What to do if an animal has frostbite?

January 16, 2015

Frostbite may not often be considered as a serious threat to animals, but this is absolutely a misconception. It is a very real and common threat in winter months, especially in colder climates. Animals showing signs of frostbite such as icy patches on the skin, extreme discoloration of body tissue or shivering are at serious risk and effective treatment should be administered as quickly as possible to avoid potential long-term injury.
First and foremost, professional medical assistance should be sought immediately. If an animal is showing signs of hypothermia or frostbite, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. In the meantime, there are a few steps you can take to avoid further damage, and possibly reduce lingering injuries.
Do
• Move the animal to a dry, warm place
• Wrap the animal in a dry blanket or towel, this helps raise its core temperature and also avoids self inflicted trauma such as gnawing and chewing
• Shield the animal from further exposure to cold temperatures, refreezing can be extremely dangerous, and will likely cause long-term damage
• Warm affected area using warm, not hot, water. Anything higher than one hundred and eight degrees fahrenheit can be dangerous. Be sure to dry thoroughly after administering water treatment
• Use a thermometer to monitor your pets core temperature. Once it reaches its normal reading, stop efforts to warm the pet and focus on maintaining proper temperature.
Do Not
• Rub or Massage the affected area in an attempt to warm the animal. The tissue here is likely to be brittle and weak and you may injure the pet. At the very least it would be exceptionally painful to the animal
• Administer pain medication of any kind unless expressly directed by your veterinarian. Most human painkillers are harmful, if not fatal, to animals
• Use any form of direct heat such as heating pads or blow dryers. these are too intense, and may present an issue.
As stated above, the number one priority here is to seek professional medical care, but by following these steps you can prevent further injury, and potentially neutralize fatal complications.

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