Does My Dog Need A Winter Coat?

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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. Some dogs cope with cold weather better than others, but the PDSA warns that any pets -- even dogs with thick coats -- can suffer from hypothermia in very cold weather. As a general rule, if the temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius or lower, it's time to dress that pet!

That said, there are many variables that factor into whether dogs need additional layers, including the climate, specific weather conditions, and your dog's breed, age and health.

Jack Russell terrier in a winter coat sprints across a filled-filled meadow.

How to Decide If Your Dog Needs a Jacket

The PDSA says that large dogs with thick and dense coats, such as Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, are usually quite happy to take a walk in the cold (although you should still keep a careful eye on them). However, Blue Cross cautions that short-coated breeds like greyhounds, Dobermans and Staffordshire terriers often struggle to cope with the cold weather. Dogs who are smaller, leaner, and/or lower to the ground might also benefit from additional layers.

Since heat regulation diminishes with age, elderly pets of any 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 snugly around them to trap in their body heat, but not be so tight that 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 also need protection to stop them from getting wet and cold. Blue Cross says to look out for your dog stopping, whining or lifting their paws when you’re out on a walk, as these may be signs your dog’s paws are too cold.

Your dog could also step on the salt or grit used to de-ice roads, which 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 pavements 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.

Contributor Bio

Erin Ollila

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.

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