Should Your Dog be Wearing a Winter Coat?

Should Your Dog be Wearing a Winter Coat?

Black and white pit bull dog sitting in street alley wearing a tan fur-lined coat

With temperatures dropping and the chance of snow and ice rising, many dog caretakers are opting to put a coat or sweater on their canine companion. How do these people know who should don a doggie sweater and when? A dog's need for a little extra insulation depends on a few factors, and we want to walk you through them so you can make sure your dog is warm and comfortable!

1. Size

Small dog breeds have a higher surface area-to-volume ratio than large dogs, which makes it more difficult to regulate their body temperature. Any toy or small dog, such as Chihuahuas and Italian Greyhounds, should wear an extra layer when going outside.

2. Hair Length

Short hair, like that of Dalmatians or American Staffordshire Terriers, doesn't hold in as much heat as long hair, like that of Leonbergers or Samoyeds. Dogs with short coats may need the help of an additional coat in the cold.

3. Hair Cut

According to the AKC, dogs that have had their natural coat altered, such as clipped poodles, lose their natural defenses against the cold. If you are going to clip your dog's coat, you can make up for the loss of insulation by adding a sweater or coat to their winter wear.

4. Age and Health

Dr. Glenn Adcock at Pine Street Animal Hospital recommends that sick, old, or very young dogs wear coats when outside. Dogs in these groups have weakened immune systems, which put them at higher risk in the cold of becoming sick or sicker. Older dogs may also have a harder time with heat regulation than younger dogs. A coat that will keep them warm outside can help them stay healthy.

5. How Long They'll be Outside

Even if your dog does not fit any of the criteria above, if they will be outside for longer than a walk, it is best to give them a coat. Long exposure to the elements can cause skin and health problems for dogs, especially in very cold conditions.

Are there Dogs that Never Need a Winter Coat?

Large dogs with dense hair may actually overheat if you put them in a winter coat. Breeds such as the Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, and Saint Bernard are suited for cold weather and do not need coats. As a general rule, watch your dog's body language in the winter. If they are reluctant to go outside or are shivering, they should definitely be wearing a coat. If your dog doesn't seem to be adverse to the weather and temperatures aren't extremely low, let them go coatless.

It is also important that if you dog sports a coat outside, you should remove it once they get inside. Dogs can overheat easily, and the additional heat stored from a coat can be too much for them.

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