You might think your pup comes with their own built-in fur coat, but is it warm enough to protect your dog? Some dogs feel the cold more than others, and when temperatures start to get frigid, it can be icy for your pooch. But, should you run out and get a pet winter coat, or can your dog handle the cold?
Some dog breeds, like Chow Chows and Huskies, can handle the cold quite well, but others cannot. Small dogs, senior dogs, short-haired pups, and slim breeds like Greyhounds are more susceptible to cold weather. These dogs can benefit from a winter coat, and if temps are particularly frigid, even thicker-coated pets might need one.
Since you’re a responsible pet parent, it’s understandable that you want to bundle your dog up when it’s cold outside. But, first, it’s wise to know just how cold is too cold for your pup and if your dog needs a winter coat. After all, your pup’s fur does provide some protection from the elements. So, if it isn’t particularly cold, a coat might make your pup too hot.
When is it Too Cold for Your Dog?
If you put on a coat to go outside, then it’s time to consider if your dog needs one too. First, if your pup has a thicker, dense coat, you likely will not require a coat for your dog. We’ll dive a bit deeper into which breeds should bundle up and which can do without in a bit.
But, if your dog is smaller, has short hair, a slim build, or is an older dog, then you probably need to invest in a pet winter coat. The colder it is outside, the more protection your pup will need, so consider the average winter temperatures in your area.
For example, if the coldest it ever gets is in the 40s, a lightweight jacket should do the trick. But if your typical winter day is 40 degrees or below, a thicker coat (and maybe some dog boots) is a good idea. Temperatures above 45 degrees rarely warrant a dog coat unless your pup is particularly sensitive to the cold.
If it’s below freezing outside (under 20 degrees Fahrenheit), you should consider keeping your pup inside, regardless of their breed or age, unless you are taking a short walk.. Ultimately, the best way to know if it’s too cold for your dog is to watch your pup closely. If they start to seem uncomfortable, shivering, have trouble breathing, or seem weak, it’s time to get inside.
It’s Not Just the Temperature that Determines if Your Dog Needs a Coat
But, don’t just look at the temperature to decide if your dog needs a coat. It’s also important to consider things like wind chill, which can make things even icier, and how much sun there is. For example, 40 degrees on a bright sunny day feels a lot warmer than it does on a cloudy, overcast day.
Also, think about what your dog will be doing while they’re outside. If they are just hanging out in the backyard or on the porch, they’ll feel colder than if on a brisk walk.
The more vigorous activity your pup partakes in outside, the more body heat they’ll generate. So, if they’re wearing a coat, they might start to get too warm. Therefore, always monitor your pup closely to make sure they stay comfortable and safe.
What Can Happen if Your Dog Gets Too Cold?
Being in temperatures that are too cold can be dangerous for your dog. If your pet’s body temperature drops below 100 degrees, they could be at higher risk for hypothermia. Furthermore, if their body temp continues to decrease, it can lead to severe issues, like heart failure and death.
What Should You Do if Your Dog is Freezing?
If your pup starts to show signs of hypothermia, like weakness, difficulty breathing, or shivering—get them warm immediately. Bring them inside, wrap them in blankets, and call your vet. Check your pup’s temperature every ten minutes to see if it's going back up. If it’s not, or you’re unsure, bring your dog to the vet ASAP.
What Breeds Should Wear a Winter Coat?
Before you start planning all sorts of fun winter activities with your dog, make sure you’re prepared. If your dog is a senior, has short hair, a slim build, or is a small breed, they should wear a coat.
Here’s a quick list of examples of dog breeds that should consider using a pet winter coat.
- American Hairless
- Chinese Crested
- Bull Terrier
- Miniature Pinscher
- French Bulldog
Dog Breeds that Usually Won’t Need a Winter Coat
On the opposite end of the spectrum, dog breeds with thicker, denser coats won’t usually need a winter coat. Very rarely will any of these breeds need to bundle up in the cold:
- Siberian Husky
- Chow Chow
- Great Pyrenees
- St. Bernard
- Bearded Collie
- Alaskan Malamute
How Do You Know if Your Dog is Too Hot?
If your pup has on a coat and starts to pant excessively, seem listless, or is drooling a lot, they might be getting overheated. If this happens, take the coat off for a bit, and maybe consider moving indoors for a break.
When indoors, make sure to take any sweaters or boots off your pup. Not only can this lead to overheating, but wearing garments too long could irritate your dog’s skin.
How Do You Choose the Best Winter Coat for Your Dog?
Make sure your dog’s coat covers their most sensitive spots, like their belly and neck. It should fit comfortably from the base of the neck to the base of the tail, with a snug fit. However, make sure it isn’t too tight, so it doesn’t restrict your dog’s movement.
Also, make sure it isn’t too long, so it doesn’t interfere with potty breaks. Additionally, make sure the coat allows you to easily clip a leash onto your pup.
And remember to consider the average cold temperature in your area and choose your dog’s coat accordingly. If it’s regularly cold, opt for a more insulated dog coat. Also, when possible bring your pup with you to try on the coat to ensure you get the perfect fit.
Measuring Your Dog for a Coat
If your furry pal can’t come with you to get a coat, it’s important to take accurate measurements. You need to determine your pup’s length, girth, and neck size.
To get the length, use a cloth tape measure to measure from the base of your dog’s neck to the base of the tail. For the girth, measure around the broadest part of your dog’s chest. Finally, measure around the thickest part of your dog’s neck.
When you start shopping for coats, compare these measurements to the size chart for the coat.
Once you make sure it fits, you just need to make sure your dog will willingly wear it. If clothes are a new concept for your pup, be patient.
Let your pal sniff and investigate the coat first before you even put it on them, and give them a yummy treat. Your dog will start to associate the coat with something positive.
Then, you can let your pup wear it inside for a few minutes, then for more extended periods, etc. One idea is to spread some peanut butter onto a lick mat and have it ready as soon as you put the coat on your dog. The peanut butter will not only distract your pal, but the licking will help them stay calm, and soon the coat will be no big deal.