6 Signs of Frostbite in Dogs

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic

Extreme exposure to the elements can have severe effects on your pet: these are the most common signs of frostbite in dogs that require an urgent vet visit.

Christmas gifts, cozy evenings by the fire, and playtime in the snowdrifts- winter can sure be a lot of fun for your pet. However, you should be aware that frostbite in dogs can be a serious threat, and can occur even in seemingly mundane situations. This threat increases if you live in an area that suffers from pretty harsh winters, where temperatures drop well below zero. Of course, dogs require some time outside even in winter, so it always comes in handy to know the most common signs of frostbite in dogs. Knowing these helps you react on time and prevent serious issues from popping up.

In extreme cases of frostbite, the blackness of the skin is one of the major indications. The more the skin and tissue are exposed to extreme cold, the more of it will die – and turn black. This is, of course, reserved for the most extreme cases of exposure to cold, but is still important to remember. In such cases, blackened skin is least likely to be saved, and immediate veterinary care is urgently needed. However, your dog will need to be in a particularly extreme situation in order to suffer from the most extreme form of frostbite.

The less extreme indication of frostbite is skin that turns blue or pale grey. This is best observed in dogs with a short, smooth coat, and indicates that their body temperature is critically low. If left untreated, bluish skin can progress into dead, blackened tissue – which is never good. The longer your dog is exposed to cold weather, the higher the chances are that their skin will turn blue. If your pet has a long, shaggy coat, you can part the fur in order to observe the skin beneath and its color.

Another sign of frostbite in dogs is skin that is cold to the touch. This is one of the first indications of critically low body temperature. If your pet’s skin remains cold after you touch it without warming up, it is a clear sign for you to react.

Pain and swelling will also occur. As flesh continues to freeze, it swells up and becomes painful to the touch. If your dog cries out in pain when you touch the affected area, it is a clear sign that frostbite is taking hold.

Another sign that your pet is affected by frostbite is ice crystals in the nose or on the skin– this means that their exposure has been so significant that ice was able to form on their body.

Blisters, also known as ulceration, will start appearing as soon as the tissue begins dying off due to exposure to cold. They can be easy to notice as they grow large and appear suddenly. You should also keep in mind that frostbite tends to affect the tail, ears, and extremities first – and that is another clear sign of frostbite. These parts of the body are most vulnerable and exposed to the cold. Of course, the paws are the first to exhibit signs of frostbite, since they are in direct contact with the snow and icy surfaces.

In the case you observe any of these signs, it is imperative that you seek professional help as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can help by gradually warming your dog up, hydrating, and keeping them dried.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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