Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Frostbite

Contributor(s): Rosanna Marsella, David Scarff

Introduction

  • Cause: prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures or frozen metal.
  • Extent of damage proportional to temperature and length of exposure.
  • Signs: extremities most often damaged; necrosis and sloughing of affected tissue.
  • Diagnosis: history, signs.
  • Treatment: rapid thawing of tissues with warm water. Amputation or resection of necrotic tissue may be necessary.
  • Prognosis: generally good.

Pathogenesis

Etiology

  • Exposure to freezing temperatures or frozen metal.
  • Exposure time required for damage reduced if skin wet or exposed to wind.
  • Poorly insulated areas at greater risk.

Predisposing factors

General
  • Cold weather.
  • Poorly acclimatized or debilitated.
  • Living outdoors in poorly insulated kennel.
  • Wet fur, wind chilling.

Specific

  • Extremities at risk (poorly insulated, blood vessels exposed).
  • Contact with frozen metal surfaces (especially scrotum).

Pathophysiology

  • Ice crystals in tissues → necrosis.
  • Damage proportional to exposure time and temperature.
  • Poorly insulated areas at greater risk.
  • Ice crystals in tissues → cells damaged and blood supply reduced → necrosis.

Timecourse

  • Damage may be acute, but full extent of necrosis may not be apparent for some time.

Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prevention

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Outcomes

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Jepson P G (1981) Chilblain syndrome in dogs. Vet Rec 109 (17), 392 PubMed.
  • Swaim S F (1980) Trauma to the skin and subcutaneous tissues of dogs and cats. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 10 (3), 599-618 PubMed.
  • Franz D R, Berberich J J, Blake S & Mills W J Jr (1978) Evaluation of fasciotomy and vasodilator for treatment of frostbite in the dog. Cryobiology 15 (6), 659-669 PubMed.


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