A winter coat for your dog is more than just cute — it may be necessary, experts say

Donning a winter coat isn’t just a fashion statement for some pups — it could be a necessity, experts say.

Some dogs may be in need of an extra layer of warmth when going out in the winter, depending on their size, age and fur length, according to several veterinary experts.

A lack of clothing could put some dogs in dangerous situations — resulting in hypothermia or frostbite in some circumstances.

How cold is ’too cold’ for a dog?

Some dogs, such as Siberian huskies, are bred to be resilient to colder climates — but many dogs aren’t.

When temperatures drop below 32 degrees, some dogs may need an extra layer of protection to make sure they don’t get too cold, according to Small Door Veterinary, a resource organization for pet owners.

If it’s below 20 degrees, then Small Door Veterinary medical experts say it’s recommended for an owner to keep an eye on any breed. Blustering cold winds and snow on the ground are also signs your pup may be in need of some winter attire, the organization said.

“If you’re putting on a coat to go outside, odds are good that it’s cold enough for your dog to need a coat as well,” the organization said on its website.

What type of dogs may need to bundle up this winter?

Bigger dogs with dense fur are typically in good shape to make it through average winter temperatures without the need to bundle up, according to the American Kennel Club.

But, several other types of dogs may need that extra layer in cold conditions. The American Kennel Club suggests considering a coat for:

  • Smaller breeds of dogs, especially if they are short-haired

  • Dogs whose bellies aren’t very high off the ground and could brush against snow or ice while walking

  • Recently groomed dogs that usually have thicker fur

  • Leaner, short-haired dogs

  • Older dogs

In most cases, dogs who need coats can’t produce enough body heat to keep themselves warm in colder climates, according to the American Kennel Club.

Those variations can also make a dog more susceptible to harmful conditions, such as hypothermia and frostbite.

How to know if your dog is experiencing hypothermia or frostbite

Mild hypothermia can begin when a body’s body temperature drops below 99 degrees, according to the American Kennel Club.

Moderate to severe hypothermia can happen anytime a dog’s body temperature is below 90 degrees, the organization said. There are several signs that the American Kennel Club warns about that indicate a dog may be experiencing hypothermia, including:

  • Faster heart rate that starts to slow down

  • Fatigue and slow reaction time

  • Rapid breathing that becomes more shallow with time

  • Dilated pupils

Treatment ranges from bundling up your dog with blankets to giving them warm IV fluids at the veterinarian’s office, according to the organization.

Frostbite also can impact dogs, typically on their ears or paws, according to the American Kennel Club. So, in some cases, putting on a pair of dog boots may also help protect your furry friend.

How do I pick a good coat for my dog?

While there is a wide variety of coats boasting premier fabrics and features, Small Door Veterinary medical experts say a good rule of thumb is to make sure a coat covers the dog’s neck, back and belly.

It’s also recommended to get a coat that is waterproof and doesn’t have zippers or buttons so a dog doesn’t chew them off, according to Small Door Veterinary.

Monitoring your dog’s activities outside is also essential to ensuring their well-being. If a dog is playing outside in a coat, owners should make sure their dog doesn’t get too cold or overheated, according to Small Door Veterinary.

When the dog returns back inside, Small Door Veterinary suggests taking the coat off so the dog doesn’t get too hot.

Depending on the type of climate the dog lives in, it could be adequate to just put them in a sweater or dress them in a more resistant winter jacket, according to Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

What if my dog hates wearing clothes?

At the end of the day, if your pup despises putting on their coat, it may be best to just let them be, according to Small Door Veterinary.

The stress of dressing a dog up may do more harm than good, the veterinary organization said on its website, so clothing shouldn’t be forced.

If a dog refuses to wear a coat, its outdoor routine may need to be adjusted in the winter to avoid harmful effects of the cold, Small Door Veterinary said.

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