Frannie Says: Baby It’s Cold Outside! Frostbite Prevention During Minnesota Winters

Frannie

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We knew it would eventually happen. The temperatures have finally dropped and snow will inevitably be part of our forecasts in the coming months. This means it’s time to think about the winter safety and well-being of our four-legged companions. Winter can be a magical time for dogs, but it also brings the risk of frostbite.

Frostbite occurs when the skin and underlying tissues freeze due to cold temperatures. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), “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.” Symptoms can begin after just minutes of exposure, so it’s vital to recognize the AKC’s signs of frostbite in dogs:

  • Pain/tenderness when touched
  • Swelling
  • Pale, blue or gray skin or other discoloration
  • Skin cold to the touch
  • Stiffness or clumsiness
  • Blisters or skin ulcers
  • Areas of blackened or dead skin

AKC reminds us that “all dog breeds run the risk of frostbite and hypothermia when exposed to cold temperatures for a length of time.” While small dogs, short haired dogs, puppies, and senior dogs are at the biggest risk of frostbite, no dog should ever be left unattended in extreme weather for any period.

If your dog experiences signs of cold or frostbite, it’s important to take action immediately. Bring them indoors and remove any snow and ice from their body, being sure to check around their ears and between their toes for any stuck or hidden ice. Remove any wet clothing and collars too. Do not rub the frostbitten skin or use direct heat such as a hair dryer or heating pad.

Contact your veterinarian right away if you believe your dog may have symptoms of frostbite.

While frostbite can be a serious and scary condition in dogs, here are four ways to help ensure your pup has plenty of winter fun while keeping them safe from the cold:

Consider clothing: Some pups benefit from — and even enjoy — wearing an extra layer, like a coat or sweater, when they’re outside. Just make sure their duds start completely dry every time they go outside so as not to make cold weather effects worse.

Ponder paw-wear: A dog’s paws can be especially vulnerable to snow, ice, and salt, so protecting them with balm, pads or booties can help keep their tootsies safe. (Speaking of paws, make sure to use only special, pet-safe deicer around your home too.)

Edit exercise routines: Multiple, brisk walks outside can be fun for you and your pup, but it’s best to limit outdoor exposure when it’s really cold outside. Our fur kids need good exercise year round, so consider keeping walks short and sweet while adding some dedicated time to play active indoor games like fetch. Visiting a doggy daycare is another great option for giving them plenty of exercise and socialization in a climate-controlled environment.

Get grooming: Maintaining your dog’s coat with frequent grooming and regular brushing will also help you keep them warm. A well-groomed coat provides better insulation. You may need to bathe, groom, and brush your pup more frequently during colder months as well, since snow and ice can stick to fur and cause more matting.

Dog’s Day Out Grooming Manger Andy always emphasizes the importance of thoroughly drying your dog in the wintertime after giving them a bath, before letting them go outside. He says, “Even a little dampness around the ears or between the pads can increase the likelihood of frostbite.”

Andy adds, “During the winter months our customers really appreciate our four doggy dryers. Used by our bathers and groomers — and available to folks giving their dog a DIY bath — our dryers are specially calibrated not to get too hot. And they are powerful, making short order out of completely drying your pup before they head out into the elements.”

While winter in Minnesota can be a challenging time for dogs, it can also be a season of fun and adventure with the right precautions in place. Downtown Dogs daycare is an awesome option for indoor playtime on extra cold days, and Dog’s Day Out is here to keep your pup’s winter coat perfectly groomed and in great shape to protect them from the cold.


The advice provided is based on many years of experience as dog parents and operators of one of the largest and longest established dog daycare and boarding facilities in the Twin Cities. Always consult your veterinarian — and in the case of pet trusts, a legal professional. When not sharing advice, our dog bloggers — Frannie, Lyle, and Helen — share a space with their people, Downtown Dogs and Dog’s Day Out owner Ralph Bernstein and his wife, Abbe.