Dog Paws (Do They Get Cold Feet?)

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Dog Paw

As humans, we often tend to think if our feet get cold in the winter time then so do our dogs. But what does research say and should you be concerned about your pup’s paws?

Specialized Circulation Systems Discovered In Dog Paws

Dr. Hiroyoshi Ninomiya of the Yamazaki Gakuen University of Tokyo, Japan, tested the theory of whether or not dog’s feet could resist freezing after reading of previous studies on the topic. In the past, researchers have claimed that dogs feet can withstand freezing in temperatures as cold as -35 degrees Centigrade. Ninomiya and his team wanted to see whether this finding was something that applied to the domesticated dog.

The Japanese researchers utilized electron microscopes to observe the feet of domesticated dogs. They found that within the dog paw or footpad, each dog had veins that were extremely close to arteries. The proximity of the veins to the arteries ensures that heat transports from the circulatory system to the area that is experiencing cooling first.

In more simple terms, as a dog steps outside and its feet begin to cool down rapidly, the heart can pump warm blood to the feet quickly by utilizing the artery that is near the neighboring veins in the footpads. This unique circulatory adaptation ensures that dogs do not freeze as the blood is warmed up before returning to the body.

The reason that this finding is so important is because this type of circulatory system had not been seen in domesticated animals previously (meaning at some point during the evolutionary process dogs naturally lived in cold climates). For an animal to develop such a specialized feature, it must have, at some point, been a necessary adaptation to help the creature survive.

Other Animal Adaptations To Winter Climate

This incredible adaptation is in additional animals – most notably those living in cooler territories. A good example is a dolphin who has a similar circulatory system its fins to ensure that cold blood does not return into the body. Likewise, this system resides the beaks of penguins.

This short video from Vetstreet summarizes the information in this article.

Remember To Keep Your Dog Warm

Despite the fact that dogs paws will not freeze naturally, under no circumstance should dogs be left outside during the winter or in freezing temperatures. Smaller dogs and dogs with thin or non-existent coats, in particular, are likely to lose body heat at a much faster rate than other dogs and should always be provided with proper insulation when spending time in the cold.

Learn more about how to keep your canine cozy in our top picks for best dog boots and winter coats. Same goes for warmer climates and keeping your pup’s paws protected from the hot pavement.

Does your dog get cold feet?

About The Author:

Michelle holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University and has worked in marketing at Bank of America, Mattel and Hanes. She is the proud co-founder of Canine Journal and a dog lover through and through. Since the day she was born, she has lived in a home full of dogs. Her adult home is no exception where she and her husband live with Bella and Lily, their two adorable rescue pups. In addition to her love for snuggling with dogs, she also has enjoyed working professionally in the canine field since 1999 when she started her first dog-related job at a dog bakery.

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Sorrel
I have a team of sled dogs (malamutes and huskies). And only put boots on them when we are racing to prevent ice-balls and also to provide more traction when it’s icy. We live in Alaska
Jude
I live in MN and have an APBT and an ABST. We don’t wear booties but we don’t go out on walks when the temp is below 27°F.
Walt
I can tell the people responding have never had a malamute or a northern breed. Or mushed dog teams down the Yukon at 50 below… happy dogs! The booties worn on teams in the Iditarod and such is for the ice balls mentioned, when the canines run through overflow, but not for the cold. At 20 below my mal lays out on the ground, nose tucked under her tail. She leaves a deep clear spot in the snow where her body melts it. They are happiest in sub-zero temps.
Melanie Howard
My dog who is double coated and loves the snow, arrived at the cottage with us this morning, – 26C and immediately began holding her paws up and lying on her side to get them off the snowy ground. Therefore she will be getting dog boots next time.
Sadie Cornelius (Admin)
Wow, that’s cold! So glad you are keeping your pup’s feet protected with boots. Thanks for sharing and stay warm.
Emma
Yet seems odd for them to not be capable of getting cold feet given both our girls literally start limping if we’re out in the cold snow too long, my pit/hound mix especially usually starts limping within minutes usually before she even pees, with snow/ice and temps below about 15 degrees F. The collie/dalmatian mix lasts maybe twice as long. And I understand it’s probably not Just paws, but a combination of paws and lower legs, but when my butthead is wimping and whining as she limps to me because I still can’t find boots to stay on her feet -which I never even considered buying or needed to worry about til we moved from NC to CO, USA- I can’t say I’m a believer of inability to get “cold feet”. I’m not allowed to pick her up being 5 months pregnant, and even prior to pregnancy she’s a long lean 70 lb average, so not exactly the easiest baby to pick up either.
Trish
I just took my pittbull out, this is our first winter with her) and she literally sat on the ground and had a 4 paws off the ground. It’s 8 degrees with a windchill of -1. It probably has something to do with their coat and how warm it keeps their skin, which in turn keeps their blood warmer. Jojo has an extremely fine, short coat and can’t be outside for very long on cold days
Marco
My purchase of boots for my lab had nothing to do with the cold. It was to prevent the salt from burning my dogs paws. Also, a week ago, my dog’s paws started bleeding from the ice while walking on Mont-Royal.
Cismyname
My dog does better with booties in slushy sticky snow because he gets snow and ice balls stuck to his paw pads and feet and literally has to try to chew them off.
Dave
Dogs in Alaska wear booties when it gets too cold. The booties help to prevent ice balls to form between the pads and toes. Protection in wet snow is important for comfort. I have a WelshTerrier and have ordered taller booties and socks to keep the snow from clinging to the fur on her legs. Right now I have to brush the snow clumps off the fur on her legs before she goes back into the house or truck. It’s a fair amount of water when it melts!