Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Some Dogs Need Winter Coats to Stay Warm

By Linda Cole

My first dog, Jack, was an American Eskimo. He had a thick undercoat that kept him toasty warm through even the coldest winter blast. Most of my dogs have been large with warm coats, and I never thought much about winter coats for dogs until my two Jack Russell Terrier mixed siblings, Sophie and Kelly, got older. Our Midwest winters can be harsh, with snow and subzero temperatures. Both Sophie and Kelly took the cold in stride when they were young, but as they aged I discovered they got cold when we were outside. Some dogs do need winter coats to help keep them warm!

Winter coats, sweaters or booties are to some people nothing more than an owner pampering their pet. I’ve had people stop me and actually complain because I had a winter coat on my dogs. Some people think dogs don't need anything on because they already have a perfectly good, natural winter coat. Sometimes, however, a dog's natural coat isn't enough to protect them from winter weather. There are reasons why you may need to put warm clothes on your dog.

Older Dogs

I had an older dog, Rex, who would get so cold his teeth chattered. He loved playing outside with the other dogs, and putting both a sweater and coat on him helped to keep him warm and made it possible for him to enjoy being outside – without shivering so hard his teeth chattered. Older dogs can have a harder time generating and holding body heat. Putting a sweater and/or coat on your dog when he's outside is a practical way of dealing with colder weather. It's important to keep an eye on an older pet to make sure the cold isn't bothering him.

Another consideration to keep in mind is even inside the house, an older dog can become chilled. If you need a sweater because your thermostat is turned down to conserve energy or there's a chill in the house just before the furnace comes on, your older dog may also need a sweater.

Medical Conditions

Dogs with arthritis can be helped with a warm winter coat to help protect their joints when they are outside. Wearing a sweater or light jacket inside the house can also give them more comfort. Cushing's disease, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, hypoglycemia, respiratory problems, diabetes, a thinning coat, or recovering from surgery, as well as other conditions can contribute to how well a dog is able to maintain his own body heat and handle cold weather.

Smaller Dogs, Toy Breeds, or Dogs with Short Coats

I use to laugh when I'd see little dogs dressed up in fancy coats and booties. I changed my tune when I discovered that my small dogs got cold, and they loved wearing their winter coats. They understood the coats made them warmer, and waited patiently for me to dress them.

Some dog breeds don't have a heavy enough coat to keep them warm. Obviously, hairless dogs need coats, inside and outside, when it's cold. The Greyhound, Whippet, Chihuahua or any breed with a short single coat may need something on to stay warm in winter. A good combination is to layer a sweater, T-shirt, sweatshirt or lightweight coat under a fleece lined outer coat for maximum warmth. When it's really cold or snowing, a waterproof/windproof coat or dog blanket will keep your dog toasty and dry. A lightweight coat or sweater works well for keeping a chilly dog more comfortable inside.

Consider the Dog's Natural Coat

Even dogs with an appropriate natural coat can benefit from a winter coat that helps keep them dry. Hypothermia is a winter danger that can affect humans, pets and wildlife. It's important to stay dry to keep body heat trapped where it's needed. Dogs with a warm undercoat, like Huskies, can do well in extreme winter weather, as long as they stay dry.

Proper grooming is an important part of keeping a dog warm, as well. A wet, dirty or matted coat loses its ability to properly insulate the body, and it can't trap body heat. Along with grooming is a proper diet. A premium quality dog food like CANIDAE helps your dog maintain a healthy coat which will keep him warmer.

Dog Booties

Dogs lose body heat through their paws and ears. Winter can be hard on a dog's paws, and winter paw care can help keep your dog's feet healthy. A good pair of booties can not only help keep your pet warm by keeping his feet dry, they also keep dangerous deicers used on roads and sidewalks off your dog's feet.

If your dog is shivering, that's a sure sign he's cold. Sometimes a dog really does need a winter coat to stay warm.

Photos by Jon Hurd

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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