Can Dog Paws Freeze?

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White poodle in snow (caption: Can Dog Paws Freeze?)As humans, we often tend to think if our feet get cold in the wintertime then so do our dogs’ paws. But what does research say? And should you be concerned about your pup’s paws?

Article Overview

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 dogs’ feet could resist freezing after reading previous studies on the topic.1 In the past, researchers claimed that dogs’ feet can withstand becoming frozen in temperatures as cold as -35° Celcius. Ninomiya and his team wanted to see whether this finding applied to today’s domesticated dogs.

After using electron microscopes to observe the feet of domesticated dogs, researchers discovered that dogs have a unique circulatory adaptation that protects dogs’ pads from freezing. How does it work?

Each dog has veins that are extremely close to arteries within the dog paw or f

Dog paw pad

ootpad. The close proximity of the veins and arteries ensures that heat transports from the circulatory system to the area that’s experiencing cooling first. In more simple terms, as a dog steps outside and his 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 discovery was important because this type of circulatory system had not yet been seen in other types of domesticated animals (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 been a necessary adaptation to help the creature survive.

Why Should I Protect My Dog’s Paws In Winter (And Other Seasons)?

Even though your dog’s paws don’t freeze naturally, they still need protection from other elements. In winter, the biggest threats are salt and chemicals they can pick up on their paws from treated roads and sidewalks. And in extreme cold (and hot) climates, your dog’s pads can dry and crack.

Here are some products we recommend to keep your dog’s paws safe and comfy.

Products to protect dog paws

Booties

Keep your dog’s paws clean, dry and protected with booties, like these Bark Brite Neoprene Paw Protector Dog Boots. They’re water-resistant and have good traction. And users say they’re easy to put on, they fit snugly and they don’t fall off easily as many other dog boots can.

Paw Balm

You can also use a balm, like King Kanine’s Dog Paw Balm with CBD, to protect your dog’s pads from winter elements and rough terrain. Just rub some on before you head out for a walk. You can also use this balm as a moisturizer for dry and cracked pads anytime. It’s made with all-natural ingredients, including CBD, coconut oil and manuka honey.

Tip: If you’re not using boots, be sure to wipe off your dog’s paws after going on a walk to remove any ice, salt or other residues he may have picked up.

Do Other Animals Adapt To Cold Temps?

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 in its fins to ensure that cold blood does not return into the body. Likewise, this system resides in penguins’ beaks.

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 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.

But keep in mind, when temperatures drop below 20°F, all dogs (regardless of their size or coat thickness) are prone to developing hypothermia and frostbite. Learn more about how to keep your canine cozy in our top picks for best dog boots and winter coats. The same goes for warmer climates and keeping your pup’s paws protected from the hot pavement.

Does your dog get cold feet?

Sources: [1] Wiley Online Library

About The Author:

Michelle holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University and has worked in marketing at Bank of America, Mattel and Hanes. Her expert advice and opinions have appeared in many outstanding media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest and Apartment Therapy, among others.

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 Lily and Barley, 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
December 18, 2018 7:04 pm

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
January 30, 2018 6:46 pm

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
January 3, 2018 9:12 pm

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
December 31, 2017 1:10 pm

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.

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Sadie Cornelius
January 2, 2018 2:03 pm
Reply to  Melanie Howard

Wow, that’s cold! So glad you are keeping your pup’s feet protected with boots. Thanks for sharing and stay warm.

Emma
January 6, 2017 1:58 pm

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
March 5, 2017 9:23 am
Reply to  Emma

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
January 5, 2017 3:28 am

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
November 30, 2016 7:39 pm

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
November 25, 2017 1:47 pm
Reply to  Cismyname

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!