There’s nothing cuter than a pup in a furry parker or puffer jacket. But besides winning the award for “best-dressed,” are there any real reasons your dog should wear a coat? The answer depends on a number of factors (like your dog’s breed, size, and age—more on that below) but according to Dr. Judy Morgan, a veterinarian based in New Jersey, most dogs could benefit from wearing some sort of winter jacket: “Our dogs are used to being in climate-controlled homes,” she says. “When they head outside into freezing temperatures, they’re just as traumatized by the cold weather as we would be if we stepped outside without a coat.” Read on to find out if your pup truly need a winter jacket—and how to choose one that’s the perfect fit.
Knowing if your pup needs a coat
Smaller, light-bodied breeds, toy breeds, and breeds that naturally have very short or thin hair like Chihuahuas and pinschers should wear a winter coat or warm sweater. Dogs who naturally have a heavier coat of hair, like Siberian Huskies and St. Bernard’s, really don’t need extra layers (and in fact, bundling them up could cause them to overheat).
Older dogs, who may suffer from joint problems and a weak immune system, should definitely wear an extra layer of insulation, as should puppies, whose bodies are still learning temperature regulation.
Use your best judgment: If the temperature drops below freezing (aka, 32 degrees Fahrenheit) and you have a small and/or short-haired dog, put him in a coat—and limit the amount of time you spend outdoors. Dogs (like people) can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia. Be on the lookout for signs of hypothermia like trouble breathing, shivering, lethargy, fixed pupils, muscle stiffness, and irregular heartbeat.
Finding a good jacket
Before buying a coat, measure your pup’s neck, chest, and waist to ensure a good fit. You want the coat to be snug (so your dog can’t easily pull it off) but not too tight (your pup should be able to move around easily). Knowing your dog’s weight can help determine her size. In general, toy breeds usually wear extra small, Beagle-size dogs wear small, Retriever-size dogs wear large, and dogs who are any larger wear extra-large.
To make it easy on yourself, look for a jacket that’s zipper-less and make sure it’s waterproof so your pup stays warm and dry. Because even though your pup might look cute in that pink plaid number, when it comes to winter apparel, function is just as important as fashion. And don't forget to protect your pup's paws—check out these tips to learn how!
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.