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Question:

I just moved from a state with a moderate climate to an area that I’ve heard can have days on end with sustained temperatures below freezing. My dog spends a lot of time outside in a fenced-in area in addition to taking very long walks with me. Do I need to be concerned about frostbite and if so, how can I prevent it without keeping her indoors all winter?

ANSWER:

The simple answer is yes, like humans, dogs can get frostbite as well.

Frostbite is tissue damage that can occur in extreme cold. Dogs are at risk once the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Just like with humans, frostbite is a dog’s natural process where blood is redirected from the body’s extremities to vital organs when there is a drop in body temperature. Areas that are furthest away from the heart such as the tail, ears, nose, and paws will experience a drop in blood flow, and this can cause tissue damage.

Breed type certainly does play a factor in how susceptible a dog is to getting frostbite. Obviously, cold weather breeds such as the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute are less prone to this condition, but all breeds run the risk of frostbite and hypothermia when exposed to cold temperatures for a length of time. No dog should ever be left unattended in extreme weather for any period. A good rule of thumb is that if it is too cold for people, it is probably too cold for your dog. A warm dog jacket or sweater and booties will help minimize the risk, especially for short-coated breeds or older, more fragile dogs. However, clothing for your dog should never be used on an unattended dog or as a substitute for proper care, but rather as an adjunct. In general, it is safer for pets to be in an area where temperatures can be controlled.

Find out more about keeping your dog healthy in the winter months here.

The appropriate outerwear will keep your dog protected. Here are the top nine dog boots for winter and cold weather.

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