Jack Frost can bite your pet

The extreme winter conditions we're facing are adding extra challenges to our daily lives.

Besides tending to snow shovelling, anti-freezing our vehicles and putting on the extra layers to keep ourselves warm. we have to make sure we don't overlook the potential hazards of prolonged exposure of pets to the cold weather.

This week, I had three different cases of frostbites in dogs.

Frostbite is a condition in which certain areas of the body are severely damaged due to exposure to freezing temperatures.

The mechanism of frostbite is simple. 

The blood is transferred to the body organs via blood vessels. The blood vessels are dynamic and change diameter depending on many factors.

Cold temperature causes significant narrowing of the blood vessels, reducing or even blocking the blood supply to the affected areas.

Blood is essential for the organ cells' vitality.

There are four grades of frostbites depending of the length of exposure to the freezing temperatures, and the severity of the tissue. Frst-degree frostbite refers to a superficial damage of skin with a reversible changes that can heal and the area can return to normal function.

In fourth-degree frostbite, the deep layers of the area are severely and permanently damaged, which eventually leads to the detachment and falling off of the affected area/ organ.

The body extremities are the areas most commonly affected. 

The symptoms of frostbite depend on the stage.

In the initial stages, the areas can be numb and darker or blueish colour. In more advanced cases, blisters appear and eventually, in fourth-degree frostbites, the area became black and sloughs off.

Older animals, or animals with conditions that entail impaired blood supply (such as diabetes or heart problems), are at greater risk for developing frostbites when exposed to the freezing, cold weather. 

If you suspect frostbite in your pet, try to rub the area to warm it and stimulate blood flow. Seeking professional veterinary care is recommended in order to assess the severity of the situation and to tend to the problem to reverse the damage as soon as possible.

As always, prevention is the key.

Make sure that your pet is not exposed to freezing, cold weather for a prolonged period. When the animal is taken out, protective pet clothing can prevent the issue from occurring.

All pet stores, and other department stores, carry a wide variety of pet sweaters, jackets and paw wear. 

Do not take this issue lightly. It is true that animals have fur. However, companion animals have been domesticated for hundreds of years, hence are not geared toward spending a prolonged time in freezing conditions. 

Many dogs enjoy the snow and will happily dive right into it. There is no need to deny them this joy as long as basic safety measures are taken. Limit the exposure time to the frozen ground, and provide your pet with protective gear.

If your pet has been affected and you suspect frostbite, take it to see your vet. Early intervention can in many cases, changes the outcome of the damage. 


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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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