Huskies are very well adapted to the cold as an Arctic sled breed, but can huskies get frostbite?
Huskies can get frostbite, but they are much less susceptible to it than other breeds thanks to their thick double coats, and it is extremely rare for them to be affected by it. There are also many things owners can do to keep them safe, which further lowers the risk of frostbite.
Frostbite is not something to worry about if you have a husky as a pet, and this guide will explain why and some steps you can take to keep your husky safe in cold conditions.
What Is Frostbite?
Frostbite is damage caused to skin and other tissue due to extreme cold.
It happens due to a combination of extreme cold and reduced blood flow occurring as the blood vessels constrict when the temperature drops below freezing. This can cause tissues to freeze, causing severe damage.
Frostbite is more likely to occur in wet and windy conditions.
What Body Parts Are More At Risk?
Exposed body parts are more at risk of frostbite. Ears, tails, paws, and genitals are examples of areas they are more likely to be at risk, especially the tips of these areas.
Luckily, huskies have very thick fur pretty much everywhere, which does provide more protection than you would find in other breeds. The tips of their ears and tails can still be at risk of frostbite, though.
Huskies also curl up in a way that protects more sensitive areas from the cold as well.
What Are The Symptoms Of Frostbite In Huskies?
Frostbite causes the affected area to turn pale, gray, or bluish, and it will usually swell and form ulcers.
Exposed areas will be affected, and it should be easy to identify it as frostbite as your husky will have been exposed to extreme temperatures for it to affect them.
Why Huskies Are Not Prone To Frostbite
Huskies are not prone to frostbite because they are an Arctic breed originating from Siberia, where temperatures regularly drop below freezing.
Due to this origin, huskies have adapted to withstand the cold, mainly through their thick double coats.
The double coat of the husky consists of a short, wooly layer that traps air against the skin to act as insulation and a long guard layer that protects the coat below and keeps water and anything else out.
This is why you’ll often see huskies sleeping outside in the cold with snow settling on their coats and why some huskies actually prefer to sleep outside.
Another reason many people don’t consider is that when huskies are in environments where frostbite is more common, they are usually put to work pulling sleds.
This exercise boosts blood flow and reduces the risk of frostbite as well, and they will also be given snow boots or booties, which provide extra protection for their paws.
What Does It Take For A Husky To Get Frostbite?
Although huskies are not prone to frostbite, they can still be affected in extreme conditions.
Firstly, the temperature needs to be very low, far below freezing. After that, a husky needs to be outside at this temperature for an extended period of time, which should never happen in practice.
Other factors like strong winds and if the husky is wet also make it much more likely for them to get frostbite.
According to a veterinarian who works at the Iditarod sled race – an annual long-distance sled dog race in Alaska – there have only been a handful of frostbite cases in sled dogs over eight years, which should give you an idea of just how rare it is.
How Is Frostbite Treated?
The most important thing with frostbite is to get your husky to a warm and dry location as soon as possible. Avoid touching the area, and don’t try to warm it up temporarily, as this can cause more damage to the area if you aren’t able to sustain the warmth.
After that, get to a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will likely administer painkillers and antibiotics and assess the damage.
How Long Can Huskies Stay Outside In The Cold?
When it gets below freezing, your husky should only be allowed to stay outside for 30 minutes to an hour.
While huskies can tolerate much lower temperatures, it isn’t very comfortable for them unless they are working, which is not the case in domestic situations.
Contrary to popular belief, huskies can actually get frostbite, although it is extremely rare.
Huskies that are kept as pets should never be outside when the temperature gets lower than what they can tolerate, and working huskies are able to tolerate much lower temperatures because of the increased blood flow while they pull sleds.
Here are some extra resources I recommend reading if you want to learn more about frostbite in general for dogs.