Why Dogs Can Walk on the Cold Ground on “Bare Feet”

If you like to dress your dog in a sweater during the winter, you may also want to get booties for your dog to protect his or her paws from the cold ground. However, your dog’s paws are made to tolerate any contact with cold surfaces, including snow and ice. While we humans need to wear thick socks and insulated boots to prevent frostbite, the circulatory system in the paws of our dogs has adapted to allow them to handle the cold. As soon as the temperature starts dropping, our staff at 5 Points Animal Hospital gets questions from our clients about whether or not their dogs need paw protection from the cold. We would like to answer some of the most frequently asked questions to help you understand why dogs can walk on the cold ground on “bare feet.”

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How do my dog’s paws stay protected from the cold?

According to VetStreet, researchers in the 1970’s investigated how wolves and foxes could hunt on their feet for extended periods in bitter cold temperatures. These researchers found that the temperature of the feet of these animals remained around 30 degrees Fahrenheit even when dipped in water of about minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit. The foot temperature is just warm enough to keep tissue from freezing and cool enough to prevent a large amount of heat loss through the paws. The reason for the stability of the foot temperature has to do with an infusion of blood to the paws that protects them from becoming too cold. Not too long ago, researchers at Azabu University in Japan tested this theory on dogs and came up with similar results.

How does my dog’s body stay warm when he or she walks on cold ground?

Thanks to a countercurrent heat exchange system in the blood vessels in dog paws, your dog’s body temperature is not greatly affected by walking on cold ground. The veins in the paws of your dog run parallel to the arteries. The arteries bring warm blood to the paws from the heart and transfer this heat to the neighboring veins. Less heat is lost from the body through the paws because the blood in the arteries is cooler when it gets to the paws. Similarly, your dog’s body is not cooled from the paws because the cold blood from the paws is warmed up as it travels to the heart. This helps conserve heat and prevent heat loss.

Are there any incidents where I would need to put booties on my dog?

Yes, dog booties and other types of winter footwear do serve some purposes. They give added paw insulation, prevent ice balls from getting lodged between foot pads, and protect against potentially toxic deicers on the sidewalks. Additionally, remember that just because your dog’s paws can stay warm, this does not mean your dog can be out in the cold for an unlimited time period as dogs are vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite.

Questions about protecting your dog from cold weather? Contact us at 5 Points Animal Hospital to learn more tips on keeping your dog warm this winter.

By Dr. Janet Grace | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Comments Off on Why Dogs Can Walk on the Cold Ground on “Bare Feet”

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