Why Don’t Dogs Feet Get Cold

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.

Can dogs experience cold feet?

The skin’s surface may receive less warm, oxygenated blood, causing the foot tissue to become white, numb, and eventually freeze. But with dogs, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The vascular system in dogs’ paws may be specially suited to help them withstand cold better than humans, according to recent research.

Can dogs’ feet tolerate extreme cold?

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.

What keeps dog feet warm 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.

Can you put socks on a dog?

Of course, we can’t be sure because dogs can’t communicate with us in words. However, I have accumulated some fairly compelling evidence as an integrative vet with more than 20 years of experience caring for hundreds of geriatric and special needs dogs who have mobility issues. And you may also be aware if you’ve seen dogs stumbling while wearing bulky dog boots, dog booties, or dog socks.

Here are 7 truths that dogs wish everyone knew about dog boots and dog socks:

1. Your dog won’t feel at ease walking in dog boots, booties, or traction socks. Why do dogs walk strangely in boots, you may have questioned if you’ve ever observed canines trying to walk in them. Simply said, it isn’t natural. Proprioceptive receptors, which provide the brain with information about the body’s spatial position, are abundant in the toes of dogs. This information is changed when dog boots or socks are worn on the paws.

2. Dog socks or boots prevent your dog from using its toenails to naturally grasp the ground. Dogs use their toenails, which work like soccer cleats, to gain grip and dig into the earth. When wearing booties or socks, they find that what normally comes easily becomes impossible.

3. Dog socks or boots cause your dog’s feet to become heated and perspire. Socks prevent your dog’s paws from breathing since dogs perspire through their paws.

4. Because the dog booties or socks are covering and touching the delicate tissue on the dog’s paws and toes, the dog can chew at them.

5. Your dog’s buddy may feel uncomfortable wearing dog boots or socks. They bunch up, twist, and then drop.

6. Your dog will find it annoying to constantly put on and take off booties or socks. (And perhaps you as well.)

Dogs aren’t people, either. Compared to our feet, their paws function differently.

Don’t get me wrong; dog socks and boots do have a purpose in supporting our canine friends, particularly in protecting the paws. However, traction and protection are two completely distinct concepts. For instance, a dog’s paw pads are at risk of burning on hot pavements.

Can dogs go barefoot in the snow?

There isn’t a single right response to the query. Dogs are more at ease than humans while going barefoot on snow and ice (more on that below), but extended exposure can still lead to hypothermia and frostbite in them. Here are four things to think about before taking your pet outside.

  • A large cold-weather breed, on average, will likely like a 30-minute trek in the snow, possibly longer. However, shorter-haired and smaller breeds should only spend a maximum of 15-20 minutes outside barefoot.
  • Remember that your pet’s capacity to regulate her body temperature can fluctuate due to the rapidly fluctuating weather conditions in a matter of minutes. Slush, snow level, windchill, and even the appearance of snow can all significantly affect how warm and cozy your pet is able to stay.
  • When in doubt, consult the dog’s veterinarian. They are the foremost authorities on your dog’s health, breed, size, and age, not to mention the weather trends in your area.
  • When it’s colder than 45 degrees, a dog should never be left outside unattended for an extended period of time. Make sure they have easy access to shelter, including a bed that is raised off the ground, if living outside is a regular part of their routine.

Canines exhibit guilt?

No, not at all. Dogs don’t inherently feel guilty, according to Mary R. Burch, PhD, the AKC Family Dog Director and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. According to Burch, “guilt is essentially realizing that one has done wrong and experiencing humiliation as a result.

Do dogs have a heart?

People who love dogs want to let their canine companions know how much they mean to them. We all know how perceptive puppies can be, but can they truly understand how much we adore them?

When you connect with your dog, a love hormone is released, making you feel happier and more linked as best friends, according to canine cognition, the study of dogs’ minds. Oxytocin, a hormone, is the same chemical released when people gaze at their infants.

When you pet, play, or simply look at your dog, oxytocin is released in both of you.

It’s safe to assume that your dog feels the love when you’re looking longingly at each other because studies have shown that dogs often lock eyes to express affection.

Considering that dogs can’t really express, “I know you love me and I adore you too! There are a few additional ways for animal lovers to ensure that the message gets understood.

Canines require blankets?

Many people believe that dogs don’t require blankets in the winter because their coats of fur keep them warm.

But even if they have thick coats, do dogs need blankets in the winter? They most likely do, and vets encourage pet owners to provide their animals extra warmth by using blankets, heating, or clothing.

Regardless of coat thickness, smaller dogs will particularly struggle to stay warm. Your dog might feel the same as you if you’re cold.

Your dog won’t be able to tolerate being outside if you can’t, not even with a coat or gloves on.

Older dogs, especially those with arthritis, have weakened immune systems and are more vulnerable to the cold.

A dog blanket is essential if they’re going to be sleeping outside. Remember that older dogs, especially those with joint issues, feel colder and more uncomfortable on hard surfaces like hardwood, tile, linoleum, and other uncarpeted flooring.

Can a dog develop frostbite on its paws?

Frostbite is injury to the skin and other tissues brought on by extremely low temperatures. Blood arteries near to the skin begin to narrow or constrict as the ambient temperature falls below 32F (0C). By directing blood away from the cooler areas of the body and into the core, this constriction of the blood vessels aids in maintaining the body’s core temperature.

This protective mechanism can cause blood flow in specific regions of the body, particularly the extremities (such as the paws, ears, and tail), to drop to dangerously low levels in extremely cold conditions or when the body is exposed to cold for an extended period of time.

The tissues may freeze due to a combination of the freezing temperature and the restricted blood flow, resulting in significant tissue damage. Body portions farthest from the heart and tissues with a lot of exposed surface area are most susceptible to frostbite.

Where is a dog more likely to get frostbite?

The most frequently impacted tissues are the paws, ears, and tail. These regions of a dog are more susceptible to frostbite if they are wet or damp.

What are the clinical signs of frostbite?

The following are some clinical indicators of frostbite:

  • skin discoloration in the affected area; this discoloration is frequently light, gray, or bluish.
  • the area’s coldness or brittleness when handled.
  • when you touch the body part, it hurts (s).
  • the afflicted area swells (s).
  • skin ulcers or blisters
  • regions of dead or blackened skin.

Inflamed frostbitten tissues may turn red and excruciatingly painful when they defrost.

The clinical symptoms of frostbite may take several days to manifest, particularly if the affected area is small or located in an area that is not used for weight-bearing.

When a small or non-weight-bearing area, such the tip of the tail or the ears, is injured, the clinical symptoms of frostbite may take several days to manifest. Areas that have been severely frozen will either necrotize or perish. The tissue begins to slough or come off over the course of several days to weeks as it begins to die and turns a dark blue to black color. Due to a subsequent bacterial infection, pus may form or the tissue may begin to smell bad at this time.

Frostbite is more likely to occur in canines who have heart disease, diabetes, or other disorders that restrict blood supply to the extremities.

How is frostbite diagnosed?

The results of the physical exam and medical history are typically used to make a diagnosis. Blood and urine tests may be carried out to check for internal organ damage in dogs who have been exposed for an extended period of time or to severely cold temperatures.

How is frostbite treated?

You should get your dog treated right away if you think he has frostbite. Here are some interim first aid recommendations you might start with:

  • As soon as you can, securely move your dog to a warm, dry location.
  • Treat the hypothermia initially if your dog has hypothermia or a low core body temperature. Put hot water bottles wrapped in towels close to his body and slowly wrap his body in warm, dry towels or blankets.
  • RUB OR MASSAGE AWAY from the afflicted region.
  • If you are outside and you are unable to keep a frostbitten region heated, DON’T reheat it. The tissues will suffer more severe damage from further exposure to the cold or from refreezing.
  • With warm (NOT HOT) water, you can gently warm the affected area. The suggested water temperature is between 104 and 108F. (40 to 42C). You need to be able to put your hand in the warm water without feeling uncomfortable at this degree. If the water is overly hot, you run the risk of doing more harm than if you don’t use any at all. You might use warm water compresses or a bowl of warm water to soak the injured region. A heating pad or hair drier should NOT be used for direct dry heat.
  • After you’ve warmed the area, gently and completely pat him dry. Don’t rub the towels against your dog.
  • Your dog can stay warm while being transported to your veterinarian for additional medical care by being wrapped in warm, dry towels or blankets.
  • Unless your veterinarian clearly instructs you otherwise, DO NOT administer any painkillers. Acetaminophen and aspirin are two common human painkillers that can be hazardous to dogs.

How will my veterinarian treat frostbite?

Your dog will be examined by your veterinarian, who will also treat any other conditions, including hypothermia or systemic shock. Your dog will likely be given pain medication because the unpleasant melting tissues. If tissue necrosis or death is suspected, antibiotics are administered to stop bacterial skin infection from spreading. In severe circumstances, some dogs will need to have the damaged body part amputated.

What is the prognosis for frostbite?

The severity of your dog’s wounds will determine the prognosis for frostbite. While more severe frostbite may cause lasting disfigurement or change of the affected tissues, mild occurrences of frostbite typically heal with no permanent damage. Extreme circumstances may call for an amputation or surgical removal of the necrotic (dead) tissues. The best diagnostic and therapeutic approach for your dog will be covered by your vet.