Frostbite in dogs can severely affect several breeds of dogs as the winter rolls in with a fury.
Dogs that are affected from frostbite can very easily develop hypothermia as well, which is slightly different, and both conditions can be extremely dangerous to your dog.
In fact, if the frostbite is severe enough and large amounts of tissues have died, these areas in your dog may have to be amputated.
This condition is a very real treat to most dogs and it should be prevented if at all possible.
Frostbite in dogs is a very serious condition that is the result of exposure to both freezing as well as subfreezing temperatures.
It can affect dog’s feet, especially their toes, as well as their tail, ears, and their scrotum.
The scrotum in male dogs is also referred to as the cod or scrot, and it is a dual-chambered protuberance of skin as well as muscle that contains their testicles and is divided by the septum.
Frostbite in dogs occurs as a result of an interruption of the flow of blood through your dog’s vessels.
These vessels not only supply oxygen nutrient to their tissues, it also supplies something extremely important during the winter months; heat.
If a portion of your dog’s body becomes extremely cold, the blood vessels in the areas that are affected begin to constrict.
This constriction is your dog’s immune system natural reaction to conserve heat.
However, some of the areas such as their ears and toes have a smaller supply of blood that goes to them, and as a result, they can very easily freeze.
Once they freeze and are not treated, there is a very good chance these areas will die.
There is another very important factor for owners to know concerning frostbite.
There are some medications as well as diseases that increase the risk of your dog being affected by this condition.
If your dog is taking beta-blockers for any type of a condition, or if they suffer from diabetes, they are at a much higher risk of developing frostbite.
Frostbite in dogs occurs in four different stages much like it does in humans,first, second, third and fourth degree.
In the first degree stage, it is referred to as frost-nip and will only affect the surface of their skin.
It will cause some itching and pain in your dog, but it usually will not cause any type of permanent damage.
However, it can result in long term sensitivity to both heat and cold.
If the freezing continues unchecked, it advances into second degree frostbite, where your dog’s skin freezes and hardens, but the deep tissues are not affected and will remain soft as well as normal.
It is in this stage that you will begin to see the first symptoms occur, blisters, but they will usually not appear for an at least 24 hours.
Although this is still very serious, the blisters will usually heal with minor treatments.
However, all of that changes in the third and fourth degree stages of frostbite in dogs.
If the freezing continues and is still unchecked, deep frostbite is now occurring. It can affect your dog’s muscles, tendons, their blood vessels, as well as their nerves.
It is these two stages that cause the real damage and may result in the affected areas being amputated if the damage is severe enough.
Frostbite in dogs will not show any symptoms right way and the severity will dictate the symptoms.
In the very early stages, the tissue that has been affected may appear grey or very pale when you examine it.
If it does, gently touch the affected areas.
If it is frostbite in dogs, these areas will have two very distinctive characteristics; they will be cold as well as very hard. As they begin to thaw out, they will start to turn reddish in color.
If the frostbite is extreme, they will start to turn black within a few days and slough over a period of several weeks.
Blisters may also begin to appear in these stages.
If it does slough, this basically means that a layer or a mass of dead tissue is starting to separate from living tissue.
Initially frostbite is not very painful to your dog, but as the tissue starts to warm, it becomes extremely painful.
There are several things that you can do to initially to treat frostbite in dogs. The first thing you need to do is to very rapidly warm the affected areas with warm water.
However, it is extremely important to use only warm water, not hot water.
Hot water is just as dangerous as the condition you are trying to treat.
For this reason, you need to test the water with a thermometer, and make absolutely certain it is between 104 and 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is also very important with frostbite that you do not use any type of direct dry heat, such as a blow dryer or a heating pad.
You can use these with hypothermia, but not with frostbite.
You will need to use either a warm compress, or if you can, actually place the affected areas in the warm water and let it soak for several minutes.
Once you have done this, dry the areas very gently and very thoroughly.
Then repeat the process at least one more time doing exactly the same thing.
However, there is one more very dangerous thing that you should not do; do not rub or massage the affected areas.
After this initial treatment, you need to seek immediate medical attention from your veterinarian.
When you transport your dog, very gently wrap them in something very warm.
If you are going to use a blanket or a jacket, place it in the dryer for a few minutes and check it; it must be warm but not hot.
Although your dog is in a lot of pain at this point, do not give them any type of medication as you need to leave that to your veterinarian.
In most cases, your first reaction may be to give them an aspirin, but this is also one of the worst things you can do as even very small dosages can be toxic to dogs.
Once your dog is at your veterinarian, they will thoroughly examine them and give them pain medication.
However, they too will have to wait at this point to actually see the extent of damage that was caused and this may take several days.
They will also give your dog antibiotics to prevent any type of secondary infections that can easily occur.
Once the full extent of the damage surfaces, and if large amounts of tissue have died, sadly the affected area may have to be amputated.
Hypothermia may or may not accompany frostbite in dogs, and this is a condition that is much more common in short haired dogs, homeless dogs, small dogs, or dogs that are wet.
In can also occur in very cold temperatures if you do not bring them inside or supply them with a shelter with warm blankets outside.
This is different than frostbite and is a situation where their body temperature becomes too low to function properly.
Frostbite in dogs can easily be prevented in most cases, but in very small dogs in can happen very quickly if they are left outside for extended periods of time.
Unless you have a breed that is bred to withstand very cold and rigid temperatures, treat your dog the same as you would yourself and protect them from by keeping them warm.