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Do Dogs Need Sweaters in Winter?

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Of course, short, thin hair is not the only prerequisite for outer clothing. Dogs that tend to have short-cropped hair — like poodles, which may grow thick hair but which owners tend to keep short to avoid matting — should also be given a sweater to protect them from very low temperatures. Also, older dogs with weaker immune systems and dogs with diseases that impair hair growth (i.e., Cushing’s disease, hypothyroidism) typically need an extra source for warmth, and this can be easily provided by a sweater or jacket, even indoors.

Conversely, larger dogs with dense hair coats do not have a need for additional insulation, and would be very uncomfortable if they were forced to wear outer clothing, possibly to the point of physically overheating. Their fur is already genetically designed to protect them from extreme winter temperatures. The Siberian Husky, Malamute, and Saint Bernard breeds are all excellent examples of dogs that are perfectly suited to cold temperatures, while the Chihuahua, Greyhound, and many terrier and pinscher breeds are good examples of dogs that would do well with a little extra outer insulation.

Finding a Good Sweater

Once you have decided to get a sweater for your dog, you will need to begin by considering material. While wool is very warm and one of the best insulating materials, take into account how often it will need to be washed, and whether it will make your dog more uncomfortable due to itching. A good blend of washable wool and cotton or acrylic may be the best bet.

Second, just as you would measure your own neck, chest and waist before buying a piece of clothing, measuring your dog is the best way of assuring the best fit. Why do you want it to fit? So that your dog cannot easily pull the piece off, so it doesn’t drag on the ground, and so it doesn’t get caught on anything during normal movement. You want the piece to be snug without being tight.

The most important areas to measure are around the neck, around the largest part of the chest, and the distance from the neck to the waist. The sweater’s length should end around the waist, leaving the area below free. Knowing your dog’s actual weight will also help you to determine the correct size. If possible, take your dog along to the store with you try the clothes before buying them, as returns are very difficult when it comes to clothing for animals.

Next: More important sweater considerations

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Nicolas, selected from petMD

petMD is a leading online resource focused solely on the health and well-being of pets. The site maintains the world's largest pet health library, written and approved by a network of trusted veterinarians. petMD was founded to inspire pet owners to provide an ever-increasing quality of life for their pets and to connect pet owners with pet experts and other animal lovers. For more information, visit petMD.com.

239 comments

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6:44PM PST on Jan 15, 2014

Thank you for this article. My husband makes fun of my putting a coat on our 8 year old, 13lb. dachshund / Chihuahua mix when she goes out on the coldest winter days. His comment is "but she's wearing a fur coat". My reply is that he also has a "fur" coat but I don't make him go outside without an extra coat ;-} !

Even with a coat she makes very short work of her "potty break" especially this winter when it's been unusually cold.

9:37AM PST on Jan 8, 2014

Cool stuff

7:37AM PDT on Oct 27, 2012

animals in clothes seems ridiculous. really

10:12AM PDT on Oct 22, 2012

Yes especially if they are going out for a walk or to play!! My pit bulls are sold muscle & they get cold & yes, they wear boots because their feet tend to get cold faster obviously.

10:39AM PDT on Oct 21, 2012

I have to say that this article covered this issue well. If you own a small toy breed dog and live in central Canada in the winter, you will understand the need for a doggie sweater or jacket. My dog is a chihuahua cross, genetically meant for the hot weather in Mexico. She loves the heat and loves to sunbath. During the colder months, she shivers from the cold, even in the house. My dog will sleep under the blankets, on my bed, to keep warm, so, it only seems reasonable to say that she does need a sweater to brave the winter elements outside. Come -20 Celsius, if there is snow or ice, my dog can no longer walk on the ground...This is when the boots come out, either that or she remains indoors and suffers without her beloved daily walks. When -30 Celsius hits, if she wants to go out for a walk, she gets bundled up in full on winter snow gear, just like I would with a child. There is nothing cruel about keeping your children dressed warm for the winter, why is it considered cruel to dress a breed of dog who isn't built for this kind of climate?

12:41PM PDT on Oct 20, 2012

thanks for sharing :)

3:26PM PDT on Oct 19, 2012

I think it terrible to put clothes on dogs! My bigger dogs need no coats and the smaller only stay out for a short while .. first sign of a shiver they are back inside ...

2:34PM PDT on Oct 18, 2012

Mrs S. i agree with you...

8:00AM PDT on Oct 18, 2012

Unless they really need it, dont make them suffer ;)

2:24PM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

It depends on the climate and the dog. It gets very cold here in winter and most people get little, short-haired dogs some protection. A big husky revels in the cold.

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