Results from a recently released study conducted by Japanese scientists at Tokyo’s Yamazaki Gakuen University suggest that dogs have special blood vessels in their feet that actually help protect them from the effects of snow and ice. The researchers propose a mechanism that they’ve termed a “counter-current heat exchange:” when a paw is cooled by contact with frozen ground, warmth from the arteries in the paw is transferred to the vessels in the paws which helps to keep the paw at a tolerable temperature. Of course, pads contain a lot of fatty tissue, which doesn’t freeze as easily as other kinds of tissue. In addition, the special blood vessels in the pads warm the blood before it flows back to the body – thus helping keep the dog’s body temperature from falling uncomfortably low.
Even though systems like this are seen in other animals, including penguins and foxes, many earthbath fans vehemently disagree with the thought that all dogs are cold-weather proof:
“Apparently, my pugs are lacking these vessels- one sniff of the cold air and they about face into the house. Then once outside they continually pick up alternate feet to avoid the frozen feet feeling.”
“Many short-haired dogs will not last more than 10 minutes in -35C before they start crying in pain and hopping about from foot to foot or leaving bits of skin frozen to the sidewalk.”
…and we too, have seen many dogs unhappily affected by the cold. Which brings us to our main point: take care of those little puppy paws in the winter months! We’ve got some easy tips for you to ensure that everyone is comfortable, even when the snow is blowing and the wind chill is dropping.
- Trim the hair between the pads and around the feet to minimize the clinging of ice balls, salt crystals and de-icing chemicals that can dry on the skin. Find a video on how to trim your dog’s paw hair at the bottom of this post.
- After walks, use a basin of warm water and earthbath wipes to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, ensuring that your pet’s feet are washed and dried to remove ice, salt and chemicals will help make sure they stay comfortable and dry.
- Check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes, and if you see signs of irritation or dryness, massage in a little SheaPet Aloe and Shea Butter Treatment Balm to soothe those toes. Just as with human skin, moisturizing after a walk through the ice and snow will always help prevent chapped paws. Best not to use petroleum jelly or other potentially toxic-when-ingested lubricating agents, as dogs like to lick their paws!
- Booties help minimize contact with painful salt crystals, poisonous anti-freeze and chemical ice-melting agents. They can also help prevent sand and salt from getting lodged in between bare toes and pads, causing irritation.
- Make sure to use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible, even though you can’t control what your neighbors or your city uses on sidewalks and streets.
- And remember, if the weather’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your dog. Animal companions should remain indoors as much as possible during the winter months.