Frostbite in Pets

The first month of 2014 has been a cold one across most of the U.S. If you—and your pets—are in a cold snap, know that just like humans, animals can get pet frostbite.

January has had some of the lowest temperatures recorded in twenty years, including in the sunny south. In North Carolina, where I live, the temperature doesn’t typically drop so low. And pet owners in similar locations may not be sure what they need to do to keep their animals warm and safe. Here’s some information to help.

Cold weather can affect any outdoor critter, even those with warm winter coats. Exposure to the cold, snow and ice can cause frostbite, for example. It typically affects the tips of the ears, the tail and the toes. So inspect your pets:

  • Look for a pale or gray colored area of skin.
  • The skin in an area with frostbite will be hard and cold.
  • Severe areas will turn black and slough off.

Sometimes the frostbite is not so severe, and the area of skin will thaw out. As it returns to normal temperatures, the patch of skin will turn red. This will be a very painful process for your animal.

If your pet has been left in the cold and you notice a discoloration, call your veterinarian or animal hospital. In severe cases, it might also have pet hypothermia—dangerously low body temperature—and may need antibiotics or other care.

To make sure your furry friends avoid frostbite, bring them indoors during particularly cold days. For small dogs or breeds with short hair, you may want to purchase a warm sweater or blanket to help keep them warm. For other ideas, consult your vet or local pet store.

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