If your dog has cold paws, you may be wondering whether it's something to worry about or not. Among humans, it's quite normal to have cold feet on those cold winter days, but one may wonder: "My dogs has cold paws, what may be causing this?
Not surprisingly, dogs can get cold paws too.
The fact that dogs don't wear shoes and socks, makes them already quite different than us, human beings, so we expect things to be a tad bit different in the feet department.
So if your dog has cold paws, is that something to worry about? The answer is that it depends on various factors.
My Dog Has Cold Paws!
A dog with cold paws on their own is generally something not very significant, as long as cold feet are the only symptom.
As it happens with us humans, a dogs body temperature may go up and down depending on several factors such as the outside weather, the dog's activity level and even if they're just recently eaten.
If you notice cold feet in your dog, it's generally not concerning unless you start noticing other accompanying worrisome symptoms such as difficulty walking, swollen legs, trouble getting up, or pale gums, trouble breathing or fainting.
Cold feet in dogs can be due to recently walking in cold weather. With no socks or shoes, it's not surprising that those doggy paws turn cold. Walking barefoot, dogs actually fare quite well overall if we think about it.
If you are concerned though that your dog's feet are unusually cold, a good place to start would be to ensure your dog's rectal body temperature is normal (101.0 to 102.5) and then to check the dog's pulse of the back legs inside the thigh, suggests veterinarian Dr. Debbie.
Report promptly to your vet if you detect any unusual findings in you canine companion or if the rectal temperature is anything under 101.0 as that is too low.
A Blood Flow Issue
Since a dog's ears and feet are so distant from the inner core, the body will often reduce its flow of blood to the extremities and ears because it's working on something else that needs extra blood supply.
If a dog has cold feet, it can therefore be indicative of a blood flow problem to the legs. Generally, if this is the case, the affected dog will show other signs of trouble. A dog who has a blood flow problem may have a problem with his lymphatic system, or possibly, the heart.
There may be the presence of a blood clot blocking blood flow or severe blood loss and shock (as from a ruptured spleen) that may cause a dog to have cold feet, lethargy, feet turning bluish, pale gums and shallow breathing.
A dog with cold feet that is showing these signs, should be seen by a vet immediately. There are chances that the blood is not circulating properly or that the dog is suffering from shock due to an underlying condition.
In such a case, an important evaluation would involve checking the dog's capillary refill time. Capillary refill time evaluates a dog's blood perfusion.
This test can be done easily by placing a thumb on the gums and applying pressure if the dog allows that. Once the thumb is released, the gum will blanch. Counting in seconds how long it takes for the gum to return to its original healthy pink provides the dog's capillary refill time.
If it takes more than 2 seconds, or the gums remain pale, then off to the emergency vet.
Conditions known to cause cold extremities such as cold paws in dogs include several serious disorders such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia, or immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), bloat, internal or external bleeding, heart disorders, head trauma, severe seizures, airway obstruction, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and sepsis to just name a few.
Cold Paws and Frostbite
If your dog has cold paws and he has been outside where it's very cold and there is snow on the ground, those cold paws may be affected by frostbite.
Generally, all dogs are susceptible to frostbite, however, it may be more commonly seen in dogs that didn't have the chance of being acclimatized to being outdoors.
Frostbite in dogs mostly affects the ear tips, the tail, the scrotum and the toes. When a dog's toes are affected by frostbite, they may appear pale or grayish and will feel cold and hard to the touch. As the toes thaw, they may eventually turn reddish.
A general way to determine if a dog's toes are affected by frostbite is to put some pressure on them and watch the color. In dogs with normal, healthy paws, if you press on the paw pads, they would initially blanch and then quickly return to their normal color once the pressure is released. This would indicate normal blood supply and circulation, explains veterinarian Dr. Susan.
In a dog with frostbite, this is unlikely to happen.
In the case of frostbite of a dog's toes, it's important to warm them up using warm water (around 104 to 108 degrees), never hot, as that would cause further damage. Rubbing or massaging the area may cause more trouble than good.
Severe frostbite may cause the affected tissue to become black and slough off potentially leading to a secondary infection.
With cases of prolonged exposure, the affected dog can even risk losing a toe. If you suspect your dog has cold paws due to frostbite, see your vet. Your vet may need to prescribe a course of antibiotics to prevent an infection.
"It starts out as a blemish and turns to a blister and turns black when there is severe tissue damage. When it turns black, that area will slough off and be subject to secondary infection. The dog can lose a toe if subjected to prolonged exposure.”~Dr. Jack Stephens
Cold Feet and Shedding
If your dog has cold paws and unusual shedding he should see the vet as these can be signs of a thyroid problem. While cats are prone to hyperthyroidism, dogs are prone to the opposite problem, which is hypothyroidism. In other words, the dog has low thyroid levels.
Dogs affected by hypothyroidism may show balding of the hair over the lumbar area, in a symmetrical pattern on both sides. The back sides of the dog's rear legs may also be prone to hair loss and so may be the tail.
On top of that, hypothyroid dogs may also be more sensitive to cold and chilly weather in general, which may explain the cold feet and the reluctance to go outside on chilly nights to potty.
Cold Paws After Surgery
Dog owners may be concerned about a dog's cold feet after a surgery as the dog is recovering from anesthesia. During anesthesia, there are chances that there is lowered perfusion which is the process of delivering blood.
Usually though this possibility is counteracted by the delivery of intravenous fluids during the procedure, explains veterinarian Dr. John.
If the dog can walk on his paws, the femoral pulse can be felt, and his body temperature is OK, then likely there isn't likely any major circulation problem going on.
If the body temperature is a little bit on the low side, getting the dog to move a bit can help increase perfusion otherwise keeping him in a warm place and monitoring him may be helpful. If the dog though has trouble walking and doesn't seem to have sensation, a vet should be seen immediately.