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At what temp to worry about frozen paws?

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For those of you with thermometers which get below 0 degrees F., at what point do you put booties on your dog's feet to prevent frozen paws?

I have a one year-old BC (pictures of Hank are attached).  This morning it was -5 and I slipped on red felt booties for our brief pre-breakfast run out of an abundance of caution.  

Regards, Jim



200824 - on Snake Mt 102.jpg

201230 - Hank at wall 101.jpg

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I don't have an exact number, but at -5 I'd be putting some booties for an outing of any length on too.

I'd also watch carefully even at higher temps than that for any signs that he's uncomfortable. Mine have generally started stopping in place and alternately lifted feet to get them out of the snow or ice. It doesn't take long after that for them to lie down to try to keep them warm. Maybe keeping the booties in your pocket just in case it happens when you're not expecting it may be a good idea.

I've also noticed that as the dogs start aging their feet start becoming less tolerant of cold. You've got some time before that handsome guy has to worry about it.

A little anecdote on the subject: I've had several dogs who in their teen years would get frozen footsies with just a few minutes of exposure while on potty breaks in the back yard. As soon as I'd see them favoring their paws I'd encourage them to come in, but they didn't always make it back before it got bad enough that they had to lie down in an attempt to keep them warmer. So I'd go out into the yard to help them back in. I'd have picked them up and carried them back, but without fail every. single. one. of them would get up and make it back on their own once I reached them. I guess they just knowing I was there to help them if they needed it gave them enough confidence to do it on heir own. Gotta love the oldsters. :wub:

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We live in Northern BC Canada where temps can get as cold as -30 degrees Celsius. My older BC actually prefers to be outside even when it's well below zero (celcius). I find the only time I really start to see my dogs raise their paws when on the snow is when it's reaching -15. Both of them grow lovely thick fur around their paws which I'm sure helps. I often have to trim there paws in order to prevent ice balls developing when we're cross country or down hill skiing. I was worried about my 13 year old girl getting too cold this year and spent a bunch of money on outdoor heated dog beds and winter jackets. Turns out as per usual her wooley double coat has been more than sufficient. I bring her in on the super cold evenings to snuggle on the couch when I'm sure she'd much prefer to curl up outside at the front door. My young guy who also does fine in the colder temps thankfully is happier to oblige.

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This discussion makes me think of arctic dogs, such as the dogs who run the Iditarod. They wear booties, but not because of the cold - rather to protect their paws from collecting ice between the pads or getting cut on rocks. Those dogs, and all arctic-type dogs have a very efficient system in their paw pads to keep them warm enough. I read an interesting article on that recently, on the Iditarod website. 

My family had an Elkhound who absolutely hated to be indoors, especially in the winter, when he preferred to dig an ice cave for himself and sleep in there, even when the temperature was -25 Fahrenheit or lower. Such dogs are built for cold climates, of course. Border collies are not, nor are non-arctic breeds.  I would definitely protect my dogs' feet (and ears) from the cold if we were to go somewhere that chilly. Ears can get frostbitten if it's too cold, unless they have a thick coat of fur on them. 

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43 minutes ago, D'Elle said:

Such dogs are built for cold climates, of course. Border collies are not, nor are non-arctic breeds. 

No, not an arctic breed but originated in Scotland where it gets pretty darn cold. One thing both would have in common - at least working border collies living in cold climates - is that they're more acclimated to it than our pet border collies and even many working dogs who live in people's homes when not working. Even barn and kennel kept dogs have homes with more protection from the weather than the sled dogs usually do.

Of course, several years ago when winter temps were going as low as -17F there was a huge cruelty confiscation from a border collie puppy mill. Dogs had 50 gallon drums with the tops cut off and a little bit of straw in some of them, similar to what many sled dos are kept. Their medical problems-really weren't primarily due to the weather; they had incredibly dense coats. But they weren't getting the good, fatty and meaty diets that the mushers get. (They were all half starved, loaded with parasites and had a host of other health issues. But that's a story for another time. :angry:)

Interesting about the sled dogs' feet. I wonder if perhaps border collies might have something similar. I've often seen my own dogs last much longer outside in the winter than many friends' dogs of other breeds.

My anecdote of a cold loving dog isn't as dramatic as yours, but my first (working) border collie was often far too warm in the house in the winter and usually preferred to be outside lying against the sliding glass door with snow piling up on him. It was pretty funny to see this mound of snow rise and a dog to emerge. :rolleyes:

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19 hours ago, GentleLake said:

usually preferred to be outside lying against the sliding glass door with snow piling up on him. It was pretty funny to see this mound of snow rise and a dog to emerge. :rolleyes:

Oh yes, I remember looking out into the back yard, covered in a foot or more of snow, and seeing various humps in the snow, not knowing which was the dog until one of them moved and the dog popped out. Meals were the only thing that got him to come inside, or else if we stood outside the door cracking peanuts. We had no idea how to train dogs at that time so he never came just because he was called, and while he was basically a good dog he tended to be a bit wild. Later, though, he went to live with someone else who made him an obedience champion. ;)


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I'm a bit late to the party and I live nowhere near as cold as -30 degrees. The coldest this winter was maybe -3 degrees.

Anyways, I noticed Sadie (4 months at the time) favouring her hind legs after a maximum of about 10 minutes. Always because of ice crystals. After a few days I sat her down and cut the hair between her toes, not kidding haven't had a single ice crystal since - that is not to say I let her run around indefinately! Just that it helped with the crystals.

But for next winter, when she is more or less fully grown, I want to buy her som shoes. How do I go about it? Anything I specifically have to look out for when buying them?

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With some caveats, I second Tegan and Oden's observation about -15°C (+5°F) being a lower limit for bare paws (and draw attention to the units Tegan used - °C, not °F.)

I do not have professional or specialized knowledge on the subject.  My opinion is simply based on decades of past personal experience with dogs in a cold climate.  (As I compose this post at 16:00 on a sunny Feb afternoon, the present temperature is -34°C (-29°F).  An overnight low of -41°C (-42°F) was recorded at 07:00 this morning.  Mid-January is traditionally when it gets TRULY cold here for 5-8 days in succession.)


  • Judge conditions from "Apparent Temperature", not "Ambient Temperature."
  • Take into account the nature and duration of activity.  Work and high intensity off-leash recreation is different for the walkee than plodding along on-leash with periodic stops for socializing & sightseeing by the walker.
  • Take into account additional factors such as the dog's size, health, age and paw condition when determining whether paw protection should be provided for an outing.  A small, senior dog with cracked paws is likely to benefit from paw protection at temperatures ABOVE the lower limit of -15°C (+5°F) suggested earlier.
  • Where there is a likelihood of encountering of snow-melt products, provide paw protection at temperatures ABOVE the lower limit of -15°C (+5°F) suggested earlier.

It might be useful to expound further about the first caveat.  Ambient temperature is just what is indicated on the thermometer outside the kitchen window.  Apparent Temperature is a term coined by Robert Steadman to represent ambient air temperature + wind speed + relative humidity.

To illustrate the difference, consider an ambient temp of -15°C (+5°F) in calm conditions on a sunny hill top.  Now consider the same ambient temp in a dark valley along a wind-blown stretch of ice.  Same ambient number, very different perception and comfort level.

In lieu of Apparent Temperature, weather services use terms such as "Feels Like" and "Wind Chill"to represent ambient temperature values adjusted for additional factors.  I merely draw my own conclusions by looking at the outdoor thermometer and glancing around the yard for indications of wind speed - if I see gusts, I attach footwear at a warmer temperature than if conditions appear to be calm.


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