Then it hit me…what would I do if I found a lost dog or cat in need of medical attention due to frost bite or hypothermia. Would I even recognize all of the signs. My first instinct would be to get them into our heated garage but then what would I do? Wrap them in a warm blanket? Yes, of course I would. Then I would call the vet but what next?
Years ago, I found a kitten tucked behind a shrub next to our foundation. It was 8:00 pm at night and the snow had fallen about three inches with more snow predicted through the night. If it wasn’t for our Bear Bear who insisted on pulling me over to the other side of the house, that poor little baby would have frozen to death. I pushed the shrubs apart and saw the sweetest little face staring up at me as if to say "please help me". I was able to grab him, get him into the garage where I wrapped him in warm blankets and fed him warm food. Fortunately, he was ok but as a pet owner, I should have been more educated on the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. My sister and brother-in-law later adopted this sweet little kitten from me and he is now a happy, healthy, and very spoiled cat.
Frostbite most commonly affects the tips of the ears, the tail, the scrotum, and the toes. Normally, blood flow keeps these areas warm. However, when a body area becomes extremely cold, its local blood vessels constrict to help the body conserve heat. The tissues then have even less blood supply and can eventually become as cold as the surrounding air. If the tissue freezes, it dies.
The clinical signs associated with frostbite include:
- Discoloration of the affected area of skin - this discoloration is often pale, gray or bluish. As the area thaws, it may turn red.
- Coldness and/or brittleness of the area when touched
- Pain when you touch the body part(s)
- Swelling of the affected area(s)
- Blisters or skin ulcers
- Areas of blackened or dead skin
Animals with hypothermia often have violent shivering, and slow and shallow respiration. If they are not warmed, they will become listless and eventually will be unresponsive and may die. Treating your pet for hypothermia can be costly. Your veterinarian will examine and treat your pet for hypothermia which may include warmed intravenous fluids and warm water enemas to raise his or her core body temperature. Total tissue damage may not show for several days. Your veterinarian may prescribe pain relief medication and antibiotics. When the frostbite starts to heal, it causes pain which promotes licking at the infected spot. It's important to keep an eye on this. Severe frostbite may call for amputation.
Not only are outside dogs and cats at risk, so are your indoor pets. Certain medications your pet may be taking or medical conditions he or she may have can increase susceptibility to frostbite. Dogs with heart disease, diabetes mellitus or other conditions that cause reduced blood flow to the extremities are at greater risk for frostbite. If your pet has medical issues, please make sure they are not outside in the cold for too long.
- NEVER Rub or massage frostbitten tissue
- Do NOT self diagnose and give pain medications
- Do NOT warm a frostbitten area if you cannot keep it warm
- Keep your pet wrapped in a warm towel before AND during transporting them to a vet
- Run dry towels and blankets through the dryer to warm them before wrapping your pet
- Bottles filled with warm water can be wrapped in a towel and placed next to the animal (plastic soda bottles work well) in the armpit and groin areas where there is less hair.
- Do NOT place hot water bottles directly in contact with the animal's body since burns could occur even if the bottles do not seem that hot to you.
- Hair dryers can be helpful, especially if the animal is wet as well as hypothermic.
- Warm water baths can be used for mildly hypothermic animals that will not have to be transported - taking a wet animal back out into the cold to go to the veterinarian will only make matters worse.
Don't forget to ask your vet about any other home remedies that would help make recovery easier on your pet like the recipe I found of honey and sugar dissolved in water (2 tablespoons to a cup of warm water).
"As you can see, Jake and Maggie were not affected by the snow at all today!" "They enjoyed running around outside and then took some time to help me organize my closet and move furniture". "Not really...they just made more work for me". haa haa. "One day I'll get this room painted and decorated and will share it on my blog www.fashionsandpassions.com" (which is a work in progress)... Stay tuned!