Do dogs need winter jackets?

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As temperatures drop, dog owners are mulling over that all important question – will their pet need a winter jacket? The answer is not straightforward. There are many factors which dictate whether or not an extra layer of protection will be helpful to your dog, including age, type of fur, breed, activity levels and where you live.

The best indicator to help you decide is your dog. It is worth observing them to check for signs that they are feeling the cold – do they gravitate towards the radiator? Is there some hesitation when you take them out? If so, then a winter coat may help.

During milder winters, your dog is not likely to need extra protection, however once the temperature falls to below freezing it will depend on if and when you take your dog out for a walk, especially since conditions have a tendency to improve mid morning/afternoon. Not all dogs are the same though and that is why it is worth monitoring their reaction.

Taking your vets advice

In general terms, Vets advise that dogs that are less than 10 pounds should be given some clothing as their size means low levels of body fat which isn’t enough to produce adequate heat to keep them warm. Short haired breeds such as Chihuahuas and French bulldogs are also likely to be in the same position. Short-legged breeds are also more prone to the effects of falling temperatures. Dogs such as the Dachshund will react more harshly to the cold because their bellies are closer to the ground and hence will come into repeated contact with snow and ice.

Dogs that have vulnerable immune systems because of illness – kidney disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances – will appreciate a helping hand from an added layer of clothing to help guard against further illness such as hypothermia.

Big dogs with lots of hair, like the Siberian husky, Alaskan Malamute or German Shepherd are unlikely to need a jacket since they are built to deal with such temperatures, whereas other large canines like the Greyhound may not be too fond of going out in the cold as they have thin fur and not a high percentage of body fat.

Putting a jacket onto your dog

Once you’ve decided that a jacket is right for your dog, don’t just throw one onto them. Start with a light jacket as it is important to ensure your dog doesn’t overheat or come to rely on a thick jacket they do not need. You should also check that the style you choose does not restrict your dog’s movement and that they are able to move around freely. Try to opt for designs that have the added benefit of being waterproof especially with our British weather!

Try the jacket on your dog and observe their reaction. Also try not to put the layer on until you are about to go outside and remember to remove as soon as you return. For added protection, you may also want to get your dog to try on dog boots/booties. They are great for providing paws with resistance against the cold ground which in some areas may have been sprayed with toxic chemicals such as antifreeze.

Of course, all dogs can benefit for the following reasons

• To help keep him clean
• To keep him warm
• Small dogs can be less vulnerable – a good puffer type coat will offer protection and insulation
• Older dogs with arthritis will love the extra warmth