You may have heard the saying “cold nose, warm heart”. This adorable quote highlights the fact that a healthy dog’s nose will feel slightly cool. However, other parts of your dog should be warm, including their feet. 

There are many reasons your dog’s feet can get cold. Some are perfectly normal and nothing to worry about, while others require veterinary care. 

Why are my dog’s feet cold?

Your dog curls up in your lap and you notice that their feet are cold. Just like humans, dogs can get cold feet for a variety of reasons, ranging from weather to circulation. 

Cold Weather

The most obvious cause of your dog’s feet being cold is the simplest. Cold weather. Most of your dog’s body is covered with fur which provides insulation and protection from the cold. The paws, however, are left exposed. 

Dog’s have circulatory system adaptations in their paws to help them withstand cold temperatures. However, they are still susceptible to frostbite, just as humans are. 

You can prevent frostbite by putting shoes on your dog in cold temperatures. Paw wax can also help by creating a barrier between the paw and the cold ground. 

If your dog’s paws begin to turn gray or red, they likely have frostbite. Place their paws in warm water and then take them to the vet. 

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can be a problem for dogs, just as it can for humans. The thyroid is located on each side of the windpipe. The thyroid is responsible for regulating metabolism. Hyperthorism means metabolism is too high. Hypothyroidism means the metabolism is too low. 

Cold feet can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Your dog will get cold very easily as well. Other signs include lethary, weight gain without an increase in food, dull coat, and excessive shedding, and increased risk of skin and ear infections. 

Circulation Problems

All animals have a circulatory system. Blood is pumped through blood vessels by the heart to supply the body with needed blood and oxygen. It’s then returned to the heart through the circulatory system. 

When there’s a problem with the circulatory system, blood can’t get to all areas of the body. The heart has to work hardest to get blood to the extremities, or the areas of the body farthest from the heart.

Since a dog’s paws are its extremities, they will show signs of circulation problems before other areas. 

The most common cause of circulation problems in dogs is heart valve problems. When the valves don’t close properly, blood can back up in the heart and lungs. This creates heart failure. 

The first symptoms owners notice other than cold paws are exercise intolerance and lethargy. Unfortunately, these are often mistaken for natural aging. 

Anemia

Anemia can also cause your dog’s feet to be cold due to reduced blood flow. Anemia occurs when there aren’t enough red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. This results in a lack of oxygen.

One of the most noticeable signs of anemia is pale gums. They will also be lethargic. Weight loss and reduced appetite are common. The dog may experience labored breathing and an increased heart rate. 

Anemia can have many causes. Bleeding injuries are a common cause because blood loss occurs.

Parasites can also cause blood loss, because the parasites feed on the dog’s blood. Anemia from parasites can occur with severe infestations in adult dogs, but is more common in puppies. 

Tumors, cancer, poisoning or chemical exposure, organ failure, and autoimmune disorders can also cause anemia. 

Bloat

Bloat occurs when your dog’s stomach fills with gas. There are risk factors, but experts have not pinpointed an exact cause. Normally, your dog will pass gas by farting or belching, just as a human would. 

With bloat, the gas remains trapped in the stomach. It begins to ferment, causing a build-up of pressure. If prompt treatment isn’t received, the pressure will cause the stomach to twist. This is often fatal. 

In addition to cold paws, dogs with bloat can’t poop or pass gas. They will retch in an attempt to throw up, but little or nothing will come out. They experience extreme pain. 

Airway Obstruction

Dogs are like toddlers, they love putting things in their mouths. It’s how they explore the world. This puts them at risk of choking on foreign objects, obstructing the airway. 

The circulatory system and respiratory system are intricately connected. If your dog can’t pull in oxygen, the extremities will get cold because the cells don’t have the oxygen they need to function. 

Signs of airway obstruction include choking, gagging, or coughing. However, the obstruction can prevent your dog from making any noise at all. Pale gums and wheezing are also signs of a blocked airway. 

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is a condition caused by low blood sugar. It can cause lethargy, loss of appetite, weakness, seizures, and discoloration of the skin and gums, in addition to cold paws. 

It can be caused by malnutrition, liver disease, and tumors. It can also occur because there’s too much time between meals and your dog is very active. 

It’s more common in puppies. Stress, activity, and parasites can cause hypoglycemia in puppies. Immediate treatment is typically sugar water, nutrical, or sugar tablets placed under the tongue. 

If your dog has hypoglycemia, they will need to be evaluated by a vet. Your vet can determine the cause and create a treatment plan to prevent future blood sugar drops. 

In severe cases, hypoglycemia can cause coma or death, so prompt treatment is important. 

Is it normal for a dog’s paws to be cold?

It’s normal for your dog’s paws to feel cold at times. After all, they aren’t covered with fur, so they are more susceptible to the environment. It could be something as simple as walking on a cold day or sleeping in front of an air conditioning vent. 

However, if you notice any other signs that concern you, take your dog to the vet for an examination. 

What to do when my dog’s paws are cold?

If your dog has cold paws, it’s important to determine the cause. Treatment varies greatly depending on the reason your dog’s paws are cold. 

Assessing Symptoms

First, you’ll need to assess symptoms. Are cold paws the only thing out of the ordinary? If that’s the case, it’s likely not a serious problem. However, if your dog is experiencing lethargy, pale gums, shallow breathing, or their feet are turning blue, you’ll need to get them to the vet asap.

Checking Temperature

It’s not the most thrilling part of anyone’s day, but you’ll need to check your dog’s temperature. You’ll need a flexible digital thermometer. It’s fine to use one designed for humans, as long as it is only used for your dog. 

Lubricate the thermometer and gently push it into the dog’s rectum. Wait for the beep to read the temperature. Your dog’s temperature should be between 101 and 102.5 F. If it’s lower or higher, contact your vet. A low temperature can be a sign of illness or hypothermia. A high temperature is a sign of illness, just as it is in humans. 

Checking Pulse

You’ll also need to check your dog’s pulse. This test is easier to conduct. Feel the inside of the thigh on the back legs. You should feel a strong steady pulse. If the pulse feels weak or irregular, contact your vet immediately. 

Capillary Refill Time

Capillary refill time is a simple way to test blood flow to the tissues. For this test, you’ll need to press your fingertips to your dog’s gums. Be sure your dog is calm and as comfortable as possible. 

It’s best to do this with your thumb. Press against the gum. When you release your finger, the gum will look pale or white. This is because pressure restricts blood flow to the area. 

When you remove your thumb, it should quickly return to its regular color. Count the seconds it takes for the color to return to normal. If it’s longer than 2 seconds, your dog needs emergency veterinary care. 

Frostbite

If your dog’s paws are cold due to frostbite, the first thing to do is bring them inside. If your dog’s body is cold, warm them with blankets and hot water bottles first. Next, you’ll want to place the paws in warm water. Never use hot water. 

If there’s no injury, the paws should return to their normal color as they warm. If they are pale or red, you’ll need to visit the vet. Don’t rub or massage the paws.

Why are my dog’s legs cold?

The same conditions that can cause your dog’s feet to be cold can also cause their legs to be cold. However, there are a few other conditions that can cause your dog’s legs to catch a chill. 

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease can affect dogs as well as people. The condition causes too much cortisol to be produced. Cortisol is a hormone necessary for managing stress, but too much of it is harmful.

Signs of Cushing’s disease include excessive thirst and hunger, excessive peeing, and hair loss. It can also cause your dog’s legs to feel cold because it affects circulation.

Diabetes

Diabetes can also interfere with circulation. It occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Blood sugar levels rise too high. Because the glucose isn’t being broken down, the cells don’t get enough energy. 

Weight loss, frequent urination, and thirst are common symptoms. Cloudy eyes and skin infections are also common signs. 

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.