As the temperatures in the winter drop well below 0 degrees Celsius, the chance of frostbite in dogs and cats that spend time outdoors increases. Despite their fur coats, dogs and cats run the risk of freezing the tips of their ears, their noses, their tails and any other area where the hair coat is thin. Affected skin will appear pale to blue-white in color due to lack of circulation in that area. Left untreated, frostbitten skin will eventually die and slough.
Immediate care will help prevent loss of skin. Cats and small dogs can be wrapped in blankets or towels warmed in the dryer. For large dogs, apply warmed towels directly to the frostbitten skin. You can also immerse the affected area in lukewarm water. Do not squeeze or rub the skin and do not let your pet lick the frostbitten area as this will cause more damage to the skin. As the circulation returns, the skin will turn red and may become swollen and painful. If the skin color changes to dark red or black, this is a sign of severe tissue damage and you should take your companion to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Never leave your pet outdoors for more than a few minutes when there is a chance of frostbite to exposed skin!