Ask A Vet: Should My Dog Wear A Coat In Winter?

There are two camps of people in the world, dog people and… everyone else! I am only kidding, but there are people that think dogs are “only animals” and do not need all that we provide them with. For those people I have a thought: our dogs are not wolves and not even wild animals at all. We have taken them into human society and they have adapted to it. This process is domestication.

Domestic pets, especially indoor dwelling ones or those that have been modified by selective breeding, have unique needs akin to the needs of the humans that they share space with. We have bred dogs to depend on us for their needs. No longer are they well equipped to fend for themselves and we have accepted responsibility for them as our friends and companions. They protect our homes and possessions and we provide them with ease of living.

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They live with us in the controlled climate that dwellings provide. Their bodies are less adapted to extremes of temperature. There are ways to decide if your dog might benefit from a winter coat. Consider the following guidelines.

Coat characteristics

Dogs with short, slick coats have less insulation factor. If you have a thick coated dog with an undercoat, he is the most adapted for cold, but use your own judgement. If he seems cold to you, who knows him best, he probably is. Hairless varieties, like Chinese Crested Dogs would probably really like to have a coat for any outdoor time in the winter.

Age

If your dog is a senior pet, she may be less tolerant of extremes of temperature and might really appreciate a jacket. If you feel cold, your senior dog probably is too. She is more likely to suffer from age associated disease as well and may have arthritis or metabolic issues that would make being cold feel even worse.



Health status

Is your dog battling an ongoing illness? If your dog suffers from osteoarthritis, cold temperatures are going to be less comfortable than they might be to another dog. Recovering pets from almost any disease or injury are less able to maintain the best body temperature because their systems are already working hard to recover. These pets will like the warmth of a coat.

Breed

Dogs who have less body fat are more likely to need a little help maintaining the right body temperature. Thin dogs may need a jacket more quickly than normal weight dogs. Certain breeds of dog seem less cold tolerant. Chihuahuas seem to tremble a lot and may be more likely to feel chilled. “Sight hounds” like whippets and greyhounds are naturally lean and have short coats. All of these dogs would be likely to appreciate a winter coat.

The best advice is that your dog is with you most of the time. She is adapted to the conditions that typically are comfortable to you. If you are outside for a period of time and you know that you will want your coat, grab hers too.