Winter Proof your Dog – Prevent Frostbite

“Brrrrr, it’s cold outside. The wind is chilly. My nose, ears, and paws are freezing.

I’ve only been out for a little while, but the pads of my feet have lost feeling.

My muzzle is turning a slight red. 

My breathing becomes a bit rapid.

I try to make it back inside.

Instead, I stop, I lift one paw at a time.

I trot a few more steps; then I lay down.

I lick the ice built between my toes and around.

Mom is calling me to hurry back in.

So I get up and dash for it.

Oh, how nice it is to be warm inside.

I’m so glad I’m not stuck outside


“Doggy it’s cold outside….”

Dogs can’t get frostbite, can they? Oh, sure, they can! 

But they have fur you say. Well, yeah fur, not an immunity force field that can block freezing temperatures.

Yeah, but don’t they get used to the cold? Um…have you ever gotten sufficiently used to winter?

Listen, I suppose if your dog has lived outside his whole life, he will have somewhat become acclimatized to the cold. As long as there is access to a warm insulated dog house or shelter from the wind, moisture, and cold, he will survive. I’m talking about dogs with double coats. An extra layer of insulated undercoat that protects from moisture and cold. It keeps the body heat close. However, the rest of the body will still get cold like paws, tail, head. Not all dogs have double coats. Also, keep in mind that dogs living in the house full time will be sensitive to the cold even though they still develop their winter coat.

How do I know if my dog is too cold? He will lift his front or back paws while standing or sitting. He will take a few steps, then abruptly sit and lift his front paw. He will suddenly lay down, looking uncomfortable. He will lay down, curl up his entire body tight and compact — Tuck his paws beneath him with his nose under his tail.

What are the signs of frostbite? A few are:

  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Tissue and skin feel leathery or have a waxy appearance
  • Skin can involve scaling 

Call your vet if you suspect frostbite. They can walk you through the proper steps to take care of it, or advise you to bring your dog. You must handle with care. Do NOT apply snow to it or rub it, that would be painful. Move your dog inside and wrap a blanket carefully. Use warm water around 39 to 44 degrees Celsius (68 – 111.2 Fahrenheit) to immerse the affected area. If in doubt, always call the vet.

What about hypothermia? Hypothermia is fatal if left untreated. A few signs are:

  • Shivering, which will subside as hypothermia becomes severe
  • Low respiratory, and pulse rate 
  • Stiff muscles
  • Lethargy

You must treat for shock. You must seek Veterinary help. I have only touched on a little bit here. If you would like to learn more about Hypothermia and how to treat it, there is a lot of great information out there. I also suggest taking a Pet First Aid Course.

So what can we do about it if winter is not our friend this year? Remember this:

  • Winter booties. If winter is moody, put on booties! They protect the paws from frostbite, salt, chemicals, and ice. If you do not put booties on for a walk, then wash the salt and chemicals off the paws when you get home, as to prevent them from licking those toxins and ingesting it. Invest in quality booties. Some will fall off your dog’s paw in deep snow, or if he runs in them! It’s frustrating. I’ve been through 4 different brands of boots for my guy and still searching for that perfect one that will stay on him. I’m not giving up, however. There’s also paw balm at pet stores you can slather on their paws to protect them from salt snow, but I haven’t tried it yet. When I do, I will write a review in the future. Protect those paws!
  • Winter jacket or sweater. Especially for Short haired and single coat dogs, but any dog can benefit from it.
  • Keep walks short. Period.
  • Keep inside. When the temperature drops, do not leave them outside except to go potty. Frostbite loves the paws, nose, ears, and the tip of the tail. Use this opportunity to work on a new trick or reinforce old training. Play indoor games that stimulate the mind. Your dog loves being with you, even if it is just cuddling on the couch watching a movie.

Winter does not have to be the enemy! Let it snow! Stay warm, my furry friends.