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It’s officially winter! Are you one of the many dog owners who dresses their pup in warm sweaters and jackets this time of year? Or, are you horrified at the very thought of degrading your dog by putting clothes on him? In this article from BurkePatch, Janet Lemke discusses cold weather, pets and those cute outfits.
Cold Weather, Pets and Those Cute Outfits
Most dogs and cats have natural coats that adapt to weather changes. Many of you have experienced the avalanche of hair that can be shed during the change of seasons. “Getting a winter coat” in the fall and “shedding the winter coat” in the spring are major events in some households.
A dog’s winter coat traps warm air from body heat between the skin and the outer hair surface. This insulating layer provides warmth by conserving body heat and protecting from outer penetrating cold.
In most cases, if the pet has naturally adapted to the increasing cold weather, this coat provides enough protection from the cold and wind. If that protective layer is compressed by outer clothing, the natural insulation is diminished and the clothing then needs to provide the needed warmth and protection.
The coat of a dog also has natural water-repellant properties, but with extended exposure to moisture, such is unrelenting rain, many coats can become saturated and the insulation of trapped warm air from body heat is lost. The dog is then covered in a wet layer that can be easily chilled, thus dropping body temperature. That means a cold, wet, miserable dog that can be at risk in extreme cold. Extreme depends on what your pet is used to, what kind of a winter coat he is capable of forming, and if there is a rapid versus gradual change in temperature.
Puppies and Small Breeds Need Extra Protection
Some dogs, especially the smaller ones and those with little hair, are more vulnerable to the cold. If any pet stays outdoors for extended periods of time in cold weather, you must provide protection for them. If loose in an enclosed yard, the pet needs shelter providing protection from rain, snow and wind, adequate warm bedding, and in general a comfortable place to rest out of the elements.
A word of warning here: Like human babies, puppies and kittens are unable to maintain body temperature like adults. Their body temperatures can drop to life-threatening lows in a remarkably short period of time.
If you are walking your pet in cold or wet weather, you need to determine if added clothing will provide needed additional warmth and protection. Most dogs can handle a walk in the rain; they tend to dry very quickly once indoors. And dogs with heavier coats can handle more cold, rain and snow than those with lighter coats.
When considering sharing outdoor adventures with your dog in the winter, think about his comfort and if he will enjoy the outing. If in doubt, keep your pet indoors.
Protecting Those Paws
If your pet dislikes going outside in rain, even for short necessary outings, try to provide an umbrella over his head and a dry place to do his business; or in the case of snow, you might need to provide a shoveled area.
After an outing, you might have a towel near the door to absorb excess moisture from the coat and feet, and protect your rugs and floors. Cleaning the feet is especially important if your pet has walked on snowy sidewalks that have been sanded or salted. Sore, inflamed areas between the pads and toes can result from sand, salt and even trapped moisture.
There are boots available for dogs that spend extended periods of time on these surfaces or that may have sensitive feet. Getting them used to wearing the boots is another subject altogether.
In summary, some dogs may indeed benefit from protective clothing. And most of us will admit that there are some pretty snazzy outfits out there these days.
Check out the rest of Janet Lemke’s article here. How do you feel about cold weather, pets and those cute outfits? Tell us your thoughts in the comment box below!