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Winter may be in full swing, but that doesn't mean it's too late to buy your pup a coat for the cold. First things first though, does your dog even need one? Unless your pup has a natural jacket of fur (think Huskies, Akitas, Chow Chows, etc.), he or she may need extra protection during the colder months. Here are some instances when a winter coat is recommended or even necessary:
The biggest factor that determines whether a dog needs a winter coat is their fur. Dogs with short and thin fur likely need an extra layer of warmth during the colder months. Breeds that fall under this category include Boxers, Dalmatians, Weimaraners and Pit Bulls, among others. A winter coat is also a good idea for dogs that normally have long hair but are clipped or shorn, like Poodles.
Small dogs have a tougher time staying warm in winter because they can't easily generate and retain enough body heat in the cold. So jackets and coats are often necessary for these breeds, which include Chihuahuas, French Bulldogs, Miniature Pinschers and more.
In addition, dogs with shorter legs that sit low to the ground often need a coat. This is because their bellies - where fur is short and skin is sensitive - sit low enough to touch snow and ice on the ground. Examples of these breeds include Corgis, Dachshunds and Basset Hounds.
Dogs with lean bodies also need extra protection as they have short fur and cannot easily generate or retain heat in the cold. Breeds that fall into this category include Greyhounds, Whippets and Salukis, among others.
Senior dogs often require a coat because, as dogs age, their ability to regulate body temperatures can decline. This means they may have trouble generating and maintaining body heat, so even winter dogs (or those with thick fur and double-coats) might need some extra protection. In addition, older dogs often have arthritis, weakened immune systems or other conditions that cause them to require a jacket.
Dogs with illnesses often need extra protection in winter and colder temperatures in general. Specifically, dogs with Cushing's disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney disease may not do well with the cold because they have weakened or compromised immune systems. However, it's important to note that if your dog is seriously sick, he or she shouldn't spend a lot of time outside in general.
A winter coat for your dog should cover as much of his or her body as possible without restricting movement. It should fit snugly but not too tightly. A waterproof coat is the best option if your dog will be spending a lot of time in the snow. And to make things easy on yourself, look for a coat that allows your dog to go to the bathroom while wearing it, so you don't have to wash it after every walk.
Pro Tip: Not all dogs will be okay with the feeling of a coat. To help your dog get used to wearing one, start by having him or her wear it for a few minutes at a time. If your dog desperately tries to escape or refuses to move in the coat, it's best to find another way to keep him or her warm.