You may wonder if your pet can suffer from frostbite since they are covered with fur or feathers. However, even the thickest fur or down won't protect them all the time when it comes to extreme cold. When they get frostbite, it may not seem obvious or a serious problem at first, but may cause problems and tissue damage later.
Common vulnerable areas for frostbite:
In warm-blooded animals, blood vessels constrict when it is cold in order to keep warm blood near the core and vital organs. This leaves some areas with already small blood vessels vulnerable to freezing and tissue damage. The most vulnerable areas are extremities where there is also often little or no fur or feather coverage. These areas include the pads and toes of the feet, the ears, and combs and wattles in birds.
Signs of frostbite:
The frostbitten area will usually appear red and cold to the touch when frostbite first happens. In some cases, there are no signs of frostbite until a day or two later. The affected areas will feel tender to the touch and may start to appear discolored and swollen. Exposed skin may feel rough or bumpy. If the feet or toes are suffering from frostbite, then you pet shows signs of foot pain or limping. After a few days, the skin may begin to break apart and slough off.
The first thing you should do if you suspect your pet has frostbite is to remove them from the cold and begin slowly, and gently warming up the area. If you can't immediately remove the pet from the cold, wait until you can do so before treating them. Do not rub the area and don't use a hair dryer or heating pad to warm the area. You can use a warm compress or soak the area with water that is between 104 to 108 degrees. Pat the area dry when done. Once stabilized, wrap your pet with blankets and take him or her to your veterinarian to assess any other needed treatment.
The best way to keep your pet from experiencing frostbite is to limit their exposure to the cold, especially when the weather is unusually cold or snowy. You may be able to fit some pets with boots, sweaters or head covers for extra protection, but many pets may not tolerate these items. Learn to recognize the symptoms that your pet is getting cold, such as shivering and fur standing on end. Birds will appear fluffed up and hold their heads close to their bodies or under their wings when cold. Immediately contact your veterinarian or animal hospital if your pet is been overexposed to the elements and appears to have frostbite. Click here for more info.