When winter comes, one question never ceases to cross the minds of dog owners: does my dog need a coat in the winter? Yes, dog winter coats are quite cute, but are they necessary?
It’s easy to think our furry friends are naturally built to deal with the cold. But in many instances, a winter coat, which is an extra layer of protection, will actually do your dog some good.
Why pet owners buy dog winter coats?
Some pet owners buy winter coats because they think they are cute and fashionable. Pet accessory—from clothing to toys to leaches—is big business in America.
Still, most people who buy dog winter coats do it out of concern for their pets. It can be emotionally worrying taking your dog out in the cold, especially at freezing temperatures.
Every discerning dog owner understands that a healthy dog needs to spend time outdoors. Whether it’s taking a walk in the park, going to the outside bathroom, or simply releasing excess energy, dogs love the outdoors. So good dog owners shouldn’t deny their furry friends the outdoor experience, even in winter.
Does your dog need a winter coat?
Several factors determine whether your dog needs a winter coat. Factors like wind chill (which is what the temperature feels like), how sunny the day is, and the probability of your dog getting wet.
Is your dog shivering in the cold, acting distressed, slowing down, limping, or searching for warmth in any way?
Then you have to get your dog inside and be proactive with a winter coat. Winter coats for dogs are great, but you must be ready to play it safe.
Notice your dog is getting too hot? Take off the coat.
Getting a winter coat also depend on your dog’s health status, age, and adjustability to cold weather.
Sick dogs, young puppies, and aging dogs are very much vulnerable to even mild weather conditions. But a healthy adult dog—acclimatized to the cold—may survive chilly weather.
Of course, aging dogs have weaker immune systems so getting winter coats is important.
Also, dogs with diseases that affect hair growth—like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease—will need winter coats to stay warm both indoor and outdoor.
What kind of dogs need winter coats?
A winter jacket can go a long way when your dog is reluctant to go outside, always curling up to conserve heat, or if your home’s internal heating system is set low. Your dog’s ability to stay warm is dependent on several factors: from age to size to type of fur coat.
Because small dogs naturally lose heat faster than big ones, smaller dogs arguably need these coats more. At higher temperatures, winter coats are more beneficial to smaller dogs than bigger ones. In this case, breeds like Miniature Pinschers, toy terriers, and Chihuahuas will appreciate winter coats.
Body fat is a big factor too. Thin dogs, with little body fat, are more susceptible to the cold weather than fat dogs. For example, thin dogs like Whippet and Greyhound (that shiver often) will enjoy the benefit of a winter coat than a pug or a Basset Hound.
Fur size plays another important role. If your dog has thin fur, you should seriously consider a winter coat. However, furry dogs with thick/long hair (or double-coated dogs) seldom need winter coats. And in most cases, fat dogs often have fur coats with low insulating properties.
Dogs have their own natural protection from the cold. But some dogs have lighter fur coats than others, and many dogs aren’t genetically matched to the environments in which they are.
Short, thin fur isn’t only the reason to get a winter jacket for your pet. If your dog has short-cropped hair (for example, poodles grow thick hair which owners often keep short to prevent matting), get a winter coat.
You also need to consider fur color. Dark fur is more capable of absorbing more heat from the sun than lighter fur.
Additionally, a dog’s level of activity determines body heat generation. An active dog running around will be warmer than a naturally quiet dog.
Ask your vet
Some dogs have fur genetically designed to protect them from extreme winter temperatures.
Before deciding to (or not to) wear a winter coat on your furry pal, get your vet’s advice. A vet’s approval is very vital for your dog’s safety.
In most cases, the following dog breeds should rarely be made to put on a winter coat because of their thick fur coat and body size: Bearded Collie, Siberian Husky, Bernese Mountain Dog, Chow Chows, Great Pyrenees, Havanese, Saint Bernard, Huskies, Malamute, Komondors, Newfoundlands, and Pomeranians.
But many pinscher, terrier, Greyhound, and Chihuahua breeds will enjoy the benefits of winter coats.
Getting the right material
If you are sure your dog needs a winter coat, and getting your vet’s approval, picking the right coat should be your next priority.
The material of the winter coat is very important. The material must be compatible with your dog’s fur coat. This means it mustn’t, in any way, be harmful to the dog. Your vet’s recommendation is vital in this case.
Some dogs are allergic to certain types of fabrics.
Monitor your dog’s response to wearing clothing material. If you notice symptoms of allergic reactions like diarrhea, hives, red and reddened skin, constant itching, sneezing, inflamed earflaps, eyes, lips, or face, or vomiting, immediately contact your vet.
A material made of wool is great for insulation. However, you need to consider how often you have to wash the woolly material, and whether it will make your dog itchy.
Finding the right winter coat may mean getting a good mix of washable cotton or acrylic and wool.
Finding the right size
When getting the right coat, make comfort a priority. This may involve getting a waterproof coat to protect your dog from snow and keep the fur coat dry. This could also mean looking for a winter coat with fleece lining, which gives your dog comfort as well as protection from the elements.
Also, examine the size of your dog to ensure a good winter coat fit. This means you have to measure your dog. To measure a dog for a coat, run the tape measure from the base of the dog’s collar to the base of the tail.
Before buying a winter coat, ensure it’s not too big or too small for your pet. To know the right measurements, a tape measure should be of great help. Remember that too loose clothing will drag on the ground and trip your dog, and too tight clothing would impede proper movement. Your dog’s mobility is crucial. You want something snug and not tight. Note that heavier clothing doesn’t mean better. When the coat is too warm, it tends to overheat the dog.
Asides the material, ensure there are no additional parts, snaps, or hanging zippers that can harm or irritate the dog. Before purchasing a coat, identify where the fasteners or Velcro straps are located.
Asides fitting snugly, a good winter coat should entirely cover the dog’s neck, belly (except with male dogs) and the base of the tail. The legs must not be impeded, and the dog should be able to relieve himself. Winter coats with full-length “sleeves” may negatively affect the mobility of your dog and even be harder for your dog to adapt to. Before leaving the store, if possible, try the coat on your dog to ensure it fits easily to wear and get off and fits comfortably.
Most winter coats for dogs are available from extra-small to extra-large sizes. To find the right size for your dog, follow this rule: toy breeds can wear extra-small size; Beagle-size dogs can wear small; Retriever-size breeds can wear large, and larger extra-large is suitable for larger breeds. Note that actual coat size often varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
Do indoor test
Some dogs get pretty uncomfortable wearing winter coats. Never force it on your dog. Before taking your dog outside wearing a winter coat, let your pet wear the coat indoors for a few minutes each day. If your dog doesn’t react negatively to the coat, you can move on with the idea.
As you shuffle through your closet for a seasonal coat, hoodie or jacket this winter, remember your canine friends might need one for the elements too. Winter coats for dog coats aren’t just a novelty; they are a necessity. By protecting your dog from the elements, your dog will enjoy this winter.
Not all dogs need a winter coat to stay warm in the outdoors. However, sick dogs, puppies, aging dogs and breeds with short fur will benefit from this additional layer of protection.
Your dog’s well-being should be paramount to you. But before investing in a dog winter coat, do your research and check labels. Don’t let your dog brave this winter unprepared. Get a winter coat today.