Allow your pet dog, cat or rabbit to live inside during cold weather so it doesn't contract frostbite.
Cold weather can be a challenge for animals that spend time outside; barn cats, farm dogs and pet rabbits kept outdoors are especially susceptible to the effects of frostbite when the air is chilly.
Frostbite happens when a cat, dog or rabbit spends an extended period of time outside in very cold weather. When the animal’s body becomes too cold, blood is redirected to the internal organs to protect them from damage. The result is that the animal’s extremities are deprived of heat, and the tissue is prone to freezing.
Dogs, cats and rabbits tend to suffer frostbite on their ears, faces and toes. Male dogs’ genitals may also be at risk for frostbite. Once the tissue becomes severely damaged and dies, the animal may actually lose this part of the body.
Signs of frostbite include shivering, ice anywhere on the body and bright-red tissue that eventually becomes pale. Without treatment, it may turn black.
If you believe your cat, dog or rabbit has frostbite, get the animal indoors. If the ears or face are affected, soak a towel in warm water and apply it to the area. If the paws are affected, soak them in a bowl of warm water. Be sure to dry the area gently after you have warmed it up, taking care not to rub it. Don’t put your pet in a tub of warm water because this will raise his body temperature too quickly.
Next, take your pet to the veterinarian for emergency treatment to help save the frostbitten area(s). Be sure to keep the animal warm while you are transporting him.
Preventing frostbite is simple. When the temperature drops very low, keep your pet indoors where it can stay warm and dry.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia shares her home in southern California with four cats, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and a Rex rabbit. You can read more about farm pets and other animals in her "Animal Talk" column in Hobby Farm Home magazine.
This article first appeared in the January/February 2009 Hobby Farm Home.