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Do Dogs’ Paws Get Cold? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Jana Blagojevic

By Jana Blagojevic

chow chow dog in snow

Vet approved

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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While we may think our loyal canine companions are much less susceptible to cold because of their thick furry coats, we should remember that not their entire bodies are covered in fur. The dog’s paws are bare, yet they are the only part in contact with the cold or frozen ground. You may wonder how your dog can tolerate cold weather and not hurt their paws. Do dogs’ paws even get cold during winter? Of course! However, they retain heat much better than the rest of their body, and there is an interesting explanation of how that is possible.

Check out the article below, which will give you all the answers to this question, and how to keep your dog’s paws safe during winter.

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Can Dogs Tolerate Cold Weather?

While dogs are much less vulnerable to extreme weather conditions than humans, there are still certain risks of exposing your dog to extremely cold or hot days. Just as it is unsafe to leave your dogs in a hot car during summer, it is not advisable to take them for walks when the weather goes below 32°F.

Like humans, dogs have an individual threshold for resisting certain conditions, and many factors affect their tolerance. While there is a huge myth that dogs can withstand extreme cold due to their thick fur, it is not always the case. Their tolerance for cold depends on many factors 1.

  • Breed type: Certain breeds originate from northern regions with low temperatures throughout the year. These breeds—such as Huskies, Samoyeds, and Newfoundlands—have a higher tolerance for colder weather than breeds such as the Basenji, which are not used to these conditions.
  • Coat thickness: The thickness of the dog’s coat plays a crucial role in the threshold of its tolerance to cold. Dogs with thicker and longer double coats will do better in lower temperatures, while dogs with thin coats will do exceptionally well in warmer regions.
  • Size and weight: Larger dogs are better at retaining heat than smaller dogs, so they get cold slower than small dogs. Another reason larger dogs are better at retaining heat is that body fat is an excellent insulator.
  • Age: Puppies and older dogs have a harder time regulating their body temperature, so exposure to cold hurts their health.
  • Health: Dogs with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions also have trouble regulating their body temperature.
couple siberian husky dogs in the snow
Image Credit; Konstantin Zaykov, Shutterstock

Do Dogs’ Paws Get Cold Easily?

Aside from being able to tolerate certain temperatures, you’ve probably noticed that dogs have excellent resistance when walking on cold concrete or frozen grass. Unlike the rest of the dog’s body which is covered in fur, the paws are entirely exposed to the cold ground. Wondering if dogs’ paws get cold is a legitimate question, and to answer it, we need to look at the anatomy of a dog’s paw.

A study 2 that viewed four adult dogs’ paws under a scanning electron microscope showed that the entire surface of the paw’s pads is supplied with an abundance of small veins. These small veins form a vein-artery-vein triad, forming a counter-current heat exchanger. In addition to that, the dog’s paws are lined with arteriovenous anastomoses, which lead the warm blood to the dermal part of the dog’s paws. Dogs maintain the appropriate temperature in their paws by recirculating heat back to the body core. The vein-artery-vein connection shifts the blood flow to the skin surface, and the group of small veins manages to retain the warmth on the surface of the paw’s pads.

The working mechanism behind a dog’s paws may be a little more complex than we could have imagined, but once we lay it down in simple terms, we can begin to understand just how their bodies manage to retain heat in the paws. The answer is fascinating and shows us a glimpse into the complex and mysterious bodies of dogs. While dogs’ paws retain heat even during cold temperatures, it is recommended to avoid exposing them to such extreme conditions.

Bernese Mountain Dog standing on snow
Image Credit: ArtTower, Pixabay

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Is It Safe to Walk Your Dog in the Snow?

Once learning how the paws of a dog work, you may wonder how safe it is for them to walk in the snow. While our bodies would more likely catch hypothermia if we were to walk barefoot, dogs’ paws are slightly more resistant. While it is generally safe for dogs to walk in the snow, it is still crucial to properly prepare for these types of walks 3 to keep your dog’s paws as warm as possible.

Snow tends to accumulate in the fur between your dog’s toes, which can cause pain during walks. It is recommended to trim the hair between your dog’s toes, and when you come back home from a walk, wash your dog’s paws with warm (not hot) water.

During winter, salt, and grit are common on the road to prevent ice from forming. Grit and salt can make your dog’s paws sore and dry and even cause cracks. After washing your dog’s paws after a walk, apply some paw balm or butter to moisturize their paws and prevent irritation.

Karelian Bear Dog standing in snow
Image Credit: A-P L, Pixabay

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The 4 Signs Your Dog’s Paws Are Cold During a Walk

While your dog’s paws are excellent at retaining heat, they can also get cold and even be at risk of frostbite. It is crucial to notice the signs of your dog’s paws getting cold, so you can take them inside immediately and shield them from the cold.

1. Shivering

If your dog begins whining and shivering during a walk, he is at serious risk of becoming hypothermic. You may also notice your dog lifting their paws in the air, which can be a way of communicating that they feel too cold or may even hurt. Your dog will most likely refuse to continue walking, which is the crucial moment to take the dog inside. You may want to consider using protection for their paws the next time you take them for a walk.

2. Blisters

If, after a walk, you notice your dog’s paws are lined with blisters, this is a sure sign of frostbite and may even indicate the condition is severe. These blisters can appear as ulcers on the skin or pus-filled sacs.

Pyrenean Mountain Dog standing on snow
Image Credit: evaschlomberg, Pixabay

3. Swelling

If your dog’s paws become swollen during the walk, it is a sure sign of frostbite and needs immediate medical attention. Swelling will only continue to increase and cause them lots of pain.

4. Color changes

Monitor the color of your dog’s paws if you suspect frostbite. If your dog’s paws are generally pink, they may turn blue, and if they are dark brown or black, they will become very pale.

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How to Keep Your Dog Safe When It’s Cold

Properly caring for your dog during winter days doesn’t just include keeping their paws warm and safe—it is crucial to know how to keep your dog’s body warm as well.

  • While most people are skeptical about booties, this convenient item can shield your dog’s paws and warm them during winter. This is incredibly convenient in regions where there is heavy snowfall, keeping your dog’s paws warm at all times and saving you time on cleaning them after each walk.
  • When the winter conditions in your region are extreme, it is best to keep dog walks to a minimum or make them as short and quick as possible. If it is too cold for you to spend much time outside, it is probably also freezing for your dog. Ensure you provide your dog with a jacket and only leave the house when necessary.
  • It might be a good idea to shovel the pathway around your house to keep the contact between your dog’s paws and the snow to a minimum. Since your dog will go out several times for potty breaks, it is wise to avoid exposing them to snow if possible.
Brussels griffin wearing jacket and boots
Image Credit: Okssi-Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

After learning about the anatomy of your dog’s paws, you will have a much better insight into how they remain warm even during cold weather. After each walk, wash your dog’s paws with warm water, and apply moisturizing paw balm or paw butter to prevent sores and cracks. While dogs have the ability to retain heat in their paws, it is still recommended to avoid exposing them to extreme cold.

Featured Image Credit: Anna Germanovna, Shutterstock

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