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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.
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