Accessories Help Keep Canines Cold Weather Ready
Fido, it’s cold outside. Those of us without a fur coat are accustomed to piling on the sweaters, coats, hats and gloves before heading out into unforgiving winter weather, but what about our canine companions? Sure, their natural coat provides some protection against the cold and the elements, but many dogs can still benefit from some additional help in the form of cold-weather accessories.
There are a lot of products out there, and the key to choosing the right ones, says Greg Price, DVM, the Ohio-based owner/operator of Town & Country Veterinary Clinic, is pretty simple: Know your dog. “You really need to pay attention to your pet,” he says.
“If they look cold, they probably are. [Choosing appropriate cold-weather gear] really involves more common sense than anything else. If you’re just going out for a five-minute potty break, you probably don’t have much to worry about. But if you’re going out for a two- to three-mile walk, really pay attention to your dog’s behavior,” Price says.
Not surprisingly, smaller dogs warrant more consideration than their larger brethren. “They don’t have as much of a core to hold their heat, whereas that big Lab or other bigger dogs have more of a core. Small dogs aren’t winter-hardy — they have fine hair, short coats, and that makes them more susceptible to chill,” Price says.
Lightweight: Chilly Dog Sweaters
As winter begins to gear up or wind down, Chilly Dogs sweet fleece sweaters are the perfect accessories for excursions on a chilly day. They can be worn alone or in combination with other outerwear items, and they're also great for indoor use when your pet needs a little extra comfort. Chilly Dogs sweaters are machine washable and come in a rainbow of classy colors.
Medium Weight: Quinzee Insulated Jacket
Ruffwear’s highly rated lightweight insulated jacket is packed with convenient features and works well for dogs of all sizes. Side-release fasteners make it easy to get on and off your canine companion, and after your excursion, the coat packs down small to fit inside a handy, sewn-in “stuff sack.”
Heavy Weight: Foggy Mountain Nylon Turnout Dog Coat
When it’s especially cold, or there’s a nasty wind chill afoot, try Foggy Mountain’s highly functional nylon turnout coat. Originally developed for horses, this sturdy outerwear selection will keep your dog toasty warm in even the coldest climates. The fuzzy fleece lining makes it a comfortable choice, while the nylon shell repels wind, rain, sleet and snow. A wide variety of colors and sizes are available.
Paw Protector: Musher’s Secret
Musher's Secret salve, made from human-grade waxes and pure vitamin E, creates a form-fitting barrier between your pet’s paws and whatever surface he’s walking on. Musher’s Secret is semi-permeable, meaning it allows perspiration to escape through the toes while continuing to protect against snow and ice, as well as hot sand and pavement.
Paw Healer: Tender Foot
Tender Foot healing cream soothes foot pads made ragged by too much activity and not enough protection, and it also works well on your dry, cracked elbows caused by too much chillin’ in the snowdrift. Replete with vitamins A, D, and E, and plenty of other good stuff, Tender Foot can also be used as a daily moisturizing treatment.
Pawz Rubber Dog Boots
Sure, these aren’t the chicest things on the pet store shelf, but Pawz waterproof rubber booties make up in functionality what they lack in style. Reusable and — when they wear out — disposable, Pawz keep your dog’s feet dry and protected against icy, wet pavement and snow-melting chemicals. They won’t do much to keep doggie feet warm or insulated, but pair them with a wooly sock and Pawz can quickly become your go-to foot-protection option, whether on a walk around the neighborhood or on a hiking excursion.
Laura Clark, owner of Wylie Wagg, a Northern Virginia-based chain of pet accessory stores, advises her clients to seriously consider sweaters and coats for larger breeds too. “I think most dogs really do best with a coat or at least a sweater in colder climates. The normal house pet that spends a lot of time indoors, they’re not going to develop that thick undercoat of fur, and they’re going to get cold just like we do. If you’re cold outside, your pet is probably cold — for me, that’s a good way to gauge it.”
Of course, reaching for the cutest coat on the shelf is a temptation for all pet owners, but Clark advises against simply going for what’s most visually appealing. “[Cuteness is] not really the goal here,” Clark says. “The goal is to keep your pet warm.”
Staying protected in winter is about more than just covering the body — feet and foot pads need attention too. Clark is a big proponent of the Pawz line of booties, which are made of durable, eco-friendly rubber, and protect paws from wet, cold snow and the chemicals we humans use to melt it. “[Pawz booties] look a bit like balloons, but they’re much tougher rubber and reusable … they’re not necessarily for warmth but more for protection against ice crystals, chemicals, things like that,” Clark says.
If you choose a bootie with more insulation, Price advocates for quality over cost. “A lot of my clients will use some of the boots — people who like to hike a lot, do dogsled sort of stuff, or take their dogs on skiing trips — it takes the dogs a bit to get used to them, but most dogs do OK. But you definitely want to stick with your more high-end boots,” if you expect them to stay on and last longer than a few trips, Price says.
Products like Musher’s Secret are great for dogs that have a hard time tolerating booties or other foot coverings of any stripe. Clark recommends her clients use it on dry, rough noses too: “Noses and pads tend to get cracked during the winter, so this balm can help with that. [Musher’s Secret] moisturizes and conditions so you don’t get painful cracks. It’s a really good product that’s been around for years, and it definitely works,” she said.
Clark also suggests taking any outerwear gear for a “test drive” inside the home before you head out on your winter adventure. “Do it slowly. Have some treats nearby that your pet really enjoys, and make sure you correlate putting on that jacket or boots with getting a treat or getting lots of praise,” she says.
The bottom line for these experts: Listen and pay attention to your pet’s reactions. “Dogs do seem to be hardier in general than we are, and they do seem to tolerate [cold weather] pretty well,” Price says.
“But you’ve just got to pay really close attention and use common sense — if it’s 30 degrees outside, you’re probably not going to have any trouble. But if it’s 15 [degrees] with a wind chill, even the hardiest of dogs is probably going to struggle a little,” he says.