Frostbite In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

12 years old frozen Jack Russell Terrier dog is walking over a snowy meadow in winter. Small dog has cold feet.

(Picture Credit: K_Thalhofer/Getty Images)

Frostbite in dogs is a condition that sets in when the skin is exposed to very cold temperatures below freezing, which is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius.

As a dog’s blood vessels closest to the skin react by constricting, the extremities can become adversely affected. In some cases, a dog’s tissue can freeze. Frostbite most commonly affects the canine’s paws, tail, nose, and ears.

If you see the signs of frostbite in your dog, then you must get to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for frostbite in dogs.

Symptoms Of Frostbite In Dogs

Frostbite in dogs can produce a number of symptoms based on where exactly on the body the condition has set in. In most cases, symptoms can take a couple of days to show up.

Some of the most common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Pale blue or gray discoloration around the affected area
  • Affected area is cold to the touch
  • Swelling
  • Pain when the affected area is touched
  • Blisters
  • Very red, inflamed skin or very dark, blackened skin

Causes Of Frostbite In Dogs

Photo taken in Gdansk, Poland

(Picture Credit: Maciej Nicgorski / EyeEm/Getty Images)

Frostbite in dogs sets in when the animals are exposed to cold, below-freezing temperatures for an extended period of time.

Some of the dogs who face a higher risk of suffering from this condition include:

  • Wet or damp dogs
  • Smaller dogs with short hair
  • Elderly dogs with pre-existing medical conditions

Treatments For Frostbite In Dogs

If your veterinarian suspects that your dog may be suffering from frostbite, they’ll first examine the dog, paying close attention to the affected area and also looking over the animal’s medical history. In some cases, they may order blood and urine tests.

In all cases, it’s vital to start taking some treatment steps before you arrive at the vet’s office. First, you must take your dog out of the cold and relocate them to a place that’s warm and dry.

Carefully wrap your dog in warm blankets, and position hot water bottles wrapped up in towels close by the dog’s body.

Veterinarians sometimes recommend warming the affected area of the dog’s body with warm water, but never use very hot or boiling water. Make sure to keep your dog warm while traveling to the vet.

The precise treatment your dog receives for frostbite will depend on the extent of the injuries. Veterinarians prescribe pain medication and antibiotics in some cases. In the most extreme cases, veterinarians may need to perform surgical amputation to remove an area of dead tissue.

As always, prevention is the best medicine. Bring your dog inside when the temperature dips below freezing, and limit outdoor time. If you have a dog who’s at higher risk, take extra precautions and never leave them outside for longer than necessary.

Has your dog ever had frostbite? How did your vet treat the injuries? Let us know in the comments section below!

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