- Pet owners may not think to dress their canine companion in a coat during the winter, but some dogs would benefit from an extra layer.
- The need could depend upon breed and climate.
Do Some Breeds Actually Need Dog Coats?
You wear a coat when it’s cold outside, so naturally, you may wonder if your pup should wear one, too. While some breeds need dog coats more than others, any dog can benefit from one, depending on the circumstances.
When it comes to keeping dogs warm in winter, here’s what veterinarians and experts recommend for finding the ideal dog coat, dog jacket or dog sweater.
Are Dog Coats an Absolute Must-Have for Winter?
A dog probably doesn’t need a coat if she’s going outside for a short bathroom break, but if the temperatures drop to below zero, it can help, says Dr. Lisa Powell, a veterinarian with BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “I put something on my dogs then because it’s just so cold.”
Watch your dog’s body language to determine if she needs a coat, says Dr. Susan Jeffrey, a veterinarian at Truesdell Animal Care Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin.
“Some dogs will hold up their paws when they get cold and sometimes even refuse to walk. Other dogs may shiver. Some dogs may need a coat long enough to get ‘warmed up.’ An example of this is a dog who arrives at the dog park initially needing a jacket, but after a few minutes of running or playing, may not need a coat,” she says.
Which Breeds of Dogs Need Coats?
For some dog breeds, cold weather can be a challenge. Short-coated dogs, thin-coated dogs and dogs with thin body frames should wear a jacket during colder months, Dr. Jeffrey says. “These include most toy and small breeds such as Chihuahuas, Toy Poodles, Italian Greyhounds (and Whippets), Yorkshire Terriers, Chinese Cresteds and Havanese.”
Another reason why small breed dogs—and dogs with short legs, like Basset Hounds—may also benefit from coats, is “because they are so close to the ground and more likely to have their bellies or bodies in contact with snow and ice,” says Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and owner of Insight Animal Behavior Services in Chicago, Illinois.
Large, shedding dogs, like Huskies and Malamutes, typically don’t need to wear coats, says Dr. Powell, who is board-certified in veterinary emergency and critical care. A dog’s size isn’t necessarily the determining factor, however.
“Some large or giant breeds, such as Great Danes, Greyhounds and even some Pit Bull Terriers, may benefit, as they have very short hair coats that do not provide insulation,” says Dr. Jeffrey.
Dog breed, size and fur length should all be considered when deciding whether to buy a dog coat, but there are other considerations as well.
“There can be a lot of individual variation in cold tolerance, which can be related to age, underlying health problems and body condition,” says Dr. Ballantyne. Check with your veterinarian for her best recommendation for your pup.
What Type of Winter Clothing Does Your Dog Need?
It depends on the dog, says Dr. Jeffrey. “For example, I have a very muscular French Bulldog who doesn’t need a thick jacket, but a sweater is perfect for keeping him warm outside. A Chinese Crested, on the other hand, has little to no fur and requires a heavy jacket when going outside in the winter.”
Other small breeds, such as Shih Tzus, may only need a sweater, depending on hair length, she adds. Some dog sweater suggestions include the Chilly Dog spencer dog and cat sweater and Chilly Dog grey cable knit dog and cat sweater.
If you plan to keep your pup outside for longer periods, Dr. Jeffrey recommends coats or jackets for dogs that are made with waterproof or water-resistant material. “Lightweight insulation, such as fleece, is also helpful to help maintain warmth.”
Some to consider are the Pet Life fashion parka dog coat, Frisco reversible dog and cat plaid puffer coat and Canada Pooch Alaskan army premium dog parka.
If you pick out coats for dogs that are too bulky, it can make it difficult for a dog to walk, advises Dr. Jeffrey. “Also, avoid jackets with buttons, buckles or other small decorative pieces to avoid the possibility of ingestion and possible gastrointestinal obstruction,” she says.
Be Sure to Get the Right Fit
Fit is a critical factor for your dog’s comfort and safety.
“It is important to make sure your pet’s sweater or jacket is not too snug or too loose, as it can be dangerous for your furry friend. It is especially important to check the fit around your pet’s neck and armpit area to ensure there isn’t any rubbing or irritation,” says Kelsey Dickerson, spokesperson with the Arizona Humane Society.