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Does My Dog Need A Winter Coat?

happy black lab running through the snow

If you've always considered dog coats and sweaters silly accessories for overindulged pets, there's something you should know. Many breeds actually need winter coats or sweaters to brave the winter weather. Here's how to determine whether your dog is a candidate for outerwear.

Who really needs a coat?

Not surprising, little dogs are the most likely to need extra insulation. Chihuahuas, toy terriers, miniature pinchers and other small breeds are simply less equipped to deal with cold winter temperatures. Short-haired dogs and those that are very lean, such as Whippets and Greyhounds, tend to shiver quite easily, and will enjoy their daily walks much more when wearing a coat or sweater.

Dog coats are also recommended if you live in an area where the mercury drops below zero or if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors in the winter. This applies even to large breeds that are accustomed to the cold: remember their bellies have no fur and are exposed to the elements. Likewise, dogs recuperating from an illness or injury may also be more sensitive to frigid temperatures, as are older dogs and puppies.

Veterinarians recommend against dog sweaters for long-haired larger breeds because these dogs are naturally predisposed to survive cold temperatures.

What to look for in a dog coat

Dog coats and sweaters come in a variety of materials, although wool and fleece are most common. Water-resistant fabrics, such as those used for people parkas, may be better if you live in a snowy area. Whatever fabric you choose, make sure it is easy to care for.

To adequately protect your dog from the cold, a sweater should fit snugly and completely cover your dog's stomach (except with a male dog) and end at the base of the tail, keeping his legs free so he can walk, run, and relieve himself. Coats with full-length ""sleeves"" for the legs may be harder for your dog to adapt to and may inhibit his ability to move normally. If possible, try the sweater on your dog to make sure it fits him comfortably and is easy to get on and off.

Most sweaters come in small, medium, large and extra-large sizes. If you are unsure which size your dog should wear, here's a general guide: Toy breeds usually wear extra small, Beagle-size breeds wear small, Retriever-size dogs wear large, and larger dogs wear extra-large. (Note: Actual garment size may vary by manufacturer.)

Remember, dog coats are not just a novelty—for many dogs they're a necessity. So don't feel embarrassed buying your dog one. With the right cold-weather gear, winter can really be a wonderland for your dog.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall


    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
     

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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