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When winter comes around, human beings pump up their A/C and pull out their heaviest apparel from the closet. All the knee-length boots and warm pairs of socks tucked behind the closet all summer come out of the shadows. On the other hand, dogs tend to love the cold weather so much. The sight of snow stimulates them to play for hours on end. Going on walks barefoot doesn’t seem to have any negative effect on them. As a pet parent, you will naturally worry about whether his paws can handle the extreme cold or not. But should you? This guide will hopefully answer the question.
Can Dog Paws Resist Freezing?
When you look at a dog’s coat, it is easy to see why his body can tolerate cold weather. This is especially true for long-haired breeds such as Akitas and German shepherds. However, dog paws don’t really have insulation properties—at least not visibly. Sure, there’s some fur in between the toes but most of it is bare skin. So, do dogs paws get cold?
According to a 1970’s study on how dogs and foxes can navigate cold environments for long periods during hunting, researchers uncovered something interesting about a canine’s paws. Even when dipped in a cold water bath of temperatures as low as 310F, a dog’s paw maintains a temperature of 30.20F. This is a sweet spot for ensuring that body heat doesn’t escape through the pads while preventing the dog from freezing.
Another recent study done by Azabu University in Japan revealed that a dog’s veins are parallel to his arteries. As the arteries transport warm oxygenated blood from the heart to all organs such as the paw, the energy is circulated to neighboring veins. Upon reaching the paws, the blood would be colder meaning the energy lost from the paws to the environment is significantly low. Similarly, cold blood in the veins located at the paw warms up on its way to the heart thus conserving energy. This counter-current exchange system is so efficient that a dog rarely freezes no matter how long they play on the snow.
How Cold Is Too Cold For Dogs Paws?
The aforementioned studies show that a dog can handle cold on his feet. However, like all things in life, too much of something is poisonous. In extremely cold weather, walking your dog barefoot might cause cracking on his pads. The principle is the same as having cracked lips during winter in human beings.
In addition to cracking, some dogs don’t handle freezing weather conditions very well. Toy breeds are especially notorious for losing heat faster than bigger dogs. Canines with no coats also get cold dog paws as they don’t conserve heat as their thick-haired counterparts do. If you have a Siberian husky, Samoyed, or Newfoundland, you can expose him to cold climates for long periods of time without worrying too much about him. On the contrary, if you are a parent to a short-haired breed such as a Greyhound or Xoloitzcuintli, you might want to be careful about taking him outdoors during winter. Body fat is also an excellent insulator against cold. Breeds with some weight on their bodies tend to handle the cold weather better than those without a lot of body fat.
In general, most dogs can handle cold temperatures above 450F. Anything below that can be quite uncomfortable. If you have a small, short-haired, sick, or old dog, don’t let him stay outside in the cold for too long. When temperatures dip to below 20oF, be careful as your pup can suffer cold-related issues such as frostbite and hypothermia. Things like shivering, obvious search for warmth, anxiety, lifting his paws, and whining are obvious signs that the cold has gotten to your pup.
Should I Worry If My Dog’s Paws Are Cold?
Not really. As mentioned in the first study, a dog’s paw only maintains a certain temperature that conserves energy and prevents freezing. When your dog has been running around in the cold weather, his paws will certainly be cold to touch. This doesn’t mean they are freezing though. Unless you observe the usual signs of shaking, lifting paws, and looking for warmth, you shouldn’t be worried at all.
To be absolutely safe, consider using booties when you take your Fido for walks. But remember that your dog may feel uncomfortable when he is trying winter boots for the first time. So, we suggest getting him used to wearing boots by allowing him to put them on for some time indoors before wearing them out on a walk.
You can also use a suitable Paw balm to protect your pup’s pads from winter elements. A paw balm will heal and prevent cracked pads as well as the itching or soreness that may come with it. We highly recommend dog paw balm brands that are formulated with natural ingredients like Musher’s Secret Paw wax because they are safe even if your pup licks some off.
Some dog parents have also reported significant success with using home remedies like cooking spray and Vaseline. Apply Vaseline or spray some cooking oil on your dog’s pads before taking him out in the snow.
Final Verdict: Do Dog’s Paws Get Cold?
To answer the question of whether dog pads get cold, the answer is yes. However, they use a great heat exchange system that keeps them from freezing. This means your lovely pup can handle the cold much better than you can. What good news for a pet parent!
Sable McNeil is a canine chef, professional pet blogger, and proud owner of two male dogs. I have been an animal lover all my life, with dogs holding a special place in my heart. Initially, I created this blog to share recipes, tips, and any relevant information on healthy homemade dog treats. But because of my unrelenting passion to make a difference in the world of dogs, I have expanded the blog’s scope to include the best information and recommendations about everything dog lovers need to know about their canine friends’ health and wellbeing. My mission now is to find the most helpful content on anything related to dogs and share it with fellow hardworking hound lovers. While everything I share is in line with the latest evidence-based veterinarian health guidelines, nothing should be construed as veterinary advice. Please contact your vet in all matters regarding your Fido’s health.