Depending on your breed and coat thickness, your dog may or may not need a winter coat. Here are some tips on how to tell if your dog needs a winter coat?
While summer is a great time for your dog to go outside, interact with other dogs and do all the things they love, depending on how cold it is, winter isn’t always so fun. For one thing, it’s cold out—freezing!
Winter months bring wintry days and sour moods. While your dog doesn’t have to wear a coat, if you live in an area where the temperatures drop below freezing, consider a coat.
Very few people would prefer to take their dog on a long walk in the snow instead of on a sunny spring day! In being a responsible dog parent in winter, we have to consider how to make our furry friends comfortable, too.
Why Your Dog Needs A Coat
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, a pet’s cold tolerance varies based on their coat, body fat stores, activity level, and health.
Today, we’ll be exploring whether your dog needs a winter coat and different ways to make sure it protects your furry friend.
Your Dog’s Fur Length and Cold Weather
The most obvious factor that goes into whether your dog needs a winter coat is its natural fur coat. Is it short and sparse? Definitely in need of some additional protection!
Is it long and thick? Maybe not! Dogs that are traditional “cold-weather” dogs, including the Chow Chow, Siberian Husky, Tibetan Terrier, and more rarely require additional coats when in their prime.
However, this depends on the specific dog’s health and comfort levels. After all, a winter dog raised only in sunny weather may have a hard transition if you move north!
The best way to determine whether your dog needs a coat is to check in with your regular vet.
Pay attention to your dog’s mannerisms when you take them on winter walks. Are they shivering? Are they happy? Or are they even sweating (if they’re a bit out of shape)?
Do Taller Dogs Need a Winter Coat?
One common myth claims that taller dogs never require a winter coat. This myth may have started because shorter dogs that are closer to the ground, often requiring added warmth and coats.
After all, these dogs are in closer proximity to the cold ground and snow. Their bellies and lower areas are more likely to come into contact with snow, ice, and cold cement.
Do Shorter Dogs Need A Coat?
While shorter dogs that are closer to the ground do often require winter coats, that doesn’t exclude taller dogs from needing cold protection.
Taller dogs with shorter fur or thin fur may still need winter coats, and taller dogs with health issues that affect body temperature regulation.
While you should consider shorter dogs more prone to cold and worth testing a winter coat on, don’t discount your taller furry friend! They may need some additional heat, too.
How cold is too cold?
Temperatures at or above 45°F do not require any special sweaters or winter coats.
However, when temperatures fall below 45°F, especially those cold-averse dog breeds as they will get uncomfortable in the colder weather and will need protection.
If you’re a dog owner of one of the smaller breeds, new puppies, senior dog, anytime the temperature outside feels at or below 32°F, it’s time to put on a sweater or winter coat!
When the temperatures drop below 20°F, all dog breed owners should put a coat on your dog or at least look for signs that your dog is too cold, even if they are a breed that can take the cold weather.
How will I know if they are too cold?
Dog’s can get cold, just like we do!
Large dogs with thick and dense coats, such as Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes, may not need the extra protection a coat provides from the cold until it’s in the zero temperatures.
Smaller dogs, or dogs with thin coats, may need the extra warmth a dog coat can provide.
The AKC says dogs like Pembroke Welsh corgis or dogs that are low to the ground, are more susceptible to colder temperatures.
Dogs with leaner bodies, like greyhounds, poodles or dogs who have their hair clipped, will probably need the benefit of a winter coat.
As dogs as they get older, their ability to regulate temperature diminishes. Therefore, elderly pets, regardless of breed, might benefit from extra layers.
While a light jacket is fine for a dog with a thicker coat, a winter jacket is best for small dogs or dogs who have thinner coats.
Signs Your Dog Is Too Cold
When they are cold, dogs give out certain clues for when they are cold, like:
- Begin to act anxious
- Slow down walking or playing
- Some may hold up a paw when trying to walk or play, especially in the snow.
If you notice these behaviors, it’s probably a good time to head inside and warm up. You may notice that your dog needs his winter coat just to play in the snow.
Your Dog’s Health and Cold Weather
Even if your dog’s breed allows them to weather the cold, this doesn’t mean your dog is in the clear. If your furry friend has diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or another health ailment, they may have a harder time regulating their body temperature.
This can cause problems in cold weather. Your dog could seemingly be built for snow and yet struggle and end up getting sick if their health background decreases their ability to self-regulate.
Even health statuses that don’t qualify as diseases can also affect your dog’s ability to withstand the cold. Hormonal imbalances can also affect their body temperature regulation.
Vet Checkups During Winter
In cold weather and your best furry friend’s health, it can be best to bring them to a vet during cold weather seasons.
While vet visits can be expensive, bringing your dog to the vet for a check-up at least once a year can ensure your pet is in peak condition and save you money in the long run by keeping them healthy.
If you can schedule your dog’s yearly vet visit around the beginning of winter, they can also aid you in planning how to best prepare your dog for cold walks outside. And you guessed it-that could include a recommendation for a doggy winter coat!
Doing this when you first get a pet will help you become educated to their natural state for most adult years and repeating this each year will ensure that it takes any health updates into consideration.
Pup Ice Safety in Winter
Cold weather can make your dog uncomfortable and more prone to getting sick. Unfortunately, that’s not where the winter threats end. Cold weather also brings snow and ice and can endanger your dog physically.
Be careful when walking your dog in especially icy areas. Stepping on broken ice is never fun- now imagine doing so barefoot! If it’s hard to avoid these areas on your doggy walks, consider dressing your furry friend with protective dog booties.
Even if dog booties are unnecessary, check your dog’s paws before and after every walk for debris. You may find that modest trimming of fur between the toes can also help reduce the amount of cold water and ice that accumulates on their feet.
Dog Coats Can Increase Your Dog’s Winter Comfort
Your dog’s comfort is critical in winter and cold weather. It's overwhelming to make a decision about dressing your pet. Take into consideration your dog’s breed, health status, and attitude when outside.
At the end of the day, watching for your pet’s comfort is the best way to know if they need or are enjoying a winter coat.
Dog coats also come with additional benefits such as protecting your dog from water (no wet dog, no problem!) and even offering reflective materials to keep them safe on nighttime walks.
Ready to read more about how to keep your furry friend healthy and happy? Read our post on 11 Tips to Choosing a Veterinarian today.
The Benefits of Dog Coats
While there are a variety of fun types of dog coats out there, winter coats serve an important purpose than simply how they look.
Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice looks for comfort and the benefits of keeping your dog warm. Some winter coats are both fashionable and functional.
Dog sweaters act as insulators for your dog when the temperatures are low. Jackets not only help as a raincoat, but they can act as windbreakers when it’s chilly or windy outside.
And finally coats offer protect to keep your dog from getting wet during snow, sleet, or rain. Being wet can quickly affect your dog’s body temperature, even if the weather is cool.
Tips for Buying your Dog's Winter Coats
If you’ve decided that your dog is ready for some additional clothing in the winter months, it’s time to choose a sweater, jacket or coat.
Depending on the temperatures and weather outside, and the thickness of your pet’s coat, a dog sweater may be all they need to stay warm.
But if the weather includes freezing temperatures, snow, hail or icy rain, they might need a winter jacket to keep warm and dry.
Whatever way you go, buy a coat that’s fitted to your dog’s size. It should fit snug around your dog’s body to hold in their body heat, but not so tight that it cuts off circulation or mobility.
Plus, if you're walking your dog in the cold winter months, don’t forget about your dog’s paws!
While a jacket can help keep them warm, their paws need protection too, otherwise, they can get wet and cold. If your dog should step on salt, that’s placed on the roads to melt ice; this can be harmful if they lick their paws clean after a winter walk.
When looking for doggie booties, choose ones that have good traction so your dog won’t slip on snow, ice or wet sidewalks. Most dog booties come with a Velcro strap to help tighten the boots around the paws.
Have Fun in the Winter Months
Consider these clues if you decide to shop for a dog coat! Check out our post on 7 Best Cold Weather Coats for Your Dog for specific coat recommendations. We’ve found a handful of wonderful options for large and small dogs in fashionable, reversible, and reflective styles!
If you have questions on whether your dog needs cold winter gear, ask your veterinarian if your dog could benefit from additional winter protection.
In the meantime, if you’re not sure if it’s too cold for your dog, stay inside and do some fun indoor exercise together instead.