Does your dog need a coat? It is a myth that some dogs are designed to keep warm even in very cold weather. These myths are usually tied either to the dog’s size or type of fur coat they have.
While there is some truth to these comments, it is not true 100% of the time. Your dog’s age, size, health status, and fur type, all contribute to their ability to handle the cold. This article will help you answer the question, “Does your dog need a coat?”
Even Big Dogs Get Cold
Dogs of the Giant Breed size usually stay warmer longer than do the smaller dogs known as a Toy breed. Possibly, this is because the smaller dogs are closer to the ground and, therefore, the cold. Also, there is a big difference in their surface area to volume.
Some Dogs Already Have Built-In Insulation
There is a significant difference in breed coasts. Some coats are thin or short, or even both. Other breeds may have a very dense coat. Which do you think stays warm longer? Dogs with more built-in insulation stay warmer than those with less insulation because of their coat-style.
Some Of The Large Breeds With Denser Coats Are Less Likely to Need A Coat
A few of these large breed dogs with a dense coat are listed here.
- Saint Bernard
- Siberian Husky
Some Breeds With Less Insulation Do Need A Coat
- Some Pit Bulls
- Great Dane
- Doberman Pinscher
- Toy Breeds, like Poodles, Chihuahua Havanese, Chinese Crested, and some terrier breeds
Special Conditions That May Increase The Need For A Coat
Young puppies or senior dogs may not be able to regulate their body temperatures. It is easier for them to lose body heat. These dogs often need to wear a coat in very cold weather. They also have trouble dealing with adjusting to high temperatures.
Dogs of any breed, age, size or coat texture, that have certain medical conditions, may be more sensitive to temperature extremes. Be sure to ask your dog’s vet if you think they may fit into this category.
Does Your Dog Need A Coat Or Sweater?
Some dog owners believe that all dogs were created to deal with the cold temperatures of a harsh winter. This is not true. Under the right circumstances, even giant dogs with a thick coat may occasionally need a sweater or coat to go outside.
When we need to bundle up before going out into the cold weather, we may wonder if our canine companions need to bundle up as well. There is no absolute rule that applies to all dogs in every situation or temperature. If your dog needs to wear a sweater or coat, you need to consider several factors.
Your dog’s tolerance to any given temperature will depend upon several variables. These variables include the fur type, size, age, and health status. You should also consider your dog’s muscle mass and any chronic conditions.
First, Consider Their Age and Health Status
A dog’s age will affect their tolerance to cold. Very young and extremely old dogs will require greater protection from the cold than other dogs. Puppies and senior dogs have less muscle mass. Therefore, they may have trouble regulating their body temperatures. The inability to maintain body heat makes it more difficult for dogs to stay warm.
Their health status is vitally important. Dogs with chronic health problems or mobility challenges will be at higher risk of hypothermia. Overweight and obese dogs frequently do not need additional insulation. However, both, lean and underweight dogs get cold easier than normal or overweight dogs. They may need an additional layer of warmth. This insulation is usually found in the form of a coat or a sweater.
First, Evaluate Your Dog’s Size
In general, toy breeds and physically smaller dogs may get cold faster than the large or giant breeds. This may be due, at least in part, to the fact that they are built closer to the cold ground.
Breeds like Bassett Hounds, Corgis, Dachshunds, and the Toy breeds, with their short legs and bodies close to the ground, are at greater risk of getting hypothermia. Their body style also means they will be in close contact with any ice or snow. Their body habitus makes even a short bathroom break outdoors a chilly affair.
Small dog breeds have bodies with a greater ratio of surface area to volume than do larger dogs. This ratio gives them a greater skin area through which heat may escape, as compared to larger dogs.
Not Just Size Matters, So Does The Type of Fur
However, size is not the only factor to be considered. Of equal importance, if not more so, is their type of fur. Regardless of a dog’s size, those with a thin or short coat may quite easily become chilled, even when only exposed to the cold for a few minutes.
Larger breeds with dense coats, like Saint Bernard, Malamute, Bernese Mountain Dog, Old English Sheep Dog, Samoyed, and Siberian Husky, rarely need additional insulation of any kind. These breeds, and most other dogs bred for cold climates, may overheat when wearing a coat or sweater. The exception to this is if the dog is wet.
Small breed dogs with longer hair, such as Maltese, West Highland Terriers, and Shih Tzus, may be more comfortable with a lightweight sweater. A coat is likely to be more than they need, in most instances.
This Fact About A Dog’s Fur May Surprise You
Even the dog’s fur color makes a difference. Dark coats absorb more heat from the sun and are more able to provide more warmth on sunny days than are the lighter colored coats.
So, does your dog need a coat?
Taking these factors into consideration, you should be able to determine whether or not your dog needs to wear a coat or sweater on a given day. However, your dog’s body language may give you additional hints and should be observed closely. Do you know the signs indicating that your dog may be cold?
Signs Your Dog May Be Cold
Even if all prior indications about your dog’s ability to deal with the cold lead you to believe he does not need a coat, keep an open mind. If any of the following signs are visible, he may be cold enough to need a coat, after all.
These indicators signify that your dog may, indeed, be cold. Once you see these signs, it is time to do something about it. First of all, you need to get your dog out of the cold weather and back into a warm house. Secondly, consider purchasing a sweater or coat for the next excursion outdoors. This is especially important if your dog will be outside for a lengthy period.
These potential signs of your dog being cold are
- Holding their paw up from the cold ground
- Becoming less mentally alert
- Limping without an obvious reason why
- Seeking out warmth
- Slowing down
- Weakness, in general
At What Temperature Does Your Dog Need A Coat?
Once the outside, ambient temperature drops to a very cold level, your dog may need a coat for even a brief period. Even very short potty breaks may require your dog to wear a coat to remain warm.
How do you know if it is cold enough for your dog to need to wear a coat? Is there a magic number below which your dog needs a coat? If your dog is not one who loves the cold, 45 degrees (Fahrenheit) is that magic number. Once the temperature falls below that number, it is safer to bundle up your dog when going outside.
If your dog is small, has a thin coat, very young or old, or sick, they need to be watched closely for any signs of being affected by the cold. This is especially true once the thermometer drops to 32 degrees, Fahrenheit. All dogs are at risk for both frostbite and hypothermia at 20 degrees F and below.
Other Important Factors to Consider
Sometimes, dogs only need to wear a sweater or coat for a portion of the time they are outside. If they are engaged in activities that warm them up naturally, they may prefer to have it removed. If the temperature is not extremely low, this is a reasonable option.
Don’t forget to consider natural elements such as precipitation, wind chill, and the sun. Your furry friend’s tolerance to the cold is affected by each of these elements. If they are wet, or even just damp, due to snow or rain, they may rapidly become cold.
Some very small dogs, especially those with thin coats, may enjoy wearing a shirt or light-weight sweater even when indoors. However, you should keep an eye on them. They can easily become overheated and need to have the item removed.
A Major Caveat
You need to remember that not all dogs tolerate clothing. If they truly despise and refuse to wear clothing despite bitterly cold weather, do not force it. This can be a very stressful battle and should be avoided when possible. Just as you would not force a Halloween costume on a dog, do not force any other item of clothing. If you wish to read on how to condition a dog to wear an item of clothing, there is a link to an article that deals with this near the end of this article.
Is One Type of Coat or Sweater Better Than The Others?
Personally, I prefer clothing made from natural materials for both humans and dogs. This includes sweaters and coats for our furry friends. Soft organic material is even better, but not always available. For safety, try to avowing clothing with buttons, ties, zippers, hoods
I always recommend looking for organic, natural materials when it comes to clothing for pets, including coats and sweaters. Look for soft material free from zippers, buttons, ties, or hoods. Any decoration that can entice your dog to chew it off is a risk. Swallowing such adornments can be dangerous and even life-threatening. It is not worth the risk.
How Do I Know What Size Is Best?
Just as the fit is important for humans, it is even more so for our dogs. We can adjust clothing to become more comfortable or safe but they are not. To obtain the best fit possible, you will need to take several measurements: his neck, chest, and, of course, his length.
Does Style Matter At All?
Again, like with humans, the style of the garment may make a huge difference. It may be necessary for you to try more than one coat to find one that is comfy for your dog.
Freedom of movement is critical. All garments should go on and come off easily. Any clothing that prevents them from moving freely is to be avoided. Garments that are too large can trip or entangle them, causing harm to your dog.
Kelsey Dickerson, the Arizona Humane Society spokesperson, says:
“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.”
Other Suggestions for Choosing A Coat for Your Dog
Keep the purpose of the coat in mind when selecting it. As a rule, a bulky coat can prevent your dog from moving naturally and more safely. Thin coats are, usually, the better choice under most circumstances.
While a coat of lighter weight is ideal for a short trip to the backyard, if it is raining, you may want something more protective. Both rain resistant and waterproof materials are available for canine coats and are better for longer exposures to wet weather. If you are heading out for a hike in damp weather, this is a better option.
In Addition To A Coat
When the weather is especially cold, your dog may need more than just a coat. Frostbite is a real risk and best to be avoided when possible. Your dog’s paws may need to be protected as well. Even a dog with thick, heavy fur and without a need for a coat can get frost-bitten paws if exposed for a long period. Either use canine footwear for protection or keep a very close eye on when you should go back inside.
Other Signs That Need To Be Watched Out For
Keep a close watch on your dog for any sign of being over-heated, such as panting excessively or drooling. Over-heating can be just as dangerous as being overly cold. You want to avoid both extremes. Be prepared to either remove the garment or take the dog back inside.
Paying Close Attention to Your Dog’s Behavior Will Best Answer the Question, Does Your Dog Need A Coat?
The best way to determine if your dog is comfortable in the cold is by closely paying attention to their actions. They will quickly let you know if they prefer to wear a coat outdoors by their behavior. A sure indication that they enjoy the extra insulation of a coat is when they run to you excitedly when they see you hold it out toward them.
Of course, there are times when your knowledge of their age and health coupled with the current weather parameters will over-ride their preference. Unless they become extremely agitated over wearing a coat, very cold or wet weather may dictate they wear one.
Try To Avoid A Battle Whenever Possible
Just like with human children, we try to allow them a choice but, sometimes, we have to over-ride that choice to keep them safe. Rather than deal with such a battle every time the weather is an issue, it is best to find other ways to deal with it.
We can, sometimes, condition them to the point they are comfortable with wearing a coat or sweater. Otherwise, we need to find ways to avoid going outside in the bitter weather.
Photos courtesy of my photo album and Pixabay
To learn more about conditioning your dog to wear items of clothing.
Original source https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2020/02/06/dog-coats.aspx?cid_source=petsnl&cid_medium=email&cid_content=art1ReadMore&cid=20200206Z1&et_cid=DM450872&et_rid=804961254