Frostbite and Hypothermia in Pets

3 min read
Jan 25, 2023

During the cold winter months, our pups still need to get outside and play. However, we know during the winter months it can get extremely cold - especially if you live up North - but making sure your dogs get all of their extra energy out is always important. While your pets are out and about during these colds months, it is extremely important to always be aware of Frostbite and Hypothermia.

What Does Your Pet Think?

Some dogs (and cats) absolutely love winter whereas others would rather cuddle up with you under a warm blanket and lounge all day. Every dog and cat is unique, but all pets have the risk of hypothermia and/or frostbite. It’s easy to assume that if your dog or cat has a thick furry coat, she will be comfortable and warm in any temperature. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Even the furriest cats and dogs can get hypothermia! You should always be ready to protect your pet from the bitter cold outside.

Watching for Frostbite  

Most pet parents believe the common misconception that a dog’s coat is enough to protect them from the harsh, bitter cold of winter. There are some dogs that are able to do so better than others, but all dogs should be protected and watched carefully throughout the winter months (or any time when it’s cold).  

Winterize your dog’s paws to prevent cracking, frostbite, and other health conditions. Trim the hair around your dog’s pads so ice clusters won’t gather there; watch out for rock salt, which can cause irritation; and consider purchasing a balm that can be applied to your dog’s paws as a moisturizer. Small dogs or dogs with pre-existing health problems could also benefit from a sweater. If your dog stays outside for too long during the winter, there’s a risk of her getting frostbite. 

Frostbite begins when your dog’s body gets cold. Once your dog’s body (our body works this way too) gets cold, blood is pulled away from the limbs (arms, legs, tail, etc.) to maintain warmth at the body’s core. It’s a mammal’s defense to stay alive as long as possible in the cold.  As our dog spends more time outside, her ears, paws, and/or tail could form ice crystals and severely damage her body tissue. Frostbite is scary because it’s not immediately recognized. Watch for pale or grey skin and feel her skin to check to see if it feels cold. 

Be Aware of Hypothermia

The other life-threatening condition you need to worry about during the winter is hypothermia.  Hypothermia, like frostbite, begins to occur when your dog has spent too much time in the cold and generally occurs when they get wet somehow. Perhaps they rolled in the snow and the warmth from their body melted it. Or, they may find a puddle to play in.  Dogs who are young, old, and/or have medical issues are more likely to experience harm from the cold sooner than a healthy adult dog.

Watch Out for These Signs

These are some signs of Frostbite and Hypothermia to watch for in your pup:

  • Shivering 
  • Cold ears, tail, and/or paws
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy

The best rule to go by is: If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog.  Dogs can let you know when they’re cold. For example, they will shiver or appear anxious. When spending time outside, if your dog slows down, refuses to follow commands, or curls up when lying down, bring them inside immediately—your dog is becoming hypothermic and needs to warm up.

Frostbite is another serious sign of coldness in dogs but isn’t noticeable immediately. To alleviate Frostbite and Hypothermia symptoms in dogs and cats you need to help warm up your pet’s skin. This should be done slowly and gently. Use warm towels or blankets to wrap around the frostbitten area and bring your pet’s skin back to a healthy temperature. Call your veterinarian right away if your dog or cat has signs of hypothermia or frostbite.

The Takeaway

Winter conditions should be taken seriously when taking your pets in and out of the elements. Here at MetLife1, we know accidents and illnesses happen to all pets – even in the winter season.

Consider Investing in Pet Insurance 

Looking for more ways to keep your pets happy and healthy? Consider investing in a pet insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  We offer dog insurance and cat insurance policies for furry family members.  Get your free quote today. 

Protect your Pets this Winter

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.