Find food that fits your pet’s needs
Find a dog food that fits your pet’s needs
Find a cat food that fits your pet’s needs
When the temperature plummets, you pile on your winter gear. But you might be wondering if your pooch needs extra layers, too. Are dog coats necessary in the winter, or is their fur enough to insulate them from the cold? Let's find out.
Do Dogs Need Winter Coats?
They just might. Even dogs with thick coats can get hypothermia or frostbite in freezing weather, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). If the temperature is in the mid-40s Fahrenheit / 4.4 degrees Celsius or lower, it's definitely time to dress that pet. Melissa Pezzuto, a behavior team lead consultant for Best Friends Animal Society, told New York Magazine that "If your dog is shivering, lifting paws up to avoid the cold, or burrowing under a blanket, they may be a candidate for some winter weather clothing."
That said, there are many variables that factor into whether dogs need additional layers, including the specific climate outside and your dog's breed, age and health.
How to Decide If Your Dog Needs a Jacket
Large dogs with thick and dense coats, such as Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes, don't need protection from the cold, the AKC reports. The AKC says that other dogs, however, might need extra warmth: Chihuahuas and French bulldogs don't generate and retain enough heat to spend a lot of time in the cold. And dogs like Pembroke Welsh corgis, who are low to the ground, are also more affected by low temperatures. Dogs with lean bodies, like greyhounds, and dogs who have their hair clipped, like poodles, may also benefit from additional layers. Your mixed-breed dog might need a winter coat if they have a thinner coat or if they're low to the ground.
Since heat regulation diminishes with age, elderly pets, regardless of breed, might benefit from extra layers. While a light jacket is fine for dogs with thicker coats, a winter jacket is best for small dogs or dogs with thinner coats.
Choosing Your Dog's Winter Outerwear
If you've decided that your pooch could benefit from additional clothing in the winter months, it's time to choose how you'll dress them. Depending on the weather and the thickness of your pet's coat, a dog sweater might be all they need to stay warm. However, if the weather forecast includes freezing temperatures, snow, hail or cold rain, a winter jacket might be necessary. Make sure to purchase outerwear that is properly suited to your dog's size. It should fit snug around them to trap in their body heat, but not tight to where it cuts off circulation or mobility.
When walking your dog in the winter, don't forget about your dog's paws. While a jacket can help warm their body, their paws need protection, too — otherwise, they can get wet and cold. Your dog might also step on salt that's put on the roads to melt ice; this could be harmful if they lick their paws clean after a winter walk.
If you purchase booties for your dog, make sure to choose ones that have good traction so your pup won't slip on wet sidewalks or grass. Remember to check how the boots fit, too. Most dog booties come with Velcro or a strap to tighten the boots around the paws.
If you're unsure whether your dog needs winter gear, contact your veterinarian and ask if your dog could benefit from some additional winter protection. In the meantime, if you're not sure whether it's too cold for your pooch, stay inside and do some fun indoor exercise together instead.
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.