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Published: Nov 22, 2011

With winter fast approaching it's important for pet owners to care for their dogs a bit differently to ensure they remain healthy when they're outside in the cold. VCA Animal Hospitals reports that one problem that can harm a dog in the winter is congelatio, or frostbite.

This condition occurs when damage is caused to the skin and other tissue due to being in extreme cold weather - 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower - for an extended period of time. In most cases bouts of frostbite occur in body parts that are farthest from the heart and body warmth, including areas on a dog's face such as the ear tips, the tip of the tail or a dog’s limbs or toes.

According to VCA, clinical signs that a dog has frostbite include discoloration of the affected skin - many times it will be pale, gray or blue-toned. The area may also be extremely cold to the touch and the dog may cry out in pain when the spot is touched. Initially, the area may appear swollen and blisters or skin ulcers may appear. Areas of black or dead skin may also appear in severe cases. VCA adds that these signs may not show up for several days, especially if the affected area is small or is covered by hair.

If these signs appear, bring the dog to the veterinarian health clinic right away so a trained professional can assess the damage and start a plan of action to help it heal. As a general rule, if it is too cold for you to be out for a prolonged time – it is too cold for your dog! When playing outside in cold weather, take frequent breaks to warm up indoors and consider booties or other cold weather protection for your dog.