Frostbite in dogs is a phenomenon in which low temperatures cause damage to body tissues. Most often, frost affects areas of the body that are separated from the heart, which are poorly supplied with blood in the cold: pillows and fingers of paws, ears, the tips of the nose and tail.
Causes of frostbite in animals
The main and only reason for frostbite is a long stay of the animal in the cold. So, experts of the American kennel club point out : “Dogs are at risk when the temperature is below 0 degrees Celsius.” What to say, if the street is -10, -20 or even -30 degrees Celsius! American dog handlers remind us that if we freeze outside in the winter, it is almost as cold and uncomfortable for our Pets.
There are animals that can easily tolerate fairly low temperatures (for example, Siberian huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Samoyeds, etc.), but a long stay in the cold can cause frostbite in these Northern breeds of dogs. And the situation is particularly acute if:
- Thermoregulation of the animal is imperfect (this occurs in puppies and elderly dogs, as well as in sick and recovering dogs);
- Pregnant or nursing dogs have inflamed mammary glands;
- The dog is hungry for a long time;
- The animal has recently suffered extensive blood loss;
- The dog’s coat is wet (at 0 degrees it often rains cold, turning into snow, so it is not surprising that the animal’s coat gets wet through);
- Have dogs there is no wool at all or wool there is, but a short with weak undercoat or at all without him. In other words, the poorer the pet’s coat, the higher the chance that it may get frostbite in the cold;
- The dog has a slim build. So, a pocket Yorker can shiver even when the air temperature is above +5 degrees outside, while a healthy Newfoundland can feel fine for a long time and in the cold.
Signs of frostbite in Pets
Signs of frostbite in dogs depend on the stage of the problem. With slight frostbite, the dog behaves slightly restless, its affected skin is cold to the touch and slightly pale, and after stabilizing blood circulation, the skin on the problem areas turns red and flakes.
For an average degree of frostbite is characterized by a strong pallor and even blueness of the skin. The animal in this situation becomes apathetic and lethargic (it may seem that the pet is suddenly very sleepy). The dog begins to breathe noisily, the number of breaths per minute is lower than usual, the pulse is reduced.
With frostbite of the most severe degree, the four-legged friend shakes violently, the frostbite areas swell and have a dark blue hue. Blisters can form on the skin, which are similar to those that occur with burns. The animal’s body temperature, respiratory rate, and pulse drop significantly below normal. When touching the affected areas, the dog can either behave restlessly because of pain, or not respond at all to the owner’s attempts to explore the frostbitten part of the body due to pain shock. With severe frostbite, the dog may begin tissue necrosis.
What to do if the dog has frostbite
So, the dog has frostbite of the paws or other part of the body that could be affected by low temperatures. What should the owner do in this situation? The very first thing you need to do is to get the dog in a warm room. The animal needs to be wrapped in a warm blanket (or find any fabric items for this). You can cover your pet with hot water bottles or bottles of warm water (its temperature should be within +40 degrees). Rubbing your pet with alcohol, vodka or snow or rubbing frostbitten areas with a towel is strictly forbidden, since such a “massage” can lead to the formation of blood clots in the vessels and the destruction of already affected tissues, in addition, you can easily bring infection to the microcracks on the skin. Only weak and careful rubbing of the skin on the affected area with the palm of the hand is allowed, and even then, only when the animal does not show pain. On the dog’s skin that is reddened after being in the cold, you can attach bandages made of cotton wool and gauze (if the animal has frostbite of the ear, you can quickly sew a kind of triangular multi-layer caps made of gauze, but you should not tightly wrap the ears to the head). If the pet does not resist, you can give it a drink of lukewarm water or broth.
Warming the dog can only help in the case of slight frostbite. If the owner noticed that the animal has suffered too much (a drop in temperature, severe darkening of the skin, blisters, etc.), then the best solution is to immediately go to the veterinary clinic. Treatment of frostbite involves treating the affected areas with antiseptic solutions and ointments with analgesic and wound healing effects. If the doctor determines that the wounds that were formed as a result of frostbite, got an infection, you may need antibiotic therapy.
In particularly difficult situations, when tissue necrosis has begun, surgery may be required to remove dead tissue – necrectomy. Severe frostbite of the extremities in dogs may imply a more radical intervention in the form of amputation of the affected foot.
Prevention of frostbite in dogs
Given that frostbite can lead to very negative consequences and significantly worsen the quality of life of the dog, it is much more correct to try to avoid it than to treat it. The main preventive measures against frostbite include the following actions:
- In the cold, if the air temperature is below -10 degrees Celsius, the walking time should be reduced by half, or even three times (so, if the dog is used to walking for 60 minutes, in the cold, the walking time should be only about 20-30 minutes). You need to give up long walks and if the street is 0 degrees, but there is too strong a wind and it is raining (or snowing with rain);
- In the cold, walking should not be passive. The dog must run, jump, move, so as not to freeze;
- At the slightest suspicion that the pet is frozen, it needs to be urgently brought to the house or other warm room that is nearby (if the animal has a muzzle, it can be brought, for example, to a shopping center);
- If the size of the dog is modest, it can be wrapped in its own scarf in the cold, or take it in your hands and hide it under your outer clothing;
- If it is very cold outside, the dog can be allowed to stay at home, allowing the toilet to use a tray;
- It is highly desirable in the winter to take the animal outside in warm clothing: overalls and shoes. Moreover, not only baby dogs need insulation, but also dogs of medium and large breeds with short wool cover. Winter clothing for dogs can be purchased at a pet store or sew it yourself.