Hypothermia and frostbite are the biggest threats to our pets in the winter months. Hypothermia is when our pets have a dangerously low body temperature usually caused by prolonged exposure to the cold. The simplest way to protect them is to not leave them out in the cold especially when temperatures are getting close to freezing! Taking them out on long walks or hikes when temperatures are below freezing can cause frostbite on their little paws, so please protect them with booties or do very short walks in freezing temps.
How can you tell if your dog is starting to get hypothermia or frostbite? They will be shivering and their body temperature will fall below 100 degrees. It should be around 101 F. If they are frostbitten, their exposed tissue will be hard dark, and painful to the touch. These areas are typically the nose, ear, and tail tips, paws, and undercarriage. Animals can’t tell us when they are getting numb, so think ground meat! At the store, it is soft and pink. Throw it in the freezer and it turns hard and dark. That is what happens to your pet’s tissues!
If you see that your pet is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite, you need to slowly warm them up by getting them into a warm environment, wrapping them in a warm towel or blanket, and offering them warm liquids such as salt-free chicken broth. In case of frostbite, you may need to take them to the vet to be sedated while they defrost. The process of defrosting can be extremely painful and animals have been known to chew on and mutilate themselves while thawing! The vet may prescribe antibiotics and pain killers and in severe cases, amputation of affected tissue is not uncommon so please take every precaution that you can to prevent your pet from becoming a feline or canine icicle!