Frostbite in medical terminology is the damage that was caused to the skin and other tissues due to cold. When the ambient temperature drops below 0 ° C, blood vessels that are close to the surface of the skin begin to narrow and contract. This narrowing of blood vessels helps maintain internal body temperature by drawing blood from colder areas closer to the center. In severe frosts or when the body is exposed to cold for a long time, this protective mechanism can reduce blood flow to some parts of the body to critically low levels, especially to the limbs. The combination of low temperature and a decrease in blood flow can lead to tissue freezing, causing serious damage. Frostbite, as a rule, occurs in parts of the body remote from the heart.
Dogs most often get frostbite on their paws, ears and tail. If the dog is wet, then these parts of the body are very vulnerable to frostbite.
What are the symptoms of frostbite?
Clinical symptoms of frostbite include:
- Measurement of skin color of the affected area - the skin often becomes pale, gray or bluish.
- Cold and fragile area when touched
- Pain from touching an affected part of the body
- Swelling of the affected area
- Blisters and ulcers on the skin
- Areas of blackened or dead skin
When thawing frostbitten tissues, they can become red and very painful due to inflammation.
Clinical symptoms of frostbite may appear several days after frostbite, especially if the affected area is small (for example, the tip of the tail or ears). Heavily frostbitten areas can become necrotic and die out. If the fabric begins to die, it changes color from dark blue to black, then, within a few days or weeks, it begins to tear away and fall off. During this time, pus can form in the tissues and develop an unpleasant odor due to a secondary bacterial infection.
Dogs with heart disease, diabetes mellitus and some other diseases that cause a decrease in blood flow to the limbs are at the greatest risk of frostbite.
How to treat frostbite?
If you suspect your dog is frostbite, then you should immediately seek veterinary care. First aid for frostbite may include:
- Place your dog in a warm and dry place as quickly as possible and as safely as possible.
- If a dog suffers from hypothermia or low body temperature, pay attention to hypothermia first. Wrap it slowly and carefully in a warm, dry towel or blanket, and place next to the dog hot water bottles, also wrapped in towels.
- Do not rub or massage the affected area.
- If you are outdoors, do not warm the frostbitten part of the body if you cannot keep it warm. Additional exposure to cold or repeated freezing will more severely damage tissues.
- You can carefully warm the affected area with warm water (not hot!). The recommended water temperature is from 40 to 42 ° C - at this temperature you should be able to comfortably dip your hand in warm water. If the water is too hot, you can do more harm than if you hadn’t used water at all. You can also use warm water compresses. Do not use direct dry heat, such as a heating pad or hairdryer.
- After the damaged part warms up, thoroughly wipe and dry it.
- You, during the trip to the veterinarian, keep the dog warm by wrapping it in dry towels or a blanket.
- Do not give your dog any pain medication unless they are approved by your veterinarian. Many common painkillers for humans, including acetaminophen and aspirin, can be toxic to pets.
How will a veterinarian treat frostbite?
The veterinarian should examine the dog and consider the treatment of any other diseases that accompany frostbite, especially shock or hypothermia. Since tissue thawing is extremely painful, the dog is likely to be given pain medication. Antibiotics can be used to prevent secondary skin infections if tissue is suspected of necrosis. Some dogs require amputation of seriously affected parts of the body.
What is the prognosis of frostbite?
The prognosis of frostbite depends on the degree of damage in the dog. Mild cases of frostbite usually go away with little damage, but more severe frostbite can lead to irreversible loss or alteration of the affected tissue. In extreme cases, amputation or surgical removal of purulent-necrotic tissue is required. Your veterinarian will discuss with you the diagnosis and treatment plan for your dog.
How frostbite develops
Everyone knows that the normal temperature of any living organism is responsible for the blood circulating through the blood vessels.
In the cold season, the main task of blood vessels is to protect those internal organs that are of the greatest value for the life of the body. Therefore, the vessels are narrowed, and the main flow of blood is concentrated in the area of the heart and other vital organs, leaving minimal blood circulation for the body parts most distant from these organs.
If these remote parts of the body are left without blood “nutrition” for a long time, then skin cells die under the influence of low temperature. And as a result, frostbite occurs.
Signs of frostbite in dogs
There are several degrees of frostbite: mild, moderate and severe.
Mild frostbite in dogs is characterized by the following symptoms: discoloration of the skin (the skin becomes pale or acquires a grayish tint), when blood circulation is restored, the affected parts of the body turn red and peel.
Symptoms of moderate degree of frostbite: the dog becomes drowsy, the skin acquires a bluish tint, breathing becomes rare and difficult.
Severe frostbite: the animal trembles, the affected parts of the body are covered with ice and have a blue color, the affected areas are very swollen, bubbles appear, the dog does not allow him to touch.
First aid for frostbite
Frostbite in dogs is fraught with complications. Therefore, the first thing to do is:
- First of all, it is necessary to take the animal to a warm and dry room.
- Carefully inspect the four-legged.
- If frostbite is mild, a rather effective method is to warm the dog in warm water, the temperature of which does not exceed 25 °, in order to avoid burns due to a sharp temperature difference. Or you should warm the reddened or pale areas of the body with warm hands or breathing.
What is forbidden to do with frostbite
When providing first aid after frostbite it is forbidden:
- Rub the frostbitten skin tissue with anything (towel, snow or mittens). So you can bring the infection into the arising mikrossadin on the skin.
- In severe frostbite, you can not put the dog in the bathroom with warm water.
- In no case do not use heating pads, hair dryers or other warming objects to warm the animal, since a sharp drop in temperature can cause a burn, as the wounded areas of the body become too sensitive even to the very minimum heat.
- To wrap the paws and affected parts of the animal’s body, use only slightly warm and dry, clean and non-sticky soft tissues to the skin.
- With deep frostbite, in no case should you rub oils, alcohol, fat into the affected skin.
- Never self-medicate or use medicines intended for humans.
Hypothermia and frostbite in dogs: symptoms, first aid and prevention
Hypothermia and frostbite are some of the most dangerous conditions of an animal that can cost them health, or even life.
The dog begins to tremble, it chills, it becomes weak, indifferent, and this condition progresses. Often hypothermia results in loss of consciousness and coma.
Affected tissues noticeably differ from normal ones - they are cold to the touch, they have reduced or no sensitivity at all. The skin color is initially pale, then it can begin to redden (the inflammatory process begins), then it darkens until blackness appears, blisters may appear, as in a burn.
Most often, ears, fingers, paws, mammary glands in bitches, and genitals in males suffer from frostbite in dogs.
First aid for hypothermia and frostbite
As soon as possible, place the affected animal in a warm place, wrap it in a blanket.
The warming process can be quite painful. In no case do not place the dog near heating appliances, do not put heating pads near it, warming should be gradual, passive. Apply a cotton-gauze dressing to the frost-bitten areas (it should be thick, in 6-7 layers) - this will prevent the occurrence of a temperature difference between the affected surface and deep-lying tissues with normal body temperature. Dressings should not be tight! Any circulatory disturbance in this state is fraught with the development of necrotic processes and tissue death. For the same reason, do not rub the affected areas!
Since hypothermia causes a sharp decrease in blood sugar, it is very useful to pour warm water with honey or 40% glucose solution (two tablespoons per glass of water) into the dog.
If the sensitivity of the affected areas is not restored, the dog suffers from severe pain, is unconscious, has signs of a disturbance in cardiac or pulmonary activity, blisters and weeping wounds have appeared, do not hesitate, contact your veterinarian immediately!
At a very low temperature (normal temperature varies between 37.5 - 39 degrees), waiting for a doctor, you can put a heating pad with warm (not hot!) Water near the dog, avoiding contact of the heating pad with frost-bitten areas.
If the temperature, on the contrary, is elevated, this means that pathogenic microbes have got into the wound, and infection has begun. Here you can not do without antibiotic therapy, both general and local effects.
After successful treatment, remember that the areas affected by frostbite are easily re-frostbite!
Prevention of hypothermia and frostbite in dogs
- in severe frosts, windy and damp weather, reduce the time of walking,
- do not let the dog stay motionless for a long time, sit down or lie down on the ground,
- if necessary, put warm winter clothes on the dog,
- watch the dog carefully - if it starts to tremble, better go home,
- avoid walking near ponds, dogs can get carried away with the game and get into the water, and wet hair immediately loses its function of protection from the cold. If this happens, take the dog home immediately.