Your dog is covered in fur, but that doesn't mean that they're immune from frostbite when winter arrives. Here are three things dog owners need to know about frostbite.
How do dogs get frostbite?
While your dog's fur acts like a coat, their entire body isn't protected. Their extremities, like their foot pads, nose, ears and tail, are vulnerable to the cold weather. When their extremities are exposed to the cold, their skin and the tissues underneath can freeze.
This is true even for cold-weather dogs like huskies. In fact, even wolves—who have cold-weather adaptations that domesticated dogs don't have—need to wrap their tails around their nose and feet while they sleep to ward off frostbite! Don't assume that your dog is immune to frostbite due to their breed.
What are the signs of frostbite in dogs?
The signs of frostbite in dogs will be familiar to any person who's had frostbite before. You may notice that the skin on your dog's extremities is turning a different color, like red or white. These areas of skin may look hard. If you're walking your dog, you may notice that they're walking strangely or are walking into objects; this is caused by stiffness in their muscles and joints due to the cold. Since frostbite can lead to tissue damage, it's important to try to prevent it.
How can you protect your dog?
During the winter, make sure to keep your dog warm. If it's too cold for you to go outdoors without boots and mittens, it's too cold for your dog to go for a walk without protection. If your dog is single coated, they should wear a dog coat that has a hood so that you can protect their ears.
Dog boots are a good option for protecting your pet's feet from the elements. While your dog may hate their boots at first, they will eventually get used to them if you offer them praise for wearing their winter gear.
On very cold days—below 0°F—skip your regular walk and try to let your dog have some exercise indoors. Running up and down the stairs, playing games of fetch, or setting up obstacle courses are some easy ways that you can exercise your dog on super-cold days.
Your dog can get frostbite too, even if they're a cold-weather breed. Focus on keeping your dog warm this winter, and if you think they have frostbite, take them to a vet at a clinic like Canine Center right away.