Protect your dog from frostbite this holiday season | BC SPCA
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Protect your dog from frostbite this holiday season

December 23, 2019

As temperatures start to drop below zero it’s important to protect your dog from the cold. Breeds with a thick coat of fur such as huskies may have a greater tolerance for cold weather but short-haired smaller dogs may need to wear a sweater, jacket and booties to keep warm.

Puppies and older dogs may find it more difficult to control their body temperature. Dogs with heart disease or diabetes are also at a greater risk of getting frostbite because these conditions reduce blood flow to their extremities. The cold can also aggravate existing health conditions such as arthritis in older dogs, who should be monitored closely or kept indoors.

Remember: never leave your dog in a cold car, which acts as a refrigerator in the winter – holding in the cold and can cause your dog to develop hypothermia, which can be fatal.

How can you tell if your dog has frostbite?

  • They have pale grey or blueish skin
  • Pain and swelling in the area
  • The skin feels cold, brittle and may be painful
  • Blisters or skin ulcers
  • Areas of blackened or dead skin

Symptoms of hypothermia:

  • Shivering
  • Pale or grey gums
  • Lethargy
  • Stumbling or lack of coordination

Treatment for frostbite

If you notice your dog’s paws, ears or tail are frostbitten it’s an early warning sign that they are at risk for developing hypothermia. Here are a few simple steps to help your canine companion recover.

1. Get them indoors where it’s warm and dry

Caution: Do not try to warm up the dog if you are not close to home unless you can keep the area warm. The area can refreeze and cause more damage.

2. Warm them up
Place your dog’s paws or other frostbitten areas in a bowl of warm water – test it with your hand first and make sure it’s warm to the touch but not too hot. Do not use dry heat, such as a hairdryer or heating pad on the dog. Pat the dog dry and make sure not to rub or massage the frostbitten area.

3. Take them to the vet
When the dog starts to warm up their frostbitten paws can become red and painful. Your local vet may give your dog pain medication to help keep your pet comfortable during the healing process. If the frostbite is more severe, the dog may require antibiotics to prevent a secondary bacterial skin infection.