Monday, December 1, 2008
Most dogs and cats can handle the winter's cold without experiencing anything worse than shivers. But pets that spend a lot of time outdoors in blustery weather can get frostbite, an extremely serious condition in which the body diverts blood away from the extremities - the legs, ears and tail - in order to preserve the core body heat. This can cause tissue in the extremities to break down and die.
Pets with frostbite will have extremely cold paws, ears and tails and the cold will persist even after they have spent time inside. They may bite at their feet and tails as well. Frostbite is always an emergency. But if you can't get to a vet immediately, there are things you can do to help your pet.
Let them choose the heat. They need to be warmed up but not too quickly. The best approach is to put them in a room with a radiator or fireplace and let them move closer or farther away as they see fit. Don't try to rush the heating process with things like heating pads.
Warm the ears and pads with moist heat. When the extremities are very cold, it is a good idea to gently dab them with a moist lukewarm washcloth.
Let them go hungry. Don't feed pets with frostbite because eating will draw circulation to the intestines at a time when it is more important to get circulation to the legs, ears and tail. It is fine for them to drink water at room temperature. Once your pets' body parts have warmed up, then you can feed them.