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How can dogs walk through the snow, traipse through cold puddles and not be bothered?

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Dogs have many heat conserving structures in their legs and pads! The thermoregulation includes histological advantages in the dermis, arteriovenous anastomoses in the foot pads, and a counter-current heat exchange in the legs. This is awesome because it allows them to withstand walking through the

snow without getting frostbite!

A dogs foot pad histologically is made up of many small protuberances called conical papillae. These papillae are thought by scientists to retain an insulating layer of air between the pad and cold ground.  Cats do not have this advantage, which makes a lot of sense because their ancestors are thought to come from warmer climates. In cats, the pad surface is smooth and does not have these conical papillae. Current research is still being done on this.

The countercurrent heat exchange in the dog’s legs consists of vein-artery-vein triads. This is where the temperature gradient is established. The warm arterial blood transfers to the cool venous blood. This allows the dog’s limbs to be kept above freezing, so dogs will have a warm body but cold paws.

The pads of a dogs foot also have a very well developed arteriovenous anastomosis (AVA’s). These anastomoses can shunt the blood flow, thereby helping the limbs maintain a temperature above freezing. These AVA’s are heavily innervated and will vasodilate allowing warm blood to flow into the subcutaneous venous plexus. This, in turn, allows the pad to not freeze or get frost bite from standing outside, exposed to the cold weather.  So the appropriate temperature of the dog’s pad and leg is able to be maintained even in the cold snow.

If a dog is left outside for long periods of time, frostbite can happen. It will usually occur on the tail, ears, or foot, because of their heat conserving structures they won’t get it as quick as humans but are still susceptible.

Putting booties on your dog is a good idea if you live in an urban area with a lot of salt on the streets.  All in all, no, most dogs do not need to wear those cute booties in the snow. If you live in a city, where people put a lot of salt out on the street then I recommend these Ruff Wear Dog Booties or this paw wax from Musher’s Secret, it was developed in Canada and is used with sled dogs, and the paw wax works great to protect against salted sidewalks. The jar will last years because you only need to apply a dime-sized portion. The Ruff Wear Booties are the only brand that stays on my three dogs feet, and I have tried many. If your dog seems to not like the snow, I would definitely put either booties or a paw balm on like this one from


H. Ninomiya, K. Yamazaki and T. Inomata, “Comparative Anatomy of the Vasculature of the Dog (Canis familiaris) and Domestic Cat (Felis catus) Paw Pad,” Open Journal of Veterinary Medicine, Vol. 3 No. 1, 2013, pp. 11-15. doi: 10.4236/ojvm.2013.31003.