Every pet owner should know about cold weather pet care. If you’re one, you may well be aware that a fur coat doesn?t make cats and dogs immune to hypothermia (low body temperature) or frostbite. Pets usually conserve body heat by seeking shelter and curling up, fluffing their fur to trap warm air next to the skin, and by diverting blood circulation from the ear tips, toes, and tail to the central part of the body. ?Reduced circulation leaves these areas unprotected, making them a high risk for frostbite. A skin tissue is 90 percent water, and freezing causes cells to rupture when the water expands, just like ice cubes overflowing the tray. The resulting damage can be painful and severe.
Cold Weather Pet Care | Health Risks You Need to Know
Risk Factors for Cold Weather
Outdoor animals in cold climates are at the highest risk, but even moderately cold temperatures can be dangerous. Shivering generates heat, but not enough to protect during extremes of cold. A twenty-mile-per-hour wind makes forty-degree weather feel like 18 degrees, and wet fur chills the pet even more. Wind strips away that layer of warm air trapped by fur next to their skin. That can make even moderate temperatures dangerous.
Signs of Frostbite
Frostbite can be hard to detect when the typical pale white, gray or blue color of frozen skin is hidden by fur. Pets may limp from frozen toes, frozen ear tips tend to droop, and the skin will be icy, hard, and nonpliable.
You won?t see the damage right away. Redness, blisters, and severe infection can often happen days later. If it’s severe, tissue develops a gangrene sort of appearance. The affected area becomes leathery and insensitive to the sensation. If not removed surgically, those areas will fall off. All cases of frostbite need veterinary attention immediately after you administer first aid at home.
First Aid for Frostbite
#TBT to this morning when despite the extra 3″ of freshly fallen snow…????…. Igloo and I still managed to save this frozen stick from a life eternal #frostbite!! ??????? #sainthood #winning #itswhatwedo ??????? Sweet and snowy dreams my beautiful friends!! ?????? #eggnogandigloo #northpolesisters #snowday #sticksavers #rescuesquad #pawpatrol #frostypaws #frozen #sticktogether #icicle #icepops #snowdogs #allinadayswork #winterwonderland. . Sending some extra love to our bestie @baguette.the.bulldog who is hoping for some good news from the vet ??We love you Baguette and are praying for you!! ??????
Thaw frozen areas by dunking them in lukewarm water. For areas hard to dunk, like the scrotum and ear tips, hold a warm wet towel against the affected skin, and exchange for a fresh towel every few minutes. Don’t rub frozen tissue! Rubbing makes the damage worse and reduces any chance of recovery.
Tissue that?s completely frozen may take up to twenty minutes to thaw. Less deeply frozen areas immediately turn very red as they re-warm, and the skin becomes softer, warmer and more pliable. Apply an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin to the oozing area to help protect against infection, until your veterinarian can treat the pet.
Mild, first-degree frostbite usually resolves within a week or so. Bandages protect the area, minimize pain, and encourage healing. Antibiotics, pain medication, or even surgery to removed damaged or dead tissue may be necessary. It may take several weeks for the damage to heal completely.
Hypothermia Signs & First Aid Tips
Exposure to cold also can cause hypothermia, a condition in which body temperature falls below normal. In cats and dogs, average temperature ranges from about 100 to 102.5 degrees.
This occurs when body temperature falls between 95 to 99 degrees and causes pets to act a bit sluggish and lethargic. You?ll see muscle tremors and be shivering. Bring the cat or dog inside, dry them off, and turn up the heat and he should recover with no problem. If you can?t get the pet someplace warm, try putting them inside your clothing to share your body heat.
It is defined as a temperature of 91 to 95 degrees. These pets can also be treated at home but may take longer to recover. Offer them hot soup to help warm the pet from the inside out. Wrap them in a towel or blanket heated in the clothes drier.
A body temperature 90 degrees or less, can be deadly. Rectal thermometers register only to 93 degrees, though, so check to see if your cat or dog still shivers?pets lose the shivering response at 90 degrees. They may fall unconscious, and breathing and heart rate slow to the point the cat or dog may appear dead. Sometimes CPR is necessary.
More First Aid Tips
These pets need immediate veterinary care. When body temperature has been below 90 degrees for more than 30 minutes, ?core rewarming? is necessary. That means rewarming the pet from the inside using specialized veterinary techniques. You can dry them off, wrap your pet in warm blankets, and perhaps apply a hot water ball (wrapped in a towel) to their groin area for the ride in the car to the emergency room. Rubbing a bit of Karo syrup on the dog or cat?s gums may help raise their blood sugar levels and counter the risk of shock.
Your veterinarian may treat severely hypothermic pets with warm intravenous fluids, warm water enemas, airway rewarming using oxygen, or even heart/lung bypass machines that warm the blood. Yet, even with treatment, the prognosis is guarded in cases of severe hypothermia since organs and tissues are often irreparably damaged.
Here’s a video about cold weather tips for your pets during the holidays:
Pets that have suffered hypothermia in the past are at higher risk in the future for a relapse. Damage caused by the extreme cold reduces the body?s ability to stay warm. Prevention is the best policy, and the best prevention is to keep pets indoors during inclement weather. Take steps now to protect your pets from Old Man Winter?s deadly blast.
Do you have other cold weather pet care tips you want to share? Let us know in the comments section below.