Frostbite occurs when tissue becomes injured or dies from excessive exposure to freezing temperatures. This condition most commonly affects such areas of your pet’s body as the toes, tips of the ears, tip of the tail and the scrotum. Normally, proper blood flow keeps these body parts warm.
However, when your dog or cat is exposed to extreme cold, local blood vessels will constrict to help the body’s core conserve heat. When this occurs, there is less blood flow to the extremities, which can quickly become as cold as the air’s temperature. If left untreated, the tissue will freeze and die resulting in frostbite: Keeping Pets Warm and Safe During the Winter.
Symptoms of Frostbite in Dogs and Cats
Depending upon the severity of your pet’s condition, it may take a day or two before symptoms of frostbite appear. This is especially true if the affected area is small. Nevertheless, if your dog or cat has been exposed to excessively cold weather, keep your eye out for the following symptoms:
- Pale, Gray or Bluish-Colored Skin
- Blackened, Dead Skin
- Peeling Skin
- Affected Area is Painful
- Swelling of the Affected Area
- Blisters or Skin Ulcers
- Inflammation Around the Affected Area
Treatments for Cat and Dog Frostbite
If you suspect that your pet has developed frostbite, soak the affected body part in warm water for about 15 to 20 minutes. Never use hot or cold water, and do not rub or massage the affected area as you could cause further damage. After soaking the affected area, take your pet to a veterinarian. If your pet is in shock or experiencing hypothermia, these conditions will need to be treated first.
It is essential that you do not allow your pet to bite or scratch at any body parts that may be frostbitten. As such, your vet will most likely recommend a medical cone for your dog or cat to wear until the area heals. Pain medication and antibiotics are also typically administered for frostbite cases. Finally, in severe cases, amputation of the frostbitten body part may be necessary.
Pets Most Vulnerable to Dog and Cat Frostbite
Cats and dogs that are kept outside are most susceptible to frostbite. Small pets, puppies, kittens, seniors, sick or injured pets and short-haired pets are especially vulnerable as well. However, any dog or cat can develop this condition if they are exposed to extremely cold weather for long periods of time.
Frostbite Prevention Dos and Don’ts
The best way to prevent the development of frostbite in dogs and cats is to limit their time outdoors during cold weather. However, there are some other things you can do, and they are listed below.
- Do Not Allow Your Pet to Play in Puddles or Other Water During Winter
- Do Not Take Your Pet Outside During Cold Weather if it is Wet
- Do Limit Playtime Outdoors During Cold Weather
- Do Schedule Winter Walks When the Day is its Warmest
- Do Not Walk Your Pet at Night or Early Morning During the Winter
- Do Invest in Pet Booties for Walks and Playtime
Frostbite in cats and dogs is a real concern during the cold, winter months. However, if you take steps to protect your pet from the cold, you can avoid this painful condition. Additionally, if you suspect that your dog or cat has frostbite, it is important to seek treatment right away.