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Frostbite and Dogs

Despite their thick fur, dogs exposed to extreme low temperatures run the possibility of freezing their extremities like the tips of their ears and tail. Also known as frostbite, it is not usually a life-threatening condition in and of itself, but does often proceed hypothermia.

What To Watch For

Frostbite is indicated by the skin becoming very pale and attaining a bluish/white hue due to a lack of blood flow. Ice may also form around the affected area. When the body part is warmed and blood flow returns, the skin becomes red and there is swelling accompanied with peeling.

Primary Cause

Frostbite often occurs when a dog is exposed to the cold for an extended period, though submersion in a cold body of water can also lead to frostbite.

Immediate Care

  1. Warm a towel on a radiator or in the clothes dryer.
  2. Apply the warm towel in the affected areas. Do not squeeze or rub hard, as this can cause more damage.
  3. Use tepid water to warm up the affected areas to a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32°C), but no higher.
  4. As the areas thaw, they will redden. If they become dark instead, seek immediate veterinary attention.


Frostbite can be prevented by avoiding prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. In addition, dog clothes, boots, and other accessories may help breeds with thinner fur and those less used to cold weather.

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