Why Don’t Dogs Feet Get Cold In The Snow

A long-standing veterinary puzzle has been resolved by researchers in Japan: how can dogs stand and walk for such a long time on snow and ice without appearing to be in pain or having their paws freeze?

Despite the fact that dogs’ paws have less insulating fur than their trunks, researchers from Yamazaki Gakuen University in Tokyo questioned why canines do not appear to feel the cold in their paws. The paw pads have a high fat content, which makes them less prone to freezing than other tissues. However, they also have a high surface area to volume ratio, which suggests that they should be susceptible to heat loss.

Vasoconstriction occurs in the extremities of humans exposed to subfreezing conditions in order to restrict blood flow and the resulting heat loss and prevent excessive cooling of the blood returning to the rest of the body.

The research team, headed by Dr. Hiroyoshi Ninomiya, used a scanning electron microscope to examine the paws of four adult dogs. They found that the system essentially functions as a counter-current heat exchanger and that the arteries supplying blood to the pads had networks of numerous small veins, or venules, closely associated with them.

Heat is delivered to the venules that are closely related with the arteries when warm blood enters the paws through the arteries, ensuring that the blood is warmed before it returns to the rest of the body.

The counter-current heat exchange system keeps the paw temperature within acceptable ranges and stops the body from chilling. Other creatures with the similar system have been found to include dolphins, who have a heat exchange system in their fins, and Antarctic penguins, where it may be found in the legs and wings.

The existence of a counter-current heat exchange system in domestic dogs had not previously been suspected or discovered, despite the Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus) being known to have one along with various other adaptations to the cold. The results imply that domestic dogs may have come into existence in a cold region, where such a system would have been advantageous for survival.

Depending on their surroundings (such as regularly staying indoors) and breed, domesticated dogs are not all equally equipped to handle ice conditions on their feet. In order to prevent domestic dogs from getting cold feet in the winter, it is frequently advised to check that their pads are not split or otherwise damaged and to spray cooking spray on their paws before letting them go outside in the snow. Although it is extremely uncommon, dogs can get frostbite.

Are dogs’ feet cold in the snow?

Dogs’ pads have much harder skin than our feet, yet they are nonetheless susceptible to cold. In reality, our dogs’ exposed paws can be seriously endangered by prolonged exposure to temperatures at or below freezing (32F) for longer than 15 minutes.

Both heat and cold have the potential to cause dehydration. Your dog’s paw pads may get dry, cracked, itchy, and painful from walking in the snow. While this is more annoying than hazardous, it could lead to your dog accidently biting their feet, leaving them vulnerable to infection.

A paw infection can cause lameness, swelling, discharge, and an unpleasant odor. Take your dog to the vet for a thorough inspection and a prescription for antibiotics or an anti-fungal medication if you suspect that their foot is infected.


When the blood vessels in the skin constrict under severely low temperatures, frostbite can also happen. This occurs naturally throughout the body as a mechanism. By keeping the cold out, it works to safeguard and maintain a safe internal temperature. Sensitive regions, such the paws and ears, are frequently affected by frostbite. Diabetes and heart problems put dogs at risk.

In the correct circumstances, frostbite can affect any breed. Dogs adapted to cold climates, such Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, are inherently less susceptible. Blisters, dead or blackened skin patches, discomfort, swelling, discolouration, and/or brittleness of the affected area are all signs of frostbite. Sometimes the symptoms don’t show up immediately away.

Until you can take your dog to the clinic, try to keep them warm (not hot) with blankets and water if you fear they have frostbite. However, avoid massaging or using a hairdryer on the injured region. Because doing so will hurt and might make matters worse. If the damaged part is not examined and treated by a veterinarian right away, it could “die” and need to be amputated. Amputation may be necessary in extreme cases in addition to painkillers and antibiotics.

Can dogs safely walk on snow?

Winter dog hikes in the snow may be spectacular when the conditions are just right. The already appealing outside world can be considerably more enjoyable for your dog when there is recently fallen snow. You most likely have on several layers, a hat, boots, and mittens. And if you’re strolling at night, safety reflectors and lights are a must!

It’s equally crucial to shield your pets from the weather and keep them secure while out on winter walks.

Your dog’s health can be at risk from the winter weather, especially their paws. Snow and ice can aggravate your dog’s paw pads, increasing the likelihood of frostbite and causing the skin to become chapped or cracked. Cracked paws can be uncomfortable and painful, just like our parched lips. Additionally, accumulated snow and ice can sting the delicate skin between their toes.

Not only are the elements dangerous, but sidewalk salt and chemicals can burn your dog’s paw pads or give him indigestion if he licks them off.

The good news is that you can shield your pet’s paws from these winter concerns.

Why do dogs’ feet not shiver in the snow?

Their paws sink into frozen areas as playful puppies skid across an icy pond or play in a snowdrift. People risk suffering from the painful condition of frostbite if they walk around barefoot and without gloves in such frigid environments. Dogs play without worrying about frostbite, and Japanese researchers claim to have discovered why.

Dog paws don’t freeze because of the way blood arteries are arranged beneath the animals’ skin, according to the experts. The configuration aids in retaining body heat, which would otherwise be easily lost through the animal’s hairless paws.

The latest study on dog paws was led by Yamazaki Gakuen University in Tokyo’s Hiroyoshi Ninomiya, a specialist in animal anatomy. He observes that hot asphalt in Japan can get as hot as 66o Celsius (150o Fahrenheit) in the summer. The same pavement may become roughly 9o C colder in the winter (15o F).

“Ninomiya explains, “I’ve always wondered how a dog’s paw can handle such a big temperature change.

Animals like arctic foxes and wolves frequently tread on ice, and prior research by other experts had demonstrated that the increased blood flow helps the animals’ pads stay warm. Ninomiya was interested in seeing if the same procedure kept dog feet warm.

Using a device called a scanning electron microscope, or SEM, he and his colleagues captured images of the blood arteries in the paws of beagles. This device launches a stream of electrons, which are tiny particles that serve as some of the atoms’ building blocks, at a target. The instrument then determines whether the electrons are reflected, altered, or absorbed. With a SEM, scientists may see details of the natural world that are too small for regular microscopes to see.

The researchers looked at arteries and veins, which are blood vessels. Warm blood is circulated throughout the body via arteries and returned to the heart by veins. The arteries that supply warm blood to dog paws are surrounded by veins, the researchers discovered. Due to their close proximity, the two types of blood vessels exchange heat, warming the cooler veins as the warm arteries do.

As a result, the paw’s temperature remains stable. In order to prevent frostbite without causing the animal to lose too much body heat, warm blood travels to the surface of the pad.

This kind of arrangement is referred to as a counter-current heat exchanger by scientists. Although it has been noted in other animals, Ninomiya and his team are the first to discover it in dogs. To maintain a balanced body temperature, animals like penguins, whales, and seals use counter-current heat exchangers in their flippers, fins, and feet. Dog paws, according to Ninomiya and his colleagues, have a heating system similar to that found in penguins.

The researchers also discovered that temperature variations cause the blood arteries in the canine paws to open and close. Depending on where more or less blood is needed, it can now flow.

Ninomiya has previously investigated the blood veins in rabbit ears, whale eyes, and avian eyes. The next step, he argues, is to examine cats’ paws up close. Many animals that live in cold climates and need to control heat are related to domestic dogs. Cats, on the other hand, started out in a warm environment.

“He continues, “I’m curious to know if cats have the same counter-current heat exchange mechanism in the paw as seen in dogs.

The Lasker Foundation provided money for this item and other Science News for Kids articles describing physiology and medical research. The mission of the foundation and its programs is to fund scientific research aimed at curing illness, enhancing human health, and prolonging life.

How much time can dog paws stay in snow?

A snow day sounds like a nice time to play in the snow with your dog and enjoy the winter with your pet. However, your dog might not be designed for prolonged snow play and could become frostbitten or hypothermic. Find out how long it’s safe for your dog to play in the snow by reading on for pet winter safety advice.

Small dogs and dogs with short hair shouldn’t spend a lot of time playing in the snow without wearing protective clothing. They lose body heat far more quickly than breeds with natural winter coats do. If you have a short-haired breed, a little dog, or an elderly dog and you’re asking, “Does my dog require a coat in the snow?,” it’s likely that you should put cold-weather gear like a coat or sweater on them before going for a walk or playing outside. It’s likely that your dog needs an additional layer if you need a thick coat, gloves, a hat, and a scarf to go outside. In general, you should usually keep your dog’s time spent playing in the snow to no longer than 30 minutes, but watch out for any signs of discomfort, such as shivering or sticking close to you and acting as though they want to go home.

Yes, your dog could develop frostbite if left outside in subfreezing weather for an extended period of time, especially if they get wet. This would happen most often to his exposed belly, paws, or skin. Dogs who have frostbite are at risk of losing limbs as a result of this severe skin ailment. Dogs may exhibit bluish-white-colored, chilly skin that is discolored, stiff joints, or other symptoms of frostbite.

If your dog would let you, you might want to put dog boots and socks on them to protect their paws so they can play in the snow for longer. Generally speaking, it could be simpler to make the adjustment by beginning with baby socks or dog socks to get them accustomed to the sensation of anything on their paws.

If their body temperature falls below 102.5 degrees, dogs can develop hypothermia. Shivering, becoming silent and curled up, cold appendages, and whining are a few symptoms of hypothermia in dogs.

In general, puppies and older dogs shouldn’t be left outside in the rain or cold since they lack a full coat of fur to cover them and sufficient body fat to keep them warm.

If you let them, some dogs would spend hours playing in the snow. Other dogs will stay still and gaze at you with a look that says, “What am I doing here? ” whereas your dog will run, jump, and play in it. Because their paws aren’t calloused, puppies may also exhibit a lesser tolerance for snow.

Snow that freezes on your dog’s paws can lead to complications. You’ll also need to watch out for your dog slipping on an icy patch and pulling a muscle or having salt burns on her paws. Although avoiding salted streets or sidewalks can be challenging at times, do your best to keep salt away from your dog’s paws. It’s unlikely that your neighbors are purchasing pet-friendly rock salt to protect the health of your pet’s paws.

To avoid coming into touch with salt, you could choose to wear dog booties as paw coverings. Or you may provide your dog’s paws a barrier of protection by applying premium paw wax.

In the winter, keep an eye out for your dog licking antifreeze because it is a dangerous toxin. Call your veterinarian if you think your dog consumed something she shouldn’t have and she is displaying indications of disease.

If you think your dog’s time spent playing in the snow may have contributed to health issues like frostbite or hypothermia, it’s important to call your veterinarian immediately once and make an appointment.

Remember that while some dogs enjoy playing in the snow because they are bred to tolerate the cold, others won’t enjoy spending more time outside than necessary. Be alert for indications that your dog is getting ready to enter, is shivering, or is experiencing any sort of discomfort or pain. Even enjoyable winter activities have a time limit, just like people do!

Why don’t huskies’ paws freeze?

Well, perhaps not. But even if they don’t frequently eat at the same restaurants, they do have a few common adjustments that make it easier for them to deal with the difficulties of living in frigid climates.

We veterinarians are frequently questioned about how dogs can handle going barefoot on snow and ice. To do this, it is necessary to keep the feet warm enough to prevent tissue from freezing while simultaneously minimizing heat loss to maintain the body’s core temperature. Dogs’ feet include an insulating layer of fat beneath the pads (similar to whales’ and seals’ blubber), but their main foot characteristic is a sophisticated circulatory system known as a countercurrent heat exchanger.

Heat-transferred blood from the heart travels to the extremities in arteries, a type of blood artery. The veins transport the cooled blood back to the heart in the other direction. These vessels typically run separately in other parts of the body, but in cold-resistant extremities (such as a dog’s paw, a penguin’s foot, or a manatee’s tail), they are firmly intertwined, allowing blood to flow in opposite directions and exchange heat (hence the term, countercurrent heat exchanger). As a result, heat from the arteries can be directly transported to the veins, stabilizing the foot’s overall temperature and preventing freezing. Furthermore, because the venous blood returning to the body’s core receives a temperature boost, this arrangement allows maintenance of blood flow to the feet while minimizing impact on overall core temperature. The normal physiologic response to cold is to decrease blood flow to the extremities to concentrate heat in the vital organs.

So what about the canine companions’ bright booties? Actually, rather than preserving heat, their main function is protection. However, it is the additional warmth produced by the countercurrent heat exchanger that enables them to walk comfortably despite the chilly weather. The booties are excellent for preventing foot abrasions from rocky path conditions and preventing ice from forming between the dogs’ toes. So you can truly appreciate the amazing adaptations that sled dogs, penguins, and manatees have made to live and prosper in their particular settings the next time you see one, whether it’s in nature.