Michigan Humane Society

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Ask the Veterinarian: Does My Dog Need a Coat?

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Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Mondays to see common veterinary questions answered. If you have an immediate medical concern with your pet, please call your veterinarian! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org. This blog is a repost pertaining to cold weather safety – it’s cold outside!

“I see people walking dogs with coats and boots on, and I was wondering if it is really necessary? I always thought dogs were embarrassed by clothing but these people say they need the clothing to stay warm in the winter. Should my dog be wearing a coat?”

Whether or not your dog needs to wear boots and a coat in the colder weather depends on the dog. Many dogs won’t tolerate clothes, especially boots. Boots can help protect your dog’s feet from ice and snow, but aren’t really necessary. And some dogs would rather eat a sweater than wear one.

If you are concerned about protecting your dog’s feet from snow and ice this winter, boots are an option, but there are other things you can do that your dog may find less objectionable. Keep the fur between the toes and paw pads trimmed. This will help prevent snow from accumulating in the area and make it easier for you to clean and dry your dog’s feet. You can massage a thin layer of petroleum jelly between the toes or check your local pet store for safe topical products that can protect your dog’s feet when going outside. After being outdoors, inspect your dog’s paws for any ice, salt or irritation. Clean the paws if necessary and dry them thoroughly. If using boots, remove them once your dog is indoors. Moisture can accumulate inside the boots and irritate the skin.

Outdoor time should be limited once the temperature drops below 35-40 F to protect your pet from frostbite and other cold related injury. Small breed dogs and dogs with thin hair coats may benefit from a coat or sweater, especially if they will be outside for more than a few minutes. Dogs with thicker fur such as huskies and malamutes don’t need coats. Choose a coat that is easy to get on and off. Make sure the clothing does not obstruct your pet’s vision or ability to move comfortably.

Even with a coat, tails, ears and the thin skin on the belly are at risk for frost bite. Dry your pet well after being out in the cold slush and snow. And never leave your pet alone in a car. In general, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet.

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