Frostbite on Dog Paws:
How to Protect Your Dog from this Emergency

Frostbite in dogs is a serious condition that can occur when your pet is exposed to extremely cold temperatures. It doesn’t just happen to humans! Frostbite occurs when the blood vessels in the extremities, like the paws, ears, and tail, constrict to preserve core body heat, leading to a lack of blood flow and potential tissue damage in these areas. Dogs can develop frostbite in as little as 30 minutes or even sooner, especially in temperatures below freezing. Typically, a dog becomes at risk for frostbite once the temperature drops to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Pet owners in Tulsa and surrounding areas need to understand the risks of frostbite for dogs, especially during the winter months. Read on for critical information about this condition.

dogs can get frostbite on their paws, nose, and tail

Identifying Frostbite on Dog Paws: Signs to Look For

A dog’s paws are sturdy and allow them to traverse all manner of terrain, but when the temperature drops, the paw pads can become highly vulnerable. Frostbite is not always easy to detect in its early stages, but there are signs pet owners should be aware of.

These signs, from mild to severe, include:

  • Your dog’s paws/ears/tail are painful when touched
  • The affected area appears swollen
  • The affected skin appears pale, blue, or grayish
  • The skin feels cold to the touch
  • Your pet moves stiffly and clumsily
  • The affected skin shows signs of blisters/ulcers
  • Areas of skin appear blackened, indicating tissue death

If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care immediately.

Immediate Steps to Take if You Suspect Frostbite

If you suspect your dog has frostbite, it is important to act quickly but calmly. First, bring your pet into a warm, dry area to prevent further exposure to the cold. Gently wrap your dog in warm blankets, but avoid using direct heat, like a heating pad or hot water, as this can cause further tissue damage. Refrain from massaging the frostbitten areas, as this can also worsen the injury. The next important step is to call the Animal Emergency Center of Tulsa at (918) 665-0508 for guidance and to arrange for immediate veterinary care. Our team will prepare for your arrival and be ready to receive you and your pet as soon as you come to the door.

Tips for Preventing Frostbite on Dog Paws

Prevention is key when it comes to protecting your dog from frostbite. Here are some important steps to keep in mind on frigid days:

  • Limit the time your pet spends outdoors in cold weather.
  • Provide a warm, sheltered area for your pet to stay in (ideally, your home!).
  • Consider getting size-appropriate dog boots and a coat for your pet if they’re going to be outside, especially if your dog is a smaller breed or has a shorter fur coat. The booties will protect their paws from the cold and from any ice-melting salt that’s on the ground. Please note, however, that these are not a substitute for a temperature-controlled space.  
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and be particularly cautious during extremely cold days. If conditions are too cold for you, they’re also too cold for your pet.

Are Some Dog Breeds Resistant to Frostbite?

While some dog breeds are built for colder climates and have a double coat that provides the necessary protection against the elements, no dog is fully resistant to frostbite. Even Siberian Huskies and Malamutes can get frostbite under certain conditions. So, while your fluffy Husky or Malamute may love the snow, never leave them outside unattended in freezing weather! 

Need Help? Call Us Today

In some cases, frostbite can lead to serious health complications, and prompt veterinary care is essential. If you notice any signs of frostbite, or if your pet has been exposed to cold temperatures for an extended period of time, don’t hesitate to call the Animal Emergency Center of Tulsa at (918) 665-0508. Our hospital is equipped to handle such emergencies and provide the necessary care for your pet.