Should Dogs Wear Shoes In The Snow?

Once the winter and snow season starts, many pet owners wonder about their dog’s ability to tolerate walking in the snow. We often attribute our characteristics as humans to our pets.

We think that as we need thick socks and insulated boots for protection against frostbite, our pets will have the same need. So, the question is, does my dog need dog boots in the cold?

Should Dogs Wear Shoes In The Snow?

No, a dog’s paws can adapt to the cold and withstand ice for a long duration. A dog’s paw can protect itself from temperatures of -25 degrees Fahrenheit. You should consider shoes if Snow can irritate a dog’s paws when it has cuts or scrapes, or when ice forms in his long hair around the paws.

Dogs wearing boots in the cold is a point of debate for many dog owners. Some owners believe that dogs never need boots, while others believe that dogs would always need to wear boots (depending on the circumstances) when the temperature falls.

The main reason for providing the dog with boots is protection from the cold. However, to answer this question, we have to know how the dog’s foot works in the cold.

How Do A Dog’s Feet Work In The Cold?

Dogs are such amazing creatures, and the intricate system within their paws proves that. The dog’s foot doesn’t work as a human foot.

Their paws are adapted to the cold, and they can withstand ice for a long duration because of their high body temperature. The dog’s paw tissue is actually designed to protect itself from down to negative 35 degrees Celsius.

It appears that dogs were even prepared to withstand types of cold weather. The dog’s paw is a complicated system of veins and arteries. The pads drain warm blood to the skin to keep them warm.

Therefore, the cold blood is warmed in the paws before being redistributed to the rest of the body. Put this together with the paw’s freeze- resistant tissue and fat. Moreover, the paws are insulated and have the roughest skin on the entire dog’s body. It rivals that of a penguin’s wings to stay warm in the crazy, cold climates.

Accordingly, it’s unlikely that your dog’s feet get cold.

Another important function of your dog’s pad is having a gripping texture, which allows the dog to cling to various surfaces, like rainy roads, dirt, floors, etc.

So, the dog’s shoes are very much similar to when humans wear socks on a slippery surface, our grip is gone, and we start to slide.

Dog’s shoes can also throw off the dog’s balance and friction. For this reason, most dogs don’t like wearing shoes; first, because they are unnatural and secondly because they can actually irritate the dog’s skin.

How Does My Dog Stay Warm When Walking On Cold Ground?

Your dog’s body temperature is not significantly affected when walking on the cold ground. This is due to a counter-current heat exchange system in the blood vessels in the dog’s paws.

The veins in the paws run parallel to the arteries, bringing warm blood to the paws from the heart and transferring this heat to the neighboring veins.

Less heat is lost from the body through the paws because the arteries’ blood is warmer when it gets to the paws. Similarly, the dog’s body doesn’t get cold from the paws because the cold blood is warmed up from the paws as it travels to the heart. This helps conserve heat and prevent heat loss.

In other words, your dog’s paws will stay warmer for a longer duration than a human foot would.

When Would Dog’s Boots Become A Necessity?

When Would Dog's Boots Become A Necessity
When Would Dog’s Boots Become A Necessity?

Since the dog’s boots’ primary objective is protection, here are some different scenarios when dog boots are necessary:

  • In sub-zero temperature areas, below 25 degrees F, when you go out for a walk with your dog, you notice that he lifts his feet when walking or standing around. Your dog may get frostbite on his pads simply from the road or sidewalk contacts.
  • If your dog’s foot-pads are weak and you notice cuts or scrapes.
  • Suppose you have a long-haired dog and notice the snow in his paws. The dog’s paws may get chunks of snow stuck between his toes. This will turn into the ice with the paws warmth and then stick, which can become painful.
  • If you’re having a quick walk around the block just to work out energy, you might not need to use dog boots. However, long fetch games where the dog repeatedly runs on ice would require boots for protection from severe pad wear and tear.

Additional potential hazards are dog feet lurking in the cold, which exposes them to salt de-icing. Some of these salt products have harsh chemicals that can be dangerous for the dog; it may cause salt burns on his feet.

When these substances stick to their feet, they might create external and internal danger once the dog licks them, especially if the dog is suffering from kidney issues.

Similarly, the anti-freeze substances; these are a serious issue in most towns and cities. So, using a dog’s boots for anti-freeze protection is required.

Accordingly, if your town uses salt and anti-freeze substances, you can opt to use dog’s boots for your dog when walking on roads and sidewalks, “better safe than sorry.”

What If You Want To Skip The Dog Boots Option?

If you have plain snow or ice (no de-icing salts) where you live, it’s more likely that your dog won’t need to wear boots. Of course, this is conditional of your knowledge about your dog’s breed, the toughness of his paws, and the dog’s experiences.

Here is some recommendation system to protect your dog’s paws without boots:

  • Please do your best to have your dog gets his regular walks on hard surfaces to toughen his paws.
  • Regularly trim the fur between your dog’s footpads.
  • Ensure that your dog has enough fur, or a dog jacket, to keep his body extra warm when the weather is cold out.
  • Apply paw wax to your dog’s paws before taking your dog for a walk in the snow.

    This is a thick wax that you put on the bottom of your dog’s paws to protect them from salt, road chemicals, snow, and ice.

    It will keep your dog’s footpads from drying out, cracking or splitting. This dense, breathable barrier wax works as an “invisible boots,” especially for dogs who refuse to wear boots.
  • Always check your dog when out for walks.

    Feel their body either through the fur or under their jacket, to make sure that he is warm. Also, feel his feet to make sure they aren’t freezing, and there are no ice or snow build-ups.

By following these precautions, some owners have been hiking in the northwest winters with their dogs for years without using dog boots.

So, What Are The Signs That Show When Your Dog Needs Some Extra Paw Protection?

You might wonder whether your dog needs boots to protect his feet from snow and ice or not.

Well, this actually depends on the individual dog’s cold tolerance, the breed, and how long your dog is kept outside in the cold.

Some dogs have sensitive paws and tend to lift their legs more while walking in the cold once the temperature drops below 10 degrees F. However, some dogs act like they don’t even notice the cold on their feet.

Some breeds are more suited for the cold weather because of their heavy, water-repellent coats, like Husky, Akita, Chow Chow, and Saint Bernard.

However, their paws are still exposed to the snow and cold, especially if they are on extended walks or hikes. In this case, your dog would need more isolation.

Here are some tips to help you decide if your dog’s paws need extra protection or not:

  • Your dog keeps picking up his paws when walking outside.
  • When the dog is outside, he keeps licking his foot-pads excessively, which will make his feet even colder and more uncomfortable.
  • The dog would be shivering.
  • The dog’s foot-pads are dry, split, or cracked in winter.

    Suppose you notice a paw injury, especially if the skin breaks, which leads to infection and irritation. Clean the dog’s paws before and after walks and provide your pet with boots to prevent infection and further damage.
  • If you’re tired of cleaning up the muddy paws after coming inside or have undesired scratches on your hardwood floor. In this case, you can use some rubber foot covers for your dog; these are easy to slip on and off.
  • If your dog suffers from an injury, sickness, or is recovering from an injury.

    These dogs are more susceptible to the effects of the cold weather. So, make sure to outfit him with boots and suitable dog clothes.

Some Undesired Accidents That May Happen To Dogs Wearing Dog Boots

As boots can help protect the dog’s paws from snow and harmful de-icing products, they can also cause a few undesired accidents:

  • Your dog may lose his footing and slip. The dog might slip down a cliff or while pulling a tendon. This is not quite common, but the result is undoubtedly an injury.
  • Dog’s perspires through their feet, so even the best dog boots will prohibit this natural ability to a certain extent.

    Accordingly, the less breathable a dog boot is, the greater chance there is of overheating.
  • Since the dog’s paws are designed for them to walk on, they give the dog the grip and traction he needs.

    Actually, no dog boot will provide your dog with more traction than his natural paw, which causes the dog to walk unnaturally.
  • Finally, some shoes may irritate the dog’s skin.

    So make sure to check what materials are the shoes made of before using them for your dog.

Kinds Of Dog Boots

Dogs playing in the snow
Dogs playing in the snow

Considering the types of activities and the length of time which your dog spends outdoors determines if he needs to wear boots but also determines which type of boots he should wear.

So, what are the ways to make the right choice ” the right pair” for your dog?

Well, the “right” boots are the ones that fit your dog’s foot perfectly.

It shouldn’t be too snug around the foot and allows the dog’s toes to splay out naturally when he walks. It also should fit tight, so they don’t rub or fall off.

Here are some situations that will help you choose the right boots:

  • For adventure, a dog playing for hours in the snow, or if your dog usually steps on a sharp stick, trudge through knee-deep snow:

    He will probably need the rugged outdoor booties. These are water-resistant, so the dog’s paws will stay safe and warm. Most dogs don’t like to have anything over their paws, but these are lightweight and easier for dogs to get used to.

    They are designed to stay on when the dog runs on rough surfaces, offering protection from elements, no matter how tough the terrain is.
  • Old or injured dogs who need traction:

    Rubber anti-slip booties are most suitable for old or sick dogs who get traction on slippery floors. They are thicker and would give more traction than boots with a smooth surface. However, these may cause the dog to walk unnaturally.
  • A dog just going out for a pee in the parking lot would need some anti-freeze protecting light boots:

    These are made of stretchy rubber. They aren’t very thick or tough for serious protection, but they provide a barrier against cold surfaces.

Make sure to introduce your dog to wearing boots gradually. Use lots of positive reinforcement, because it usually takes some time for dogs to have something on their feet.

Some Tips To Help You Get Your Dog To Wear Boots

When your dog has trouble wearing boots, try a more pliable variety.

Fleece or felt boots are great to get your dog used to wear boots as they are quite malleable. However, these don’t work well for long walks where the snow will melt, because they are not waterproof.

Accordingly, they can make the dog’s foot-pads even colder than his barefoot when they get wet. Make sure to choose waterproof boots instead.

Most dogs don’t like boots because they cannot feel the ground while wearing them. In this case, try the thin rubber boots. These may not have much insulation, but they keep your dog’s footpads dry.

To get your dog to get used to wearing boots, try one paw at a time. You can even let your dog go outside with just one boot on when it is cold. When your dog feels the difference, he will be more willing to wear them.

Conclusion

Finally, remember that your dog’s comfort is your main priority when deciding whether he needs boots. Dog boots perform so many functions for your dog in winter. They are essential for nearly every dog who lives in freezing temperatures. So, keep your dog’s paws looking and feeling their best with the right dog boots.

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Author: Erwin Borgers

Hi, I’m Erwin. I grew up with two cats, but I always wanted to have a dog. Since my wife and I lived together, we have Mayla. She is a very sweet King Charles Spaniel. Together we spend countless of hours in the forest near our home. We love to walk together and now I want to share what I learned about walking dogs and what I learned about dog gear with you.

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