Winter is in full swing and the temperatures are dipping lower and lower. As the snow falls we all want to go out and play for a bit, coming in for a warm cup of hot cocoa, then playing some more. Snowball fights are the best, especially with your dog there to run around chasing them. But, we have snow boots and galoshes, and even though you pup may have a fur coat, they still have exposed paws that are sensitive to the cold. That’s when us pet parents ask the question, “How do I know if my dog’s paws are frozen?” Luckily there are a few ways to tell and also a few ways to prevent it.
What to Look For: The first thing you need to check is for ice build up in between their pads. If you find snow, ice, or mud use a warm wet washcloth to remove it. If they are shivering, that is another indication of hypothermia which means their paws could be frozen. If you’re concerned that they have frostbite, check the tissues too see if they are bright red followed by pale color (vasoconstriction) or black in color. This could mean the tissue is damaged or dying.
What to Do: First off you want to warm your pet, start by using a hair dryer on medium warm is a quick start to warm up your pet while someone else is preparing blankets and water bottles. Then, use blankets and put warm water in plastic bottles, then wrap them towels to prevent burns. You can also use plastic zip lock bags filled with uncooked rice that you warm in the microwave for 1-2 minutes then wrap in a towel. If you’re using a heating pad, make sure to put towels between them and the pad, they can get really hot and a weak animal will not be able to move and could get burnt. Once they are getting warm, check their temperature (should be above 37.5°) rectally and call the vet.
How to Prevent: The best way to prevent frozen paws is to put booties on your dog’s feet. Also, limit their time outside and don’t leave them out for too long unsupervised in the yard. You can also shovel out a little patch of grass for them to play and potty in, that way they’re not as exposed to the snow when outside.
Playing in the snow is great, but it’s also important to know how to make sure everyone stays safe. Frostbite and hypothermia are real dangers, but it’s easy to prevent. However, if it does happen, it’s good to know what to do that way you can enjoy the winter without worry!