Animal Emergency & Specialty Care

« | »

Keeping Your Pet Safe This Winter

winter safety for petsIn most parts of the United States, winter is a very cold time of year. While most owners know the dangers of hot weather, not everyone knows that the cold can be just as dangerous. AESC wants all pet owners in the area to understand the risks that winter weather can pose for our beloved pets.

Dangers of Cold Temperatures

Winter can be hard on everyone, and our pets are no exception. As temperatures drop, your pet becomes more at-risk for cold-weather related health problems such as frostbite and hypothermia. Both of these conditions are incredibly dangerous.

Frostbite is a condition in which skin and other tissues are damaged due to exposure to extremely cold temperatures. When temperatures drop below freezing, blood vessels located near the surface of the skin start to constrict, which reduces blood flow. The reduction in blood flow helps to preserve core body temperature by keeping blood in the core instead of in the limbs. In extremely low temperatures or when pets are exposed to cold temperatures for an extended period of time, blood flow to the limbs can be reduced to critically low levels, which can allow the tissues to freeze. Typically, frostbite occurs in body parts farthest away from the heart and in tissues with a lot of exposed surface area. Paws, ears, and the tail are often the most at-risk for frostbite in pets. In severe cases, amputation will be necessary.

Hypothermia occurs when body temperatures drop too low. In dogs and cats, the normal body temperature range is between 99.5 and 102.5°F. If body temperature dips too low, your pet will start to experience hypothermia. At this point, your pet is losing body heat faster than it can be replaced. Hypothermia can be fatal if it is not treated properly.

Often, these two conditions are intertwined. When that is the case, be sure to treat the hypothermia first, as it is affecting vital internal organs.

Signs of Frostbite and Hypothermia

While frostbite and hypothermia are both cold-related conditions, they have very different symptoms. Signs of frostbite in dogs and cats include:

  • Discoloration of affected skin—often pale, gray, or bluish
  • Pain in afflicted area
  • Swelling of affected area
  • Coldness of the area when touched
  • Blisters or skin ulcers
  • Blackened or dead skin

Frostbite symptoms may take a few days to show up, especially in areas that your pet doesn’t use much, such as the tip of the tail. In cases of severe frostbite, the affected areas can become necrotic or die, which not only looks bad, but it can also lead to infection.

Signs of hypothermia in pets include:

  • Shivering
  • Stiff muscles
  • Collapse
  • Pale or gray gums
  • Lethargy
  • Fixed and dilated pupils
  • Lack of coordination
  • Low respiratory rate
  • Low heart rate
  • Coma

When your pet’s body temperature drops to a certain level, it may be very difficult for them to recover. If you start to see signs of hypothermia, bring your pet in for treatment right away.

Treating Frostbite and Hypothermia

Treating these conditions as soon as possible is extremely important to the welfare of your pet. Both conditions can do irreversible damage if not properly treated in a timely manner. Frostbite and hypothermia can be very painful, but never give your pet any pain medication that isn’t prescribed by a veterinarian.

No matter what, it is best to bring your pet in to see a veterinarian for treatment, as some at-home methods to re-warm a hypothermic or frostbitten pet can actually do them harm. We recommend that you try to warm your pet up as you bring them into a hospital with warm towels or blankets. If you already have your pet warmed up, continue to keep them warm on the way. 24/7 emergency care hospitals like AESC have the equipment and expertise needed to rewarm your pet safely while also addressing any resulting internal or tissue damage and managing pain.

Preventing Frostbite and Hypothermia

The best way to prevent frostbite and hypothermia is to keep your pet from being outside in the cold for too long—especially if there is snow on the ground. Dogs that have short fur are more at-risk for frostbite and hypothermia.

Any pet that is sensitive to the cold, including small, older, and short-haired pets should be kept inside the home as much as possible. Only let your pet outside for short bathroom breaks if needed. Jackets and booties can help keep pets warm when they do need to go outside to help reduce heat loss in the cold, which is the best way to prevent hypothermia.

If you believe that your pet is experiencing either of these conditions, bring them in to see a veterinarian right away. For those of you in the Parker, Colorado, area, AESC’s emergency clinic is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to treat all kinds of health issues including both frostbite and hypothermia in pets.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 21st, 2019 at 9:42 am and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.