws. Male canine penis and testicles may also be affected. Frostbite is more frequent in dogs with blood flow abnormalities, such as diabetes and heart disease. Senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with short or damp coats are at a higher risk of frostbite.

What are the Symptoms of Frostbite in Dogs?

The damaged area of the skin feels extremely cold to the touch, which is the most visible symptom of frostbite. Parts of the skin, such as the ears and tail tip, may seem discolored, such as blue or black, and may feel brittle or dry. The skin may become extremely red and inflamed when blood flow returns to frostbitten places. Blisters and necrotic skin can form in extreme cases, and touching the skin can be painful.

If not addressed, frostbitten areas may continue to cause pain in your dog. Sloughing and flaking of necrotic tissue allow infection to spread. Frostbite is diagnosed when symptoms match a clinical history of prolonged cold exposure.

How to Treat Frostbite in Dogs?

If your dog suffers frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately so that they may examine the skin and determine whether additional care, such as antibiotics and pain medicines, is required. Blood testing can also be used to detect signs of internal organ damage. Wrap your dog in warm blankets and towels before carrying him to the veterinarian’s clinic. Place the towels in the dryer for a few minutes beforehand to warm them up.

If your dog gets wet, carefully towel-dry him without touching his skin, which can become red and unpleasant as it thaws. Warm water bottles can aid him with a low body temperature, but electric blankets and heating pads can grow too hot and harm his already injured skin. Blow dryers can also get too hot and should be avoided.

Minor frostbite can be treated with topical ointments in localized regions. Hospitalization, warming devices, injectable antibiotics, and pain medications may be required for more severe frostbite. Extreme frostbite and necrotic skin necessitate surgical excision of the injured tissue. Amputation may be necessary in some cases, such as when it occurs at the tip of the tail.

When dogs go outside in the winter, sweaters and coats help them maintain their core body temperature. On icy or slick surfaces, dog booties or shoes help protect the paws. If your dog is not used to these temperatures, it is best not to let him outside for more than 20-30 minutes. When the temperature dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, ensure your dog has a warm shelter or bring him inside.

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