How to treat frostbite in dogs?

Frostbite is an injury from exposure to very cold weather for a long time. Dogs’ long fur does not guarantee they won’t get frostbite. Like humans, dogs can also get minor or major frostbite depending on the exposure time to cold. To treat frostbite in dogs, watch out for signs of frostbite, try to reward the affected parts at home, and if symptoms persist, take them to the vet.

Cause of frostbite in dogs

A low temperature (0°C) plus wetting by rain, snow, or swimming can lead to a higher chance for frostbite.

Parts of the dog’s body that are affected

The paws, ears, and tail are the most common tissues that are more vulnerable to frostbite.

How does frostbite occur in dogs?

In cold weather, the blood flow will shift to internal organs while the extremities of the dog’s body, like ears, tails, paws, scrotum, and tail, get less blood flow and freeze faster than other body parts. 

Dog species that are more vulnerable to frostbite

Italian greyhound and terrier dogs are at higher risk of frostbite because of fewer hairs on the tail and ears. While fluffy tails and German shepherds are less vulnerable to frostbite owing to the extra hair on their body extremities. Northern breeds are also at lower risk of frostbites. But the extreme weather conditions scare winter and cause frostbite in all dog species.

Recognition of the symptoms of frostbite in dogs

Check the skin colour

Instead of their normal skin colour, the skin turns pale or grey under the fur.

Check the extremities for numbness

keep an eye on the extremities of the body like ears, lips, tail, face, feet, and scrotum for frostbite. Skin affected with frostbite feels brittle or cold when touched, and the dog may lack sensation in the affected areas.

Check the skin for blisters.

The skin turns red when the body tries to reward the frostbitten area, and blisters or ulcers may also develop.

Check for dead skin

After a few weeks, the skin affected by severe frostbite turns black and dead. It starts peeling off. It’s a clear sign of frostbite.

Treatment of frostbite in dogs at home

Take the dog into a warm place

Move the dog immediately into a warm environment, like your house and be gentle with your dog, particularly to the frostbitten skin.

Treat hypothermia first

If your dog has a low core temperature, weak pulse and violent shivering, it is suffering from hypothermia and needs to be treated before the frostbite. Otherwise, your dog may go into a coma state. To treat hypothermia, wrap your dog in warm blankets or towels or place water bottles filled with hot water around the dog’s body.

Soak the affected area in warm water

Gently warm the frostbitten skin by soaking the affected area in warm water (40°C). Avoid hot water as it can cause burns. 

Pat dry your dog

Use a dry soft towel to pat dry your dog to avoid heat loss.

Avoid rubbing and massaging the affected area.

This will lead to additional damage to the injured tissues. 

Avoid dry heating

It’s a bad idea to use any direct heat from heating pads and hair dryers. This may cause skin burns.

Avoid outdoor rewarming

If you are thinking of rewarming your pet outdoors, it’s not a good idea. The freezing-thawing-freezing procedure leads to irreversible damage to your beloved pet’s body part.

Take your pet to the vet.

If the bad condition of your pet persists upon simple warming at home, take your pet immediately to a vet for immediate treatment. Make sure to wrap your dog in a warm towel to avoid further heat loss on your way to the vet.

How is frostbite diagnosed in dogs?

On exposure to extremely cold temperatures for a long time, a physical examination of the dog and blood and urine tests may be performed by a vet to look for damage to internal organs.


After diagnosing your pet’s condition, the vet may give your dog a prescription pain medication to help relieve its symptoms.

Additional warm-up procedures

The vet may be given warm IV fluids or a warm water enema to help raise their internal temperature, depending on the dog’s condition.

Antibiotic medications

If your dog suffers from severe frostbite or has infectious blisters on the affected area, the vet will treat your dog with antibiotics. These medications also help reduce swelling and speed up recovery.


If the affected area of your dog is dead, the vet will surgically remove the affected tissues or perform an amputation to remove that part. This will prevent further rotting of tissues. 


  • Sometimes the signs of frostbite may not appear immediately. Keep monitoring your lovely pet for days after exposure to extreme cold weather.
  • Some dogs are more susceptible to frostbite than others. Like small, short-haired dogs have a higher risk than other dogs.
  • Dogs that are wet in cold weather can easily get frostbite.
  • Dogs sensitive to cold weather due to age or illness may be more likely to get frostbite.

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