By Andrew Tonra, HEALS Social Media Expert
Winter’s in full swing! Although it’s been warmer than usual until now, a fierce cold snap is approaching and we’re still looking at a few months of possibly subfreezing temperatures. In the coldest months of the year, frostbite is a real possibility for many of our furry friends–and it can be very serious.
Here are some helpful tips on what to look out for, how to address frostbite, and how to just plain avoid it in the first place.
Frostbite occurs when temperatures are below freezing. Paws, tails, and ears are the highest risk areas for cats and dogs. Any dampness in these areas can compound the risk. Frostbite is clinically identified by discoloration of the skin (looking gray or blue), coldness and rigidness of affected areas, pain, swelling, blisters, or even dead/blackened skin.
Take fast action
This scary condition is extremely serious. If left untreated, frostbite can result in permanent damage to the affected areas, infection, and even death. If you suspect your companion animal is suffering from frostbite, contact your veterinarian immediately. If it’s after hours, bring your pet to the nearest 24-hour emergency facility as soon as possible.
In the meantime–or if you’re unable to bring your pet to the hospital–here are a few tips for home care:
- Quickly move your pet inside to a warm, dry environment.
- Check your pet for hypothermia. A core temperature of less than 95 F is indicative of hypothermia. Violent shivering, lethargy, and a weak pulse are also signs of hypothermia.
- If you believe your pet may be suffering from hypothermia, always treat those symptoms first by covering your pet in warm blankets or towels. You can even use warm water bottles placed on the outside of the blankets to speed up the process.
- Never massage or try to rub the affected area.
- Begin to warm the affected areas with warm water. You want the water to be comfortably warm to the touch, but not hot. Don’t use heating pads or hair dryers. After the affected areas have been warmed with water, gently pat your animal dry and wrap them with warm clothes or blankets.
- Again, the best thing to do is to take your pet to the animal hospital right away. Always keep your veterinarian’s phone number handy along with contact information for your nearest 24-hour practice.
An ounce of prevention…
Avoidance is the best strategy:
- If it’s below freezing, keep your outings brief.
- If you have a pet that’s especially susceptible to frostbite, try providing some clothing—a pet jacket, sweater or even booties can help.
- Products are available that can be used on the bottom of paws to help insulate the vulnerable spots in between the hard paw pads. Not all pets will respond well to these options, so try different ones to find out which methods work best for you.
Part of HEALS’ mission is to educate the public about best practices for caring for pets. We’ve all heard the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Surely, it’s wise to avoid expensive veterinary procedures in the first place!
Bite back against frostbite
Looking out for frostbite on your own animals and other pets you see or come into contact with is a great way to help ensure their safety while spreading knowledge about animal welfare.
Would you like to donate to help save animals? HEALS is one of the best, most effective animal charities to donate to. Your gift provides financial help for pets in need of life-saving veterinary care–when their owners truly can’t afford it–right here in your own community. If you need help paying for dog or cat veterinary care, contact us at 914-996-0001 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.