If your dog has frostbite, make sure to contact your veterinarian right away so that they can examine the skin and determine if additional therapy is needed such as antibiotics and pain medications. Blood work can also be performed to look for signs of internal organ damage. When transport your dog to the vet’s office, you can wrap him in warm blankets and towels to bring his body temperature down. A good tip is to first put the towels in your dryer for a few minutes to warm them up.
If your dog is wet, carefully towel-dry him but do not rub the skin since it becomes red and painful as it thaws. You can use warm water bottles to help him if he has a low body temperature but avoid using electric blankets and heating pads because these can become too hot, burning the already traumatized skin. Blow dryers can also get too hot and should be avoided.
For minor frostbite patients, topical ointments can help with small areas. More generalized frostbite may require hospital care, warming devices, and injectable antibiotics and pain medications. For cases with severe frostbite and necrotic skin, surgical removal of the affected tissue is necessary. In some cases, this may mean amputation like if it happens at the tip of the tail.
When dogs go outside in the cold, sweaters and jackets can help keep their core body temperature maintained. For snowy or icy surfaces, dog booties or shoes can protect the paws. It is best to avoid staying outdoors for more than 20-30 minutes unless your dog is used to these kinds of ambient temperatures. If you normally keep your dog outdoors, make sure that he has a sufficiently warm shelter or keep him indoors when ambient temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Frostbite is a painful medical condition that can be mitigated with early intervention and prevention. Be sure to pay attention to the temperatures outdoors, especially if your pup is going to be outside for more than thirty minutes at a time. If you suspect that your dog has frostbite, try to warm him up as best as you can and take him to his veterinarian right away.