Frostbite is an uncommon condition in healthy animals that have been acclimatized to the cold. Ill animals or those that have recently moved from a warm climate to a cold one are more susceptible. Frostbite is due to prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures or contact with frozen metal objects. The lower the temperature, the greater the risk. Lack of shelter, blowing wind, and wetting decrease the amount of exposure time necessary for frostbite to develop.
Frostbite typically affects the tips of the ears, the digits, the scrotum, and the tail tip because these areas are not well insulated by hair and the blood vessels are not well protected. While frozen, the skin appears pale and is hypoesthetic and cool to the touch. After thawing, there may be mild reddening, edema, pain, and eventual scaliness of the skin. In mild cases, the hair of affected areas may turn white, later; the tips and margins of the ear may curl. In severe cases, the skin becomes necrotic and sloughs. Often the lesions look similar to burns.
Management of frostbite includes rapidly thawing the frozen tissues by gentle application of water. All tissues should be handled gently. In severe cases, necrosis occurs and the tissue should be amputated.
So please be aware of the temperature and make every effort to keep your pets inside during cold weather. If you suspect frostbite has occurred, please call your veterinarian as soon as possible.