When winter winds come whistling through our Idaho valley, I’m the first to put on a heavy topcoat, a knit hat and boots– and my dogs aren’t far behind. It’s a common misconception that dogs, geared up by nature with fur coats and a greater body temperature than humans, will do just fine in winter without devices such as sweaters, coats and booties. That might be true for hardy sled dogs who spend their days in training for the Iditarod, however I can ensure you that dogs with short or thin coats or those with specific size or health restrictions require just as much defense from the cold as you or I do. Here’s what you need to learn about dressing your dog for winter.
Does Your Dog Need a Winter Coat?
Dogs with short, thin or great coats feel the cold quickly– but that does not mean that your pooch needs to bundle up every time he leaves your home. If your dog is going outdoors for a fast potty trip and coming right back within, no need to wrestle him into a sweater or coat and booties. The exact same is true if you’re opting for a brisk walk. My colleague Chris Zink, DVM, a canine sports medication authority, states dogs who are exercising constantly shouldn’t need a coat since they produce their own heat.
However if that vigorous walk takes your thin-coated dog through the snow, or if he’ll be running through areas where ground water could sprinkle up and freeze on him, then a coat or sweater is a great idea. Dr. Zink likewise suggests protecting particular delicate body parts– some coats produced field dogs offer protection of the penis and testicles.
Dogs who spend time outdoors however aren’t consistently active during that time can gain from a sweatshirt or coat to assist them conserve body heat. For these dogs, I suggest a lightweight sweatshirt or coat that will not restrict your pooch’s front-leg motion. We (my dogs and I) are big fans of Fido Fleece. Have a couple on hand so your dog will constantly have a dry one to wear; putting a wet coat or sweatshirt on will simply make him chillier.
Bassets, Dachshunds, Corgis and other small dogs may lose heat faster since their low stature or small body size puts them in closer contact with snow. Other dogs who may value the comfort of a coat consist of animals with Cushing’s disease, diabetes, or heart or kidney disease. Their health conditions might make it more difficult for them to control their body temperature. Young young puppies and old dogs are also more vulnerable to chills. As well as if your dog has a long or thick coat, he’s not made to spend hours outdoors in below-freezing weather condition without protection.
Finally, bear in mind that while a coat can keep your dog warm, it can make it hard or difficult for him to leave if he falls through ice into water. Prevent circumstances where that might occur.
Dog Snow Boots: Pros and Cons
What about those paws? Do dogs truly need booties? That’s a matter of viewpoint. Some dogs can benefit from them, particularly if they have furry feet that collect ice and snow in between the toes, however fit is super important.
Booties ought to be comfy, without rubbing versus the dog’s paws, and obviously they have to really stay on. Dr. Zink says booties are most important for sled dogs running cross countries, dogs walking on surface areas covered with salt or ice melter, which can be harmful, and dogs with hairy paws that collect snowballs. Be prepared to try lots of booties until you discover the ones that are right for your dog’s tootsies.
If you cannot discover booties that fit well, or if your dog flat-out refuses to wear them, you can take other steps to safeguard his paws. As soon as he comes inside, soak his paws for a few seconds in a bowl of warm water, then dry them thoroughly. (If he’s a little guy, clean down his legs and belly too.) You can also trim the fur between his toes to assist lower or avoid the build-up of ice and snow there, which can cut the feet or cause your dog to limp. Help avoid cracked and bleeding paw pads by applying petroleum jelly or paw wax prior to your dog goes outside.