Frostbite in Dogs and Cats

January 17th, 2014

Areas across the United States are facing exceptionally cold winters this year. Because of this, news broadcasters are frequently speaking of the importance of bundling up and protecting your skin from frostbite, which is localized damage to skin exposed to the cold. Frostbite can occur at temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and can happen in just minutes. It is not to be taken lightly, as severe cases of it can result in amputation of extremities.

Frostbite is not limited to humans; dogs and cats can suffer from it as well. While all pet are at risk, the risk is especially high if they are very young or old, or are suffering from heart disease, diabetes, or hypothyroidism. The best thing you can do for your pets in cold weather is to keep them indoors, and keep outdoor trips for exercise or bathroom use to a minimum. When you return from an outdoor journey, check your pet’s ears, tail, and paws thoroughly for signs of frostbite. You are looking for skin that is cold and firm to the touch, and pale, bluish, or gray in color. More advanced frostbite will make the skin appear red, swollen and blistered.

If your pet has frostbite, do not rub their skin or expose them to hot water or any direct heating elements, such as hair dryers, heating pads, or space heaters. Instead, place your pet in warm water that is 101-104 degrees Fahrenheit or wrap them in warm wet towels. It is also ok to warm towels and blankets in the clothes dryer so your pet has a warm place to sit. Once your pet is more comfortable, call your vet right away for additional instructions and to see if your pet’s condition warrants an immediate visit.