Spending time outdoors in cold weather can not only be dangerous for humans but also for dogs. Two common cold related injuries affecting dogs are hypothermia and frostbite. It is important to know how to recognize these injuries and what to do when you have. It is also important to know what you can do to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
What is Frostbite:
Frostbite occurs when a dog is exposed to the cold for prolonged periods of time and tissues freeze. Most frequent areas affected are the scrotum, teats, ears, tails, and paws. Signs of frostbite include: scaling of the skin, leathery skin, ice crystals forming on the skin, whitened/waxy appearance to tissues, and fluid filled blisters.
What is Hypothermia:
Hypothermia occurs when core temperature drops to below 37 degrees Celsius (rectal thermometer reading). It occurs when a dog is exposed to the cold for too long. It is especially common when a dog is wet or if they become submerged in icy/cold water. Dogs that are small, short haired, young, senior, sick or injured are most vulnerable. A dog may die if hypothermia is left untreated. Signs of hypothermia include: shivering (when severity increases this will stop), frozen extremities, the dog is cold to the touch, stiff muscles, low respiratory rate, low pulse rate, low body temperature, fixed and dilated pupils, lethargy with eventual unconsciousness.
What to do when you think a dog has frostbite:
- Move him carefully inside or to a shelter and wrap him in a blanket.
- Warm him up slowly
- Monitor vital signs.
- Warm frozen parts up in warm water
- Contact a vet immediately!
- Thawing should be done by a vet as it is a very painful process and is best done under sedation.
- Make sure that you do not apply snow to affected area, do not rub the affected part or pop any blisters.
What to do if you think a dog has hypothermia:
- Move the dog to a shelter
- Dry the dog if he is wet.
- Warm him up as best you can with what you have including blankets, warm towels, hot water bottles, heat pads or just your own body heat
- Give him a warm liquid sugar mixture to drink- if conscious
- Seek medical attention from a vet immediately!
How to prevent Hypothermia & Frostbite:
- Keep wet pets inside and out of the cold
- Make sure you dry your dog completely after taking baths before going outside
- Limit the amount of time spent outdoors in cold weather especially for vulnerable dogs
- Dress your dog in Canine Clothing including jackets, sweater and boots
- Avoid walks off-leash in areas where there are bodies of water that may not be fully frozen