Frostbite and Dogs

Deb D’Andrea, 
Nederland. When there’s lots of snow, it’s easy to run outside and play for hours in this winter wonderland, taking our beloved pups with us for some good outdoors fun. Tiki and Bear love it, bounding and playing through the mounds of snow till exhaustion or the cold takes over. They know when they’ve had enough and need to come inside to warm up.  I always keep an eye on them as they can get frostbite and/or hypothermia.

One of the first signs cold is setting in is from Bear, as her fur easily creates fur snow balls which hold the cold snow against her skin, melting and causing her to get chilly. She’ll stop and try to pull the snow balls out of her fur and from between her paws, or sit and look at me to come over to help her out. I’ll gently break her fur snow balls apart, being careful as her fur is frozen in the snow.

Sometimes the snow gets so packed in between her toes it forms into small pebble-sized snow peas and can be very painful.  If you see your pups licking and nibbling their toes, or in extreme cases, limping, that probably means they have toe snow balls.
While the snow can be a challenge with some; others like Tiki, who have a completely different type of fur, can become cold much more quickly, as their fur isn’t as thick—but do not rely on your dog’s coat as an indicator for if they need a coat or not, as even the Northern double-coated breeds get cold.

For Tiki I have snow booties to help keep her feet warm. While at first she’s not thrilled about wearing them, she quickly appreciates her warm tootsies. Some pups enjoy wearing a winter jacket to keep them warm, something you should have for smooth-coated pups and pups that get cold easily. There are several types of winter coats these days: ones with pockets to carry their treats and water on hikes, to basic coats just to keep them dry and warm.

Areas of a dog’s body which are prone to frostbite are the tips of the ears, the tail, the paws and the toes. Just like with humans in a cold environment, their bodies try to keep their core warm by reducing the amount of blood flow to the outermost body parts.  A dog’s normal temperature range is 100.4 to 102.5, so in freezing or below freezing temperatures they can become cold quickly. My rule of thumb is: if I’m cold, they’re cold.

The simple act of gently warming their ears by rubbing them between your hands and checking their paws to remove snow will help prevent discomfort and frostbite.  Watch for variations in skin color from pale to gray, and when the skin warms up, it may be tender.  In severe cases, the skin will turn black and die within a few days.  Frostbite in our dogs is very similar to frostbite in us.

So while we’re out having fun in this amazing winter wonderland, keep an eye on your pups to help ensure they stay safe and happy.

Till next time…Deb D’Andrea, founder of 4TheLuvOfDogz, provides mobile Canine Massage, PawQuatics, Canine Agility and Petz Nanny Services.  Her home-made dog treats are sold at local stores, and 4TheLuvOfDogz K9Birthday Cakes are available direct.  Deb Petz Nanny’s for dogs, cats, birds, fish, horses, etc.  Contact Deb at 720-675-7078 or info@4theluvofdogz.com.

Deb D'Andrea

Deb D’Andrea, columnist for The Mountain Ear, and founder of 4TheLuvOfDogz & the Caribou Dog Ranch is recognized by the State of Colorado as a Certified Canine Massage Therapist and visits your home or Vet to work with your dog. Canine Agility may be offered at the Caribou Dog Ranch in 2018 if there is interest. Deb currently has limited availability for new Petz Nanny Clients; and she bakes up fresh dog treats & doggy birthday cakes per order. For information contact Deb at 720-675-7078 or email: info@4theluvofdogz.com.