Walking Dogs in a Winter Wonderland
As people start trading in their tank tops for flannels and parkas and their shorts for jeans and sweatpants, many pet parents wonder if there’s something they should be doing to prep their fur babies for the cold winter months ahead. Your pet may not require a flannel or sweatpants (though they’re definitely out there for pets if you search hard enough), but will they require a winter coat or boots?
Consider the following in deciding if a coat or shoes will be necessary for your pooch this winter.
Smaller dogs and miniature/toy breed dogs have a harder time generating body heat than bigger dogs. Since they don’t retain heat as easily, it would benefit them to be provided with a jacket of their own to offer that heat for them. These breeds include Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Toy Poodles, etc. Dogs with shorter legs and bellies close to the ground would benefit from coats, as well. Breeds such as Dachshunds, Corgis, and Basset Hounds are naturally more affected by the snow as it’s more likely to match their height, exposing their legs and stomachs to the cold temperature.
Bigger dogs are less likely to need a jacket since their bodies retain heat better, but the following factors still contribute to whether or not they could be helped by an extra layer of clothing.
Just as human health becomes more fragile and complicated as we age, the same goes for animals. Older dogs’ immune systems weaken over time, leaving them more susceptible to illnesses, such as the cold, flu, and achy joints. Arthritis can be triggered by a number of things, cold weather being one of them. A coat can serve as extra protection from these issues for your senior dog.
One of the most important aspects to consider is your canine’s fur type. Dogs with longer, thicker hair, such as Chow Chows, Pomeranians, Huskies, Saint Bernards, etc, typically do not require more insulation due to the heat that their hair provides. Therefore, dogs with shorter, thinner coats like Beagles, Bloodhounds, Pugs, Russel Terriers, etc, are good candidates for animals requiring a jacket. In combination with fur, also keep in mind your pet’s body type. If they have shorter hair and are leaner, they’ll need some extra heat and protection. Heavier pets with extra fat retain and generate heat easily.
Temperature & Duration Spent Outside
Depending on how cold it actually is outside, your canine may not need a coat at all. Beware of placing a coat on your dog when it’s not necessary or too warm, as this can lead to them overheating. Hypothermia and freezing certainly have negative side effects of shivering, raised hair, rapid breathing, and cold extremities, but overheating has many risks, as well. If your pup overheats from wearing a coat, excessive panting, lethargy, and vomiting will follow. So be mindful of whether or not the extra layers are truly needed.
The length of time you plan to spend outside also matters. If you’re taking your pup out for a quick bathroom break or a three minute minute walk, they don’t need a coat each and every time they step paw outside. But if you’ll be spending a longer duration of time outside, a coat can prevent hypothermia and freezing from setting in.
Should my dog wear boots in the winter?
Less factors come into play when it comes to deciding if you should put your dog in boots. The answer is yes. People readily think that because dogs are able to run in the grass, pavements, and woods easily, their paws are invincible. This is not always the case. Just as dogs require shoes or can’t be walked when the pavement is too hot on summer days, walking barefoot (or paw) during winter days can also be dangerous. The temperature alone already poses a threat to your dog’s safety. It can cause dryness, cracking, and bleeding of the paws. Not to mention, broken pieces of ice may hurt your dog’s paw. If the ice is being taken care of, salt and other chemicals will likely be sprinkles on the sidewalk and streets. These can burn your pet’s paws or, even worse, be ingested by them if they lick their paws. If possible, try a product specifically designed to safely melt ice for your pup, such as Paw Thaw. Boots will also prevent snow and dirt from accumulating on their paws or getting in between their toes, keeping your pet and the house mess-free.
Coats and boots are less of a fashion statement in the winter, but rather a form of safety and protection from the cold weather and sidewalk. Be mindful of your pet’s conditions, including size, age, fur, and what you’ll be doing outside when deciding whether a shirt, light sweater, heavy jacket, or none of these options will be needed before venturing out. Be more generous with the times that you dress them in boots, as your dog’s paws are more sensitive to the weather than you think. Once you’ve got them safely and responsibly bundled and ready to go, go out and enjoy the Winter Wonderland!