As the temperatures continue to drop into the lowest temperatures of the season, we’ve all started to pull out the warmest of sweaters, socks and any other accessory that will shield us from the cold. Unfortunately for our pets, there’s not much they can do to protect themselves from the freezing temperatures like we can. Hypothermia and frostbite are two of the most common winter problems that your dog can suffer from, which is why it’s important for you to know the facts and how to prevent these problems from happening to your beloved pet!
What causes frostbite?
Frostbite is the name given to tissue damage that’s caused by exposure to extremely cold conditions. In order for dogs to conserve their heat, they reduce the amount of blood flow to the peripheral parts of his body, such as his ears, paws and tail. Without blood in these areas, they lack warmth and oxygen and as a consequence, ice crystals may form in the tissue which can then cause that tissue to die.
Symptoms of frostbite
The difficulty with frostbite in dogs is that because dogs are covered in hair, it’s challenging to find areas that might be impacted by it. The signs to really look out for are very pale skin, usually found on the belly area, which will be very cold to the touch.
You’ll also notice that once the skin starts to warm up, it will become red and swell, which will also prove to be very painful for your pet. After just a few days, the skin will then become dry and will appear to be scaly.
How to treat frostbite
If you notice an area on your dog that you think might be frostbite, bring your pet to a warm area and put heat on the area immediately. Most importantly for frostbite, make sure that you resist the urge to rub or massage the affected area since rather than helping, you’d really be hurting your pet, releasing toxins that can further cause damage to the tissue.
Call your vet and describe the severity of the frostbitten area. The vet can then determine whether it’s better for you to bring your dog into the office or if it’s better for you to stay home and monitor him for the next few days. If you do see your vet, they will likely prescribe your pet pain killers and antibiotics to help ease your dog’s pain and look at removing any dead tissue.
What causes hypothermia?
Hypothermia occurs when your dog’s temperature falls and stays below its normal range of 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. When a dog is suffering from hypothermia, this means that he is losing body heat faster than he can replace it. This can happen when you’re walking your dog outside or even when he’s playing around outside in the backyard during the winter.
Symptoms of hypothermia
- muscle stiffness;
- lack of coordination;
- low heart and breathing rates;
- fixed and dilated pupils;
How to treat hypothermia
In order to treat your dog for hypothermia, you must focus on warming them up so that their core temperature returns to normal. If you’re walking with your dog and notice he is suffering from the cold temperatures, you need to immediately prevent him from losing any further body heat by picking up your dog and running him into the house (if he’s small enough!) or walk quickly back to the house to warm up.
Once you’re in a warm environment, make sure you’re in a heated room where the floor is well insulated and find a blanket to wrap your dog in. It would be ideal to keep him in this position until his internal temperature returns to normal. If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t fret, as long as you pay close attention to him and get him to the point where he’s no longer shivering and appears to be acting normal again, it’s a pretty good indication that your dog’s temperature is back up.
The next time you’re getting bundled up to take a long walk with your pup, remember that while you might be able to go the distance in the cold weather, they might not be able to go quite as far. By reading the information above and preparing your pet for the cold, you now have the knowledge necessary to keep your furry friend safe from hypothermia and frostbite!