Frostbite on Dog Paws: Signs and How Can it be Prevented

Do you live in a cold climate? Do you take your dog outside for walks frequently, even when it’s very cold? If so, you need to learn how to recognize the signs of frostbite on dog paws and understand how you can prevent this dangerous condition, too.

Frostbite on dog paws

5 Common Signs of Frostbite on Dog Paws

Read through the list below to find out more about some common signs and symptoms associated with frostbite on a dog’s paw pads. If you suspect your dog is suffering from frostbite, take her to the emergency vet right away.

5 signs of frostbite on dog paws include, but may not be limited to:

Color Changes

The color of a dog’s paw pads will change, sometimes drastically, if she is dealing with frostbite. You are likely well aware of your dog’s normal paw pad color, so you can recognize easily when this color is not right.

For example, if your dog naturally has black paw pads, they might turn gray or very pale; if she has pink paw pads, they might turn blue. No matter the color, if your dog’s paw pads are changing in appearance after she’s been outside in the cold, this is not a good sign.

Color changes are typically the first signs that a dog is suffering from frostbite on her paw pads. If you notice this symptom, monitor her closely to see if the condition worsens—or just go ahead and take her to the emergency vet to be sure she gets the care she needs.

Swelling and Pain

The longer the frostbite continues, the more swelling the paw pad is likely to experience. If the paw pad is both swollen and discolored, this is a very good indicator that your dog has frostbite and needs emergency vet treatment to recover.

Pain is also associated with frostbite. Your dog may be in a lot of pain and may be hiding, cowering, or becoming aggressive because of it. On the other hand, she may just be defensive about having her paw handled, and she might be limping and favoring the sore paw. Look for any signs of pain in your dog, including the less common ones, to determine whether or not she might be dealing with frostbite.

Cold to the Touch

Because frostbite causes the skin to become much too cold, it also makes the affected area feel cold to the touch. This is due to the temperature of the affected skin becoming much colder than the average body temperature of a human—so when you touch the paw pad, you’ll notice just how cold it really is.

Sometimes, the cold paw pad skin may also have a brittle feeling. This is because of the dying skin tissue, and it means the frostbite may be more serious than you could have originally thought. If your dog’s paw pad is cold to the touch, feels brittle, or both, then you need to take her to the emergency vet sooner rather than later.

Blistering

Another common symptom of frostbite on dog paws is blistering. Blistering usually means the frostbite is moderate to severe. Blisters may appear as pus-filled or fluid-filled sacs on the paw pad, or they may look more like open wounds or ulcers on the skin. Either way, they are a serious threat to your dog’s health and need to be taken care of promptly.

Once the frostbite itself is under control, the vet will likely give you antibiotics to protect your dog from potentially developing an infection in these open wounds on her feet. It may take dogs with blistering frostbite a long time to recover fully from this condition.

Blackening

Finally, one of the worst symptoms of frostbite on a dog’s paw pads is blackening of the skin. This means the skin tissue has died completely in these locations, and the problem may spread if it is left untreated. If your dog never receives medical care for blackening of the skin due to frostbite, this may cause her to lose her foot entirely.

If you notice black spots on your dog’s paw pads that are not there normally and you know she has been outside in the cold, treat this as a serious medical emergency. Take your pet to the emergency vet and understand that the treatment may be a long one.

How to Prevent Frostbite on Dog Paws

You can prevent frostbite on your dog’s paws by putting her in booties when she will be walking on very cold surfaces, on ice, or in snow. Limit her time outdoors when temperatures drop below freezing, and always examine her feet when she comes back inside.

Bring Your Pet in Right Away for Any Signs of Frostbite on Dog Paws

If you think there’s a chance your dog could have frostbite but you’re not sure, it’s better to err on the side of caution and take her to the emergency vet for examination. She may need emergency veterinary care to help recover from the condition, especially if it is spreading or growing worse. The vet can give you more information about your dog’s specific needs as well.

At Emergency Veterinary Care Centers, we understand how serious frostbite on dogs paws, and frostbite in general, can be. Our team is ready to care for your pet’s condition as soon as possible. We have locations in Highland, Westville and Mishawaka, IN, all staffed with emergency veterinarians who care about your pet’s health as much as you do.

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