Winter Warmth for Your DogNov 28, 2023
Your Complete Guide to Protective Clothing for Dogs in Cold Weather
With Khaleesi, our Spanish Queen, coming from a warm Mediterranean country like Spain to the often-cold climes of Scotland I’ve recently taken a deep dive into what would serve her best as we come into the colder months of the year.
Understanding the Need for it
The need for our dogs to wear cold protection clothing, such as sweaters and coats, isn’t a blanket rule or consideration.
It would depend on things like your dog's size, breed, coat density, and health. Most dogs have fur that gives them enough warmth, but certain circumstances might require more layers for warmth, especially for smaller, short-haired breeds or those originally from warmer climates (like Khaleesi).
Of course, larger breeds with thick fur, such as Huskies or Bernese Mountain Dogs, generally would not require additional clothing and might even be at risk of overheating with extra layers on.
It’s important to consider your own dogs needs when deciding on winter clothing.
Factors like weather, time spent outside, and the dog's comfort with wearing clothes are crucial.
Make sure you watch for signs of discomfort or overheating, especially in dogs with thick coats or on milder days, remember it’s a practical consideration, not a fashion parade.
Physiological Aspects of Heat Control
Dogs regulate their body temperature through various physiological means.
The size of your dog should be considered when looking at keeping it warm.
Smaller dogs, due to their higher surface area to volume ratio, will lose heat more quickly than larger breeds. To compensate for this, they may increase their metabolic rate naturally to generate more heat, which is crucial for maintaining their body temperature, particularly in colder conditions.
The metabolic rate is a measure of the amount of energy an animal uses over a period of time, or the rate at which the body burns calories or energy.
Think of it like this. When we feel warmer and start to sweat after eating a spicy meal, our body's metabolic rate increases temporarily to digest the food, generating extra heat in the process.
Vascular Tone Adjustments
To help with temperature control they also naturally regulate blood flow to their skin's surface through their automatic nervous system.
Kinda like us when we sweat, it’s an automatic response from our bodies to help us cool down.
When it’s cold, they constrict their blood vessels.
The widening of blood vessels increases blood flow to the skin and helps to dissipate heat. This process is triggered when the body needs to cool down, such as in hotter environments to reduce heat loss.
In hotter conditions, they dilate these vessel. This narrowing of the blood vessels, reduces blood flow to the skin, helping to retain heat. This happens in response to colder environments.
As I’m sure you’re aware they also pant to evaporate water from their respiratory tract, helping them cool them down.
Now you’ve made your Decision.
Having looked at whether your dog needs extra help to stay warm in cold weather, let's look at choosing the right ‘clothing’.
It’s important you choose the right material and design for dog winter clothing. Heavier fabrics like wool are better warmth during winters, while lighter materials may be ok for milder temperatures.
Fit and Comfort
It's important to make sure the clothes fit your dog properly, making sure they’re not too tight or too loose, and ensure they don’t restrict your dog's movement.
(need I mention they still need open access to pee or poop)
A good winter coat should cover the back and belly while leaving enough room around the neck and limbs for movement.
Durability and Washability
These items of clothing can be expensive, I always think ‘buy once, cry once’. It’s almost seems too obvious to say but our dogs can get their clothes dirty quickly, so choose materials that are machine washable and durable.
Most dogs are well-equipped to handle cold weather, they’ve done it for tens of thousands of years so using cold protection clothing should be specific to your dogs needs.
Prioritise practicality, functionality, comfort, and the dog's well-being, ensuring that any clothing used is appropriate and comfortable for your dog.