A common sight during the winter months is seeing pups of all ages, sizes, and breeds in sweaters and coats — sometimes even booties! But is this necessary for your dog’s health and safety, or just a fashion statement?
There are a lot of factors that go into whether or not you should put a pooch in a sweater. Your dog’s size, health issues, and lifestyle will factor into why he or she may or may not need an extra layer of warmth.
The Breed of Your Dog Matters
The breed of your dog will affect how they handle the cold weather. Short-haired or hairless breeds will get cold much easier than long-haired dogs. The hair acts as an insulation from the cold. When your dog goes from your warm and toasty house to the cold outdoors without anything to protect it, it can suffer from cold and shock, just like a human would.
While many assume it’s large dogs who are fine without coats and small dogs that need them, it’s more important to take their hair and coat thickness into consideration. According to Pet Life, a big dog that has been shorn may need a sweater to protect them, while a smaller dog with a thick coat may be okay without one.
Some dog breeds that might be prone to cold include:
- Boston Terriers
What Your Dog Is Used To
Some dog breeds are known to be okay with cold climates, like Siberian Huskies or Newfoundland dogs. However, you need to take your dog’s lifestyle into consideration as well. Even though a husky is able to handle the cold, if you’ve always lived in a warm climate, it might not have built that tolerance yet.
If you are taking your dog somewhere cold for the first time, or have recently relocated somewhere that has much harsher winters, you might want to try sweaters while they adjust.
Old Dogs Need More Help
As your dog ages, its ability to regulate their body heat begins to decline. Younger dogs can handle the cold better than older dogs. Your older dog may be losing his ability to stay warm and require a sweater, even if he was able to withstand the cold easily before.
Your Dog’s Health Is Important
Dogs with medical conditions may be prone to cold and need the added warmth from a sweater. If your dog suffers from a condition like cancer, diabetes, or a heart problem, it may not be able to handle the cold as well as a healthy dog.
It is important to make sure your dog has a sweater for adequate warmth, so as not to exacerbate its health condition. Arthritic dogs should also have sweaters or jackets during the winter as the cold weather can cause joint problems.
How to recognize if your dog is cold
Signs Your Dog is Too Cold
The best way to know if your dog needs a sweater in the cold is to pay attention to their behavior. If your dog displays signs of being cold when outside, you might want to look for the best dog sweaters before your daily walk. Signs of being cold include:
- acting anxious
- slowing down, refusing to walk to try to turn back
- whining or barking
- looking for a warm place to stop and lie down
- lifting paws off the ground
If your dog exhibits this behavior, it’s best to stop your walk and talk your dog back home. If your dog gets too cold, it may experience hypothermia. Signs to look for include:
- shallow breathing
- dilated pupils
- lack of alertness of looking like it’s in a stupor
- loss of consciousness
If you believe your dog is suffering from hypothermia, you should provide warmth immediately by wrapping your dog in a coat or blanket, seeking warm shelter, and contacting your veterinarian.
How Warm Is Too Warm?
While you want to make sure your dog isn’t suffering from the cold or hypothermia, you also don’t want to go too far in the other direction and cause your dog to overheat. Signs of overheating can include:
- panting more heavily than usual
- deep and rapid breathing
- fainting or collapsing
If this is happening to your dog, they may be overheating. A walk or outdoor play and exercise causes dogs to work up heat, so it may render their sweater unnecessary. You may also want to try a lighter sweater: a fleece may be too hot, but a regular knit could be just right.
How to Get Your Dog To Wear a Sweater
Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, you should still take your time and slowly let them adjust to their new item of clothing. The first time you put the sweater on, they may become uncomfortable and want it off.
Do not force them to wear it for hours, but instead work up to it. You can put the sweater on briefly and reward them for it, and let them associate the sweater with the reward, whether it is a treat or a playtime activity. Eventually, they will become more comfortable wearing the sweater for longer.
What About Booties?
A sweater can protect your dog’s body from the cold, but what about its feet? A pair of booties may seem like overkill, but they can actually do a lot to protect your dog. They can keep your dog’s paws warm, prevent slipping in icy conditions, and keep them safe from things like road salt or antifreeze. Salt can be rough on a dog’s paws, and both items can be toxic if a dog accidentally ingests it by licking its paws.
Choosing the right winter attire can help your dog’s overall health long term. Keeping your pet healthy, happy, and protected is all any owner can ask for, and a dog sweater might be an integral part of that.