By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It is truly a misconception that many animals, both dogs and cats, can endure cold temperatures because of their fur. There is a high risk for both hypothermia and frostbite.

Hypothermia is an extremely serious and life-threatening condition that can cause shock, organ failure, tissue damage, coma and even death. It happens when the animal’s body temperature falls below 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit. They may experience pain, fixed or dilated pupils, uncontrolled shivering, difficulty breathing, muscle stiffness, disorientation, weakness or lethargic behavior or even unresponsiveness.

Frostbite is a term used to describe the destruction of tissues or damage to the skin due to exposure to severely cold temperatures. Both dogs and cats are susceptible to frostbite which can range from minor to severe, affecting primarily the ears, ear tips, paws and tail tips which have limited blood supply. It can also affect the face, legs and tail or any area of the body exposed with little coverage of fur.

Warning signs may include pain, swelling, skin discolorations such as red or swollen skin in early stages turning to a pale color and then turning black which can ultimately result in the death of tissue in the advanced stages.

Frostbite can result in the loss of limbs as well.

If you suspect frostbite or hypothermia, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Prevention, as in many instances, is always the best cure. Make sure to take extra care to prevent frostbite and hypothermia in your pets by keeping your animals warm this winter, regardless of age, as young healthy adult dogs and cats are certainly susceptible.

Pay extra attention to the young, the elderly, and ailing pets and all short-haired breeds.

Keep all animals indoors, warm, safe and dry.