How cold is TOO cold? We get asked this question a lot and of course there is no blanket answer that covers all pets.
“They” say that if it’s to cold for you it’s too cold for your dog – but who are “they”? Are they young healthy and active? are they a senior? are they a person with an illness, or are they are person that hates the cold? Is your dog short-haired or long hair? , 4lbs or 140lbs? likes to move briskly or can be passed by a snail? All these are factors to take into consideration when deciding to take your pet out in the cold.
There is a difference between poking your head out the door and saying .. brrr it’s too cold to walk Bowser today because YOU think it’s too cold for YOU and someone layering up, getting moving and heading out to for a great winters walk. We all know that dogs need their walks and to get outside for physical excercise and mental stimulation but it can be too cold for them and time to bring the excercise and stimulation indoors.
That being said there is a TOO cold and there are signs you should watch for to make sure your dog does not come down with frostbite or hypothermia.
Frost Nip and Frostbite
Definition: Freezing of the skin and tissues. Area’s most commonly affected are the ears, paws, scrotum and tail.
Causes: Extreme or prolonged exposure to low temperatures. Again the smaller and shorter haired the dog the less time it takes. The older pet or one in poor health also is more at risk.
Signs: Like humans it goes in stages.
1) Similar to our goosebumps hair will stand up on end in order to trap air in and keep their bodies warm.
2) Shivering – once the body temperatures starts decreasing involuntary shivering will start to try to warm the body up.
3) When the body gets colder your pets life maybe at risk. The body starts going into preservation mode and cutting off blood supply to the less important body parts in order to keep the most important parts (organs) warmest.
4) At this stage if your pet has not received first aid, frost bite will set in as no blood is going to the extremities ( tips of their ears, tails, face footpads, legs and the genitalia in male dogs ) and the tissue will die. This often leads to lose of limbs, toes and tips of ears.
5) So look for ice on limbs, shivering and skin changing colour. Skin will typically go from a very bright red (like a burn) to very pale (no blood flow) to Black (dead tissue)
Prevention of course is best. However should any of the above symptoms show please get your pet to the vet as soon as possible as infection can set in resulting in Gangrene.
Warm your pet up WITHOUT rubbing or squeezing the tissue. Not to freak you out but the skin could rub right off.
Use ONLY warm towels, water and warmed ice bags. Do NOT use anything hot to try to hurry up the process.
If a limb or any part of your dog is actually frozen, soak in warm water, do not rub at all.
Do not add ice or snow.
This is VERY painful for your pet and of course they cannot tell you about it, so be mindful that they do not lash out (even the most docile dog in extreme pain can turn)
I hope you find this information useful – please pass on to any and all pet parents you know that live in cold climates. Stay tuned, in the next day or so I will let you know what to watch for with Hypothermia.