2001-Tue Feb 19 18:45:03 EST 2019
Vetstreet. All rights reserved. Powered by Brightspot.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
A. Many animals are equipped with an impressive supply of blood vessels under a well-designed layer of soft yet tough padding, which is why they generally don’t need to boot up to take a walk when there’s snow on the ground. But don’t expect cats or dogs to do as well in the cold as their wild relatives such as the lynx or wolf, both of whom have feet that can really stand up to snow and ice. Our domesticated animals, on the other hand, can and do suffer from prolonged exposure to bitter cold.
Two of my books, Why Do Dogs Drink From the Toilet? and Why Do Cats Always Land on their Feet? answer some of the most interesting and offbeat questions about cats and dogs I've collected over the years. For the dog book, I asked my friend Dr. Stu Nelson, chief veterinarian for the Iditarod, about how pets and their paws stand up to extreme weather. If anyone knows about pets in cold weather, it’s Dr. Nelson.
He shared that frostbite strikes the areas of the body that have the slowest circulation and are therefore easily chilled. Pets have greater circulation in their feet than humans do, enabling them to withstand low temperatures without wearing shoes.
So what about those sled dogshe knows so well?
While pet dogs and cats have relatively short-term exposure to walking on ice and snow, that’s certainly not true of sled dogs such as the ones who run the Iditarod. Dr. Nelson says that the thickness of the paw pads help animals go “barefoot” on various types of terrain, including snow and ice. Animals also have two more legs to distribute the weight, which is an advantage on rough, cold ground.
Despite all those evolutionary advantages, these canine athletes can use some help: Sled dogs often wear booties, although on ice they get better traction without them, using their nails like cleats.
While city dogs sometimes wear booties, it’s not something a cat will tolerate. In winter the problem for both dogs and cats isn’t walking on snow and ice so much as exposure to chemicals used for de-icing. It’s always a good idea to rinse pet paws when they come in; this cleans off anything potentially toxic and helps keep the house cleaner too.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Bartonella is a type bacteria that can be transmitted to cats, dogs and humans from exposure to infected fleas and…
Want to give your pup yummy, low-calorie treats? We’ve got the skinny on which foods are OK to feed him.
Not sure about food puzzles? Our veterinarian reveals why the payoff for your pet is well worth any extra work.
With these simple dental care tips, you can help keep your canine’s adorable smile shiny and healthy for life.
The friendly and inquisitive LaPerm has an easy-care coat that comes in a variety of colors and patterns.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.