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Important facts about canine frostbite

American Kennel Club on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

The American Kennel Club offers tips to keep your dog safe from frostbite in the cold months ahead:

What is frostbite?

Frostbite is tissue damage that can occur in extreme cold. As with humans, frostbite for dogs is a natural process where blood is redirected from the body’s extremities to vital organs when there is a drop in body temperature. The areas that are farthest away from the heart such as the tail, ears, nose and paws will experience a drop in blood flow, and this can cause tissue damage. This begins to occur when the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Symptoms of frostbite

Check for changes in your dog’s skin. It may become pale and turn a bluish-gray color. This is caused by the lack of blood flow. In severe cases, there may even be patches of black, dead skin. The affected area may feel cold and brittle and will likely be inflamed. Frostbite can be extremely painful, so always look for changes in your dog’s behavior as well. Keep in mind that signs of frostbite can take a few days to appear.



If your dog has frostbite, the first thing you should do is get him into a warm, dry area and wrap him in warm blankets. A helpful tip is to place a towel on a radiator or apply a hairdryer to a towel to warm it up. Do not rub the frostbitten area or use any form of direct heat (hairdryer, heating pad, etc.). Warm water compresses can help, but make sure the water is warm, not hot. Once the affected area is warmed up as much as possible, get to your vet to get your dog evaluated and treated.


Limit your dog’s time outside during cold weather and never leave your dog outside alone. It is easy to lose track of time and leave your dog outside for longer than necessary. After your dog comes inside, check his fur and paws to make sure snow and/or ice did not collect between his toes or anywhere else on his body. Consider coats, sweaters and booties for trips out into the cold, especially for dogs that are more sensitive to the extreme temperatures.

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