Does My Dog Need a Sweater?
I have three little dog friends and during the winter I often wonder about their comfort. One is a cairn terrier mix with very wiry hair; one a smooth-coated Italian greyhound type; and one, a diminutive deer Chihuahua. The one terrier seems irritated when he’s hot and is very restless on warm nights; the smooth-coat has the hottest core and feels like a hot water bottle, but the chi-chi seems to have cool ears on cool days and shivers more than usual so I thought I would ask you a dog about it?
Warm & Cozy in Pismo Beach
Dear Warm & Cozy,
Well, that’s a great question! With all this doggy dress-up fun I see going on with humans and their beloved canines, my biggest concern is that owners are aware that we dogs can easily overheat but we can’t always tell you. So let’s research what the experts think on when to know when your dog needs a sweater.
According to petmd.com, your dog may need a sweater depending on his breed and health: “How warm your dog is able to physically keep himself may depend on his breed, size and even age, but if he just doesn’t have a heavy hair coat, there is only so much curling up he can do to conserve heat.”
Vetstreet.com says that, in general, there are three kinds of dogs who benefit from the insulation provided by a sweater or coat, as well as the protection afforded by life as a pampered house pet: Small dogs; Dogs who are elderly, chronically ill or both; and Greyhounds, Whippets and dogs of a similar thin body type, especially those with short fur.
Chihuahuas are the exception and according to chiwawadog.com “Other dangers that the Chihuahua faces is the winter weather. Chihuahua's have such delicate feet, and when the ground is wet, cold or frozen, the Chihuahua can get frostbitten feet. Also, this type of dog should always wear a sweater or coat when outside, and should not spend significant time outside in the winter even when wearing a covering.”
All that being said begs the very important question if there is danger in overheating your dog by putting sweaters over their natural coat? Barring the few exceptions for certain breeds and special health concerns, some veterinary health experts warn against clothing your dogs and believe it can prevent the dog from being able to regulate their own body temperature and put the dog in danger of overheating. In an article in The Telegraph Mark Johnston, from the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, said: "There are very few occasions when an animal needs a coat, even in the recent cold weather. Dogs have developed a very effective coat of their own, which will protect them from the elements. It is adjustable so they can raise the fur to control their temperature. Dressing them in a coat diminishes the animal's ability to regulate their own body temperature and could be detrimental if the animal gets too hot. Too high a temperature is more of a risk to the dog's health than too low a temperature. Clothing could also rub and cause sores and if the animal is wearing it for a long time, it could cause skin conditions. Fashion-wise, coats are pointless for dogs."
So overall, it seems that the necessity for dog sweaters depends on the dog, their state of health, and their breed. If you choose to dress your dog in a sweater, be mindful of all the considerations expressed above and check your dog’s comfort level as conditions change throughout the day like sunlight and daytime, room temperature, and car temperature. Also, make sure your dog’s coat is clean and dry before putting on their sweater to avoid skin irritation, possible infections, and serious discomfort. And as far as costumes are concerned, never ever leave your dog unattended in a dog costume and check regularly to make sure your dog is not overheating, distressed or uncomfortable. Remember most of this haute doggy couture is for your entertainment and amusement – not really our enjoyment. For the most part, I can attest that we dogs live to enjoy attention, playtime, love, treats, mealtime, and cuddle time with you, au naturel!
Happy Tails & Howl-i-days to You and Yours,
Goldie of Pismo Beach, CA
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