If it’s so cold that you feel you need to bundle yourself up to go outside, you should also consider whether your dog needs protection from the cold as well. Do dogs need coats in winter? Let’s discuss which breeds do (you may be surprised), reasons why your dog might need to wear a coat, how to know if your dog is going to be too cold, and which type of dog coat to buy.
Does My Dog Need a Coat?
Many people think that because dogs already have a “fur coat,” that they don’t need to wear a coat in the winter. The truth is, only large dogs with thick, dense coats are well protected from the cold. This would include breeds like Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. Most people do not have breeds like this. The reality is, many dogs do need to wear a coat if it’s cold outside.
Reasons Why Your Dog Would Need to Wear a Coat
If they don’t have a thick, dense coat of fur.
If they’re small. Small breeds don’t have a lot of fat on their body. Therefore, it’s difficult for them to retain heat.
If their belly is close to the ground. Small dogs are often very close to the ground, so their belly is brushing up against snow and ice. I used to put a onesie on my doxy, Taz , under her winter coat because it helped to keep her belly dry in the winter. That’s Tazzie in the picture with the new winter coat I bought for her on Ebay. Seriously…can you stand it? LOL
If they get their hair cut. Dogs who are groomed, like poodles, may lose protection from their fur if it’s cut short.
If they’re old. Elderly dogs may have conditions that would require them to wear a coat such as a weakened immune system or arthritis. Also, as dogs get older, their ability to regulate their body heat declines, making even dogs with thick coats uncomfortable in the winter.
If they have a medical condition. Just like people, they can get cold when they’re not well.
Skinny dogs. Just like skinny people, they don’t have enough fat on their body to help keep them warm.
If they’re not accustomed to cold climates. If you have moved from a warmer climate, remember your dog will need extra protection from the cold.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Too Cold
Common symptoms that your dog is too cold may include:
Shivering. This is the most obvious sign that your dog is too cold. If you’ve been outside for a while and your dog begins to tremble or shiver, he’s probably too cold.
Slow breathing or moving slowly. When a dog gets cold, their muscles can stiffen. So if they’re slowing down or clumsy on the walk and just don’t seem to have energy, get them back inside.
Small dogs will sometimes get hiccups when they’re cold. Also, if your dog’s skin is dry, or the area around their nose is dry, this may be an indicator that they’re not handling the cold well in general.
Numbness. This is a serious symptom. Massage and warm them up to get the blood circulating. But if it doesn’t improve immediately, take your dog to the vet.
Cold ears. If their ears feel cold, especially around the edges, it’s time to bring them inside.
Curling up. Dogs will attempt to warm themselves up with their own body heat. If you notice your dog is trying to curl up into a ball, or is hunched over, or has his tail tucked in, he’s probably cold.
Limping. This is a serious sign that your dog’s paws are too cold. Their paws can get frostbite. If your dog is limping, get him inside immediately.
Whining. Dogs often whine when they’re trying to tell us something. If your dog is whining, he might be trying to tell you he’s too cold.
Which Dog Breeds Need Coats in the Winter?
Some dogs’ coats have two layers: The undercoat, which repels water and keeps the skin warm and dry, and the outer layer, which is more course.
Dogs who have two-layer coats include: Australian Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Bichon Frises, Border Terriers, Collies, Corgis, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Leonbergers, Lhasa Apsos, Newfoundlands, Old English Sheepdogs, Saint Bernards, Schnauzers, Shih Tzus, all Spitz-type dogs (Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Chow Chows, Huskies, Pomeranians, Shiba Inus and Samoyeds) and Wests.
Some dogs do not have an undercoat and are less protected from the cold. These breeds include Afghan Hounds, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Chihuahuas, Doberman Pinschers, French Bulldogs, Maltese dogs, Papillons, Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs and Yorkshire Terriers.
How to Choose a Coat for Your Dog
If you’ve determined that your dog needs a coat for winter, look for one that protects his belly and neck. The coat should fit well, and extend from the base of his neck to his tail. Make sure the coat isn’t too large or too long, as that might cause your dog to trip or fall.
You should measure your dog to determine the correct size coat to get. Also consider whether the dog can pee while wearing the coat. Make sure the coat isn’t too tight, as to restrict the dog’s movement.
Also, make sure the coat is machine washable, and check the return policy before purchasing just in case it doesn’t fit. My Boston Terrier, Cagney (pictured right) is wearing a great winter vest I found for him on Ebay. It closes with adjustable velcro straps at the belly, and covers him from his neck to his tail. It’s open toward the back/underneath so he can urinate. He looks adorable in this coat- and it’s super easy to get on and off.
Here’s Cagney in his hoodie LOL! I love this. At the time this picture was taken, Cagney was about 12 years old. Even in the fall and spring, he would get cold on walks. So I purchased a regular kids’ hoodie at my local Salvation Army Thrift Store. This could just as well have been a child’s winter coat.
So if you need something affordable, try thrift stores for used children’s coats. Cagney would sit and let me put this hoodie on him…one arm in, then the other…zip it up…he was such a GOOD boy! And you can imagine the cute comments I got when people saw him in his hoodie!
To see a variety of dog coats on Amazon, CLICK HERE
To see a variety of dog coats on Ebay, CLICK HERE
For more information about keeping your dog safe in cold weather, refer to the resources below, and read two more articles (videos included) on this website:
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Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. Information for this article was obtained online, from the sources shown above, and from my own personal experiences.
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