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Katherine Blocksdorf

Can Horses Get Frostbite?

By January 6, 2014

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After a week of cold, wintry weather blanketed most of eastern North America, many people have wondered if horses get frostbite. The answer is, yes. Horses can get frostbite, but it is very rare. Over the years, I have met a few horses whose ears were nipped by frostbite. Usually the tips of their ears have been damaged. It is most likely to happen to youngsters, and less frequently to mature horses. Older horses and horses in poor condition may be more susceptible. Unfortunately, you probably won't know your horse has frostbite until the damage is done. This is because the color of the skin and hair mask the changes in the skin color seen in human frostbite. You might notice slight swelling.

The best way to prevent your horse from getting frostbite is to keep it in good health, be sure it has lots of good hay to eat, water which is essential to keeping your horse's internal furnace running, and a draft free place to get away from the cold and wet. But again, frost bite is very rare and unlikely to affect a healthy horse. I live in an area where the winter temperatures can dip below -4F (-20C) and have never owned a horse, nor have seen any of my family's horses get frostbite.

If you suspect your horse has frostbite, call your veterinarian who can administer an anti-inflammatory, pain medication and antibiotics to prevent infection. While you're waiting for the vet, warm your horse's ears the same way you would a human's.

Read More About Winter Horse Care

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