Frostbite

Animal Clinic of Verona

January 2017

Old man winter is getting ready to knock on our doors bringing chilling cold, flurries of snow, and potential frostbite to our furry children. Frostbite is not only painful, but potentially fatal. Below are some tips to keep your snow bunnies safe and happy this winter season.

What Is Frostbite?

Animals have ways of dealing with cold temperatures but when exposed to extreme freezing temperatures for an extended period their bodies react much the same way as ours do. Tissues of their extremities (tips of ears, tail, foot pads) remove circulation and the tissue will start to freeze, more commonly known as frostbite.

When a dog or cat is exposed to cold temperatures their body reacts in stages;

  • Your pet’s fur provides insulation just like us wearing a coat. Its hairs, when exposed to cold air undergo pilo-erection. This is like you and I getting goose bumps. The hairs “stand up erect” trapping the air in that layer. This air is warmed by the body and ads additional insulation.
  • When the body’s core temperature decreases, an involuntary reflex by the skeletal muscles known as “shivering” is triggered to generate heat and warm you up. Animals like humans experience this same reaction.
  • When the body is really getting cold and the animal’s life may be at risk, the body responds by vasoconstricting the peripheral tissues. This means the body is being selective in where it is sending warm blood.
  • The organs are the most important to keep an animal and human alive so blood is circulating in the core of the body (heart, liver, kidney lungs,) and shuts down temporarily by constricting blood vessels to the extremities until the body’s normal temperature is attained.
  • By this stage if a cat or dog has not received First Aid or warmth on it’s own, frostbite will develop. Tissues that have frozen due to this response, die. Cats and dogs often experience frostbite on the tips of their ears, tails, face footpads, legs and the genitalia in male dogs.
  • Frostbite can result in the loss of limbs, toes, tips of ears.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Ice on body and limbs
  • Shivering
  • Tissues are bright red followed by pale color( vasoconstriction) to black color (death of tissue/ sloughing of skin)

First Aid

  • Warm the affected area rapidly with warm water using towels or warmed ice packs.
  • If it is a limb or paw that is frozen, soak it only in a bath or bowl of warm water.
  • Dry gently after you have the warmed the area.
  • Do not rub or massage the frozen tissue
  • Do not apply snow or ice
  • Do not immerse your pet completely in a bath this will cause the body temperature to decrease and cause hypothermia.

Prevent Self-trauma

When the tissues are warmed it may cause some discomfort to your pet. The same also occurs when tissues are dead.

  • Wrap your pet in a blanket to prevent self-trauma and keep him or her warm.
  • Seek Veterinary care. Secondary infections can sometimes result from gangrene tissues.
  • If this happens off of peak hours or on weekends contact your emergency veterinary clinic right away.

It’s important to remember that if you’re cold, so is your pet. So keep them warm and covered this winter so everyone in the family can enjoy the winter season. From our family to yours, here’s to happy snowman weather.

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Our Location

The Animal Clinic of Verona is located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley!

We are conveniently located near the following localities:

Staunton, Augusta County, Verona, Fishersville, Penn Laird, McGayhesville, Waynesboro, Weyers Cave, Shenandoah Valley, Highland County, Harrisonburg, Churchville, Stuarts Draft, Grottoes, Port Republic, Harriston, New Hope, and Crimora!

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