Frostbite in Dogs

Friday, November 5, 2021 17:04:19 PM America/Los_Angeles

Winter will soon be upon us, and so will cooler temperatures. With that, frostbite in dogs will be a real possibility. Did you know that this condition isn’t limited to just canines in regions with extreme cold or dogs who live indoors? With a little prep, cold weather care is a breeze and can prevent painful conditions like frostbite. 

Photo by Rachel Alexis

Frostbite is a condition in which skin and other tissue is damaged after being exposed to extreme cold. This leads to frostbite primarily affecting the extremities. For pups, this typically means their paws, but their snouts and ears can also be affected. 

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has Frostbite?

Any frostbite symptoms in dogs would have to be precipitated by being exposed to the cold. This can be due to being left outside for too long during the winter months, but it can also happen after being taken out for a walk or even a brief stint in the backyard in extremely cold regions. So, how long until frostbite kicks in? Frostbite can take just as little as 30 minutes in under sub-zero temps. If it’s even colder than 0° F with wind, that time can be even shorter. In slightly warmer temps, frostbite can still occur if a dog’s skin is wet and there are cold winds. 

Some signs of more severe frostbite include:

  • Pain in affected areas 
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration of skin
  • Blisters
  • Patches of black or deadened skin

How Do I Prevent Frostbite In Dogs? 

  • Shortening walks: Check the weather and plan accordingly by skipping or shortening walks if possible. In extreme cold, it’s important to keep walks short to reduce the likelihood of frostbite. 
  • Providing an indoor dog bathroom: A pee pad like Bark Potty helps reduce the amount of time spent outdoors. It can seem a bit cruel to keep your fur baby entirely indoors for a whole season, but shorter walks can feel less unfair if your dog has at least taken care of business on a wee wee pad at home. 
  • Putting on warm layers: Clothing and other accessories for dogs may feel a bit extra in the summer, but they can help keep your pup’s paws safe and warm during the winter and they have to trek outdoors for a walk. However, you’ll want to rethink shoes or socks that aren’t waterproof. Wet paws will only increase the odds of getting frostbite.  
  • Moisturizing: Even if your dog doesn’t officially have frostbite, we all know how damaging cold weather can be for skin. It’s important to soothe their paws and snout during the winter in order to minimize future skin damage, which can happen more easily if the skin barrier is already suffering from the cold weather. 
  • Preventing freezing and thawing: Freezing skin is dangerous, but thawing can be equally if not more harmful. If you suspect skin has been frozen, refrain from thawing skin until you know they won’t be frozen again. For instance, do not thaw using warm water while out on a walk if you know that your dog will continue to be outdoors as this will only cause freezing to occur again.