There is definitely a fashionista appeal to walking a dog who is wearing matching colors to your own outfit. Then there are the folks who avoid putting clothes on dogs for fear of looking like “that type” of person. When it comes down to dogs and winter clothes, do dogs need winter clothes to stay warm? According to PetMD, the simple answer is yes, some dogs do need help staying warm while walking or playing outdoors in cold temperatures. Here are some ways to find out if your dog is one that may need the extra layer to stay warm enough during the winter months.

Signs Your Dog Needs Winter Clothes

Most people understand that dogs are generally bred to preform different duties. They are also bred to do well in particular climates. An Alaskan Malamute, for example, is bred for hauling heavy weight in arctic climates. They do perfectly well in cold weather and would only be inhibited by adding an additional layers over their thick coat. Smaller breeds and those with thin coats and/or slight body frames, such as Greyhounds, are at risk for losing body heat when their surroundings are not well heated. Puppies, elderly dogs, and those who are medically fragile may need to be kept warmer than healthy adults dogs of that same breed.

For some dogs this may only extend to the outdoors, while other dogs may need help staying warm even indoors. Depending on where you set your thermostat, it may not be warm enough for your dog. Consider how you bundle up. If you keep your indoor temp low enough to need a sweater to feel comfortable, your dog may need one too.

Although some breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, do have an undercoat and a larger body mass to protect them, when the temperature drops below zero, you may still consider protecting them with a jacket or sweater for longer stints outdoors. The fur on their bellies is thinner and these more exposed areas can begin to cause enough loss of body heat to become dangerous. For dogs that are a mix of breeds, a vet can tell you if your dog has an undercoat or not. It is generally easy to see if the dogs has short hair and/or a slight build. In these cases, a sweater may be appropriate.

Signs your dog Is Too Cold:

  • Not wanting to go outside to relieve him- or herself on cold days
  • Burrowing under blankets and curling up tightly while indoors
  • Shivering that is not related to anxiety or excitement
  • Being less playful and/or standing still
  • Trying to burrow or get under shelter, such as a parked car
  • Turning home or pulling hard on the leash in that direction
  • Lifting paws off the ground
  • Changes in posture: hunching and tail-tucking
  • Whining and barking
  • Signs of hypothermia include: lethargy, stiff muscles, weakness, and decreased breathing. These signs mean your dog is in life-threatening trouble and should be brought out of the cold immediately. If this happens, have him or her checked out by your veterinarian right away.

As a good rule of thumb, if it is too cold for you to comfortably stay outdoors for long, it is too cold for most breeds to stay out for an extended length of time as well. During these times, it is still important for dogs to get their daily exercise. Taking your dog for short, more frequent walks is a great solution. Going for a quick run to maximize the exercise a dog gets, without staying out long is another. Of course those dogs who need the extra protection should have a sweater or coat on every time they go out, no matter how short the walk.

Don’t forget their feet

Dogs’ feet can get too cold and are often the first area hypothermia sets in. Keeping their feet insulated with booties is a good idea in regions where the weather routinely drops below zero degrees. However, the cold is not the only thing to consider when protecting a dog’s feet. Deicing salts and chemicals used on streets and sidewalks are toxic for animals. If you live in an area where these are used, it is important to either put protective footwear on your dogs feet or thoroughly wash them immediately after returning inside.

Bring you Fido’s sweater with you

Don’t forget to bring your dog’s favorite sweater or coat to dog day care or when you are boarding your dog. If you have further questions about whether your dog should wear a clothes this winter, contact your veterinarian. If you plan to board your dog for the holidays or want information about dog day care in Portland, OR contact Safe Journey Dog Boarding.