Dogs are sometimes full of mystery. We watch them do seemingly meaningless things and wonder why. We think about how they evolved into so many sizes, shapes and colors and wonder how. I recently was watching my dog slip and slide on the ice and found myself wondering aren’t his feet really cold? I couldn’t stand to walk barefoot on the ice!
In fact, reporting on some research done in Japan a year or so ago, Time magazine described dog’s paws as having “built in snow shoes.”
The research was originally reported in the journal Veterinary Dermatology. In the research, dog’s paws were examined using electron microscopes. The researchers found that arteries bringing warm blood to the paws were very closely spaced to the veins returning blood to the dog’s body. So in effect, the close placement of the arteries and veins acts much like a heat exchanger, keep the blood at a higher temperature in the paws. You can actually feel this yourself. Next time you are out with your dog in the cold, feel his paws when you bring him in. You’ll likely feel that that they are very warm.
This same arterial system is found in other birds and animals, including penguins’ beaks and dolphins’ fins. In addition to keeping extremities such as beaks, fins and paws warmer, it also keeps your dog’s overall body temperature higher because the blood returning to the body is warmer. So is it any wonder that our dogs don’t seem to mind walking on ice and snow… and may in fact love romping through the snow?
While our dogs are definitely built to withstand the cold, that does not mean we don’t need to take extra care with them. One of my colleagues recently wrote a blog about cold weather gear and I found a great list of paw and hair care tips on the ASPCA website. Check them out.