Dog wearing a coat

Frostbite – What to Look For and How to Prevent it

| January 14, 2022

What does frostbite look like in cats and dogs?

Worry about frostbite when you see these signs: 

  • Swollen or hardened feet, ear margins, tail tips, or lips 
  • Fur over frost-bitten areas has turned white; the skin itself looks red, black, or even blue 
  • Prolonged licking or chewing of paw pads or toenails 
  • Cracked or bleeding pads, ear margins, tail tips, and noses 
  • Crying, growling, or snapping when you attempt to touch frostbitten body parts 

Preventing cold injuries in winter

Monitor outdoor temperatures 

While many pets are comfortable outdoors, cold-related injuries can occur at any temperature below freezing (0° C). 

Ensure your pet has shelter when spending time outdoors 

High winds can decrease the time that a pet is safe outdoors. Pets who do more than zip outside to poop and pee in January need appropriate housing and protection from frigid conditions. 

Older pets have a tougher time staying comfortable during the winter 

Senior cats and dogs may not be able to move as quickly or stay moving due to arthritis, vision, and general health. Limit their time outdoors if you cannot directly supervise their activity.

Short-coated breeds may need winter jackets and boots 

Dogs from Chihuahuas to Great Danes may enjoy the great outdoors for longer periods if they wear garments that help keep out the cold. 

Don’t forget about hypothermia

Frostbite is not the only cold-related injury we see in the veterinary clinic. Hypothermia occurs when a pet cannot maintain their core body temperature at normal levels.

Blood flows to the important organs in the chest and belly and results in decreased circulation to the legs, tail, and head. Dogs and cats may stumble and shiver in mild cases.

As hypothermia becomes severe, animals may have grey or white gums, appear very stiff, and eventually become comatose. Hypothermia can be fatal without emergency medical help. 

Pet insurance can help with the cost of vet visits

Contact your local veterinary hospital if you have concerns about frostbite or other conditions related to winter weather. Your veterinary staff will offer the best advice regarding care to keep your cat or dog their happiest and healthiest. Learn what’s covered and get a free quote today.