Do Dogs Need Clothes?

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The short answer is: yes.

There are many reasons why your dog may need to wear clothes. To simplify, it depends on two main areas: 1) the dog and 2) outside factors.

For the dog:

  • Breed / Coat type
  • Size / Weight
  • Age
  • Health
  • Cold tolerance

Outside factors include:

  • Environment
  • Weather / Length of time in the cold

Breed / Coat Type

Dogs are unique and wonderful in their own ways. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, fur, and hair types. Some have double coats and others have only a single coat. Attributes that are advantageous in one environment can prove to be a disadvantage in another environment. This means that each dog reacts differently to the cold.

For example, a short-haired chihuahua may love languishing in sunlight and warmth, but would be shivering in the winter. Its coat does not provide the protection against chill that a Malamute’s fur would.

And do not be misled by fluff. Dogs like Maltese and poodles only have a single coat. The lack of a second coat means that they will need additional insulation from the cold. Short haired and single coated dogs will require a sweater, a jacket, or a coat, but what about double coated dogs?

Double coated dogs, such as Siberian Huskies and German Shepherds, have an undercoat that can keep them warm for some time without harm. Longer if the dogs are accustomed to cold temperatures.

Normally they wouldn’t require clothing, but a water resistant coat can help keep them dry and protect them from the elements. However, any clothing for double coated dogs should be avoided on warm or hot days as the dogs would be prone to overheating. It would be as if they were wearing a three piece suit in the middle of summer. That would be torturous.

Size / Weight

Small dogs, even those with double coats, will get cold more quickly than bigger dogs. Dogs under 20 pounds have less fat and are generally closer to the ground. Walking does not produce enough heat to help them stay warm.

Even indoors they might still feel cold. Dogs will often curl up to retain body heat, but that may not be enough. Hoodies, sweaters, and even pajamas will help. As will soft bedding, extra blankets, and a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel for those extra cold days.

Age / Health

Puppies take a while to generate their own body heat so they huddle together to keep warm.

Older dogs and dogs with weakened immune systems have a harder time retaining heat. Diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and hormonal imbalances affect body heat regulation. If your dog has arthritis, the cold will make her joints stiff and tender, affecting her mobility. Slipping on ice could also be very painful and result in significant injury. If your dog has any medical conditions, she should not stay outside for long.

Cold Tolerance

Dogs who have been trained to withstand cold (such as sled dogs) can endure the conditions for longer times. But wind chill, rain, and snow can lower a dog’s temperature further and faster.

Dogs lose heat through their paws, ears, and their respiratory tract. Excessive loss of heat puts them in danger of frostbite and hyperthermia. More on these conditions later.

Environment

Rough terrain can cause blisters or other injuries. Hiking trails and wooded areas have their dangers, as do city sidewalks and streets. Broken glass shards, gum, cigarette butts, and other debris are harmful to a dog’s feet.

During the summer, hot pavements can burn a dog’s paws. A good way to test the heat is to quickly touch the ground yourself. If it is too hot for you, it is too hot for her. It is best to walk her during the early morning hours or after sunset when the ground is cooler.

During the winter, ice, salt, and chemical deicers can get caught in her footpads, irritating them and causing them to crack and bleed. If she ingests these chemicals through licking her feet, they will inflame her digestive tract.

To minimize the damage: wipe her paws with a warm cloth when she comes inside.

Symptoms of antifreeze ingestion:

  • vomiting
  • disorientation
  • stomach bloat

Call your vet immediately or the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435

Frostbite and Hyperthermia

Avoid spending long times outside as all dogs are at risk for frostbite and hyperthermia

Frostbite develops on the footpads, nose, ear tips, scrotum, and tail. But your friend will not notice so you will have to be vigilant. Older dogs, puppies, and short-haired dogs are more at risk.

Some signs to watch out for:

  • Cold, pale hard skin, even after being inside,
  • Swollen red areas.

Treatment:

  • Apply warm water (not hot or boiling!) for at least 20 minutes to the affected areas. The warm water should help melt the ice crystals and restore circulation.
  • Never rub frostbitten tissue!
  • And call your veterinarian.

Prevention:

  • Trim the paw fur,
  • Trim the nails (long nails force the paw to splay out giving snow and ice the chance to form between the paw pads),
  • If she is not wearing boots, coat the paw pads with protective balm.

When the temperature is freezing, remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your friend.

Hyperthermia symptoms:

  • whining
  • anxiousness
  • shivering
  • lethargy or she stops moving

Hypothermia treatment: bring your friend indoors, wrap her in blankets, and call the veterinarian. In severe cases her muscles will stiffen, her heart and breathing rates will slow, and she will be unresponsive.

Prevention is key. Warm, water-resistant coats come in many varieties. Wool, fleece, fur-lined, and other materials will help protect your friend outside while socks and boots will protect her feet. It is also a good idea to have reflective collars and ID tags. Dogs tend to get disoriented and have a greater chance of getting lost during severe weather conditions.

Don’t be afraid to put clothes on your dog because you think it looks weird, or you think other people will think it is weird. Your dog does not know how she looks, but she knows how she feels. Sometimes she needs clothing for her safety and well-being. Your pet’s health and happiness are the most important.

Taking the time to research and figure out the right clothes for your dog will take some time, but you are awesome for doing it. Thanks for being great pup parents.

They also think you are awesome for it.

Further information:

Cold Weather Dog Care

When Fur Fails

Does My Dog Need a Coat in Cold Weather?

Is My Dog’s Fur Coat Enough?

Do Any Dogs Really Need Sweaters or Coats?

Winter proofing Your Dog’s Paws

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