February 28, 2018
Winter is full of fun activities for your family, and your pets probably want to enjoy those times with you. When it is bitterly cold, however, it can be dangerous for your pet to be outside for very long. Often, people think that a cat or dog’s fur coat is enough to protect them from harsh cold temperatures, but that isn’t always the case.
When cats and dogs are left in the cold for too long, they can suffer from the same problems that humans face. Both frostbite and hypothermia are just as dangerous for animals as they are for people, and as a pet owner, you want to keep your pet safe even when it is freezing outside.
Virginia Veterinary Centers wants to help you better understand the dangers of cold weather to your pets in the hopes that all pets stay safe from hypothermia and frostbite during the winter season.
Frostbite is characterized by the discoloration and coldness of the skin. In pets, frostbite generally turns skin pale, bluish, or gray. The area of skin affected by frostbite may also be swollen and covered in blisters or skin ulcers. Frostbite causes pain in the affected body parts, and extreme cases can cause skin to turn black and die.
It may take several days for the signs of frostbite to appear in small areas of the body. As the tissue affected by frostbite thaws, it may become very red, swollen, and painful. If the tissue damage is too severe, the area can become necrotic or dead. It is at this point that the skin turns black and dies. Eventually, it will fall off. It may also develop pus and a foul smell due to the bacterial infection caused by the frostbite.
The most common areas for your pet to get frostbite are the ears, paws, and tail. These areas are more prone to frostbite, because they are further away from the heart and they have a lot of exposed surface area.
When pets are dealing with hypothermia, you will notice that they seem lethargic. Cats and dogs with hypothermia will also shiver or tremble. Since cats and dogs have a normal body temperature of 101°F to 102.5°F, if their temperatures fall below 99°F, they should be taken to a veterinarian or 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital right away. It is hard to tell an animal’s temperature by looking at them, so you should keep a thermometer on hand just in case of an emergency.
Your best bet for protecting your pets from frostbite and hypothermia is to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. When the temperatures drop below freezing (32°F), it can be dangerous for pets to be left outside for very long. Here are some tips for preventing frostbite and hypothermia, as well as general winter weather safety tips for pets:
While you should immediately seek veterinary care for animals with suspected frostbite or hypothermia, there are a few things you can do to help your pet:
Once at your family veterinarian, he or she will examine your cat or dog and treat the hypothermia and/or frostbite. Your pet will probably be given pain medications, as thawing the tissue is a very painful process. Antibiotics are also given to pets to prevent and treat any bacterial infection caused from the frostbite. In severe cases of frostbite, amputation of affected parts may be part of the treatment plan.
If you believe that your pet is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite and you live in the Fredericksburg, Richmond, or Midlothian, Virginia, areas, contact Virginia Veterinary Centers for emergency care. The veterinarians at Virginia Veterinary Centers can diagnose and treat your pet’s ailments while providing exceptional care.