Should You Put a Sweater on Your Dog in Cold Weather?
Even as the winter freeze begins to thaw, the chill can last well into spring. Many breeds need to be all bundled up in coats when they’re outdoors, but some owners opt to dress their dogs up in sweaters.
Although you might see a sweater that looks perfect for your pup, it still might not be the right choice. There are several factors to consider before putting your dog’s paws through the armholes of an adorable sweater.
Why Do People Put Sweaters on Dogs?
Not every dog lover needs to see their pet in a mini sweater, but some people genuinely like sweaters on pets. Those pet owners may be onto something. Often, sweaters aren’t just a fashionable choice; they’re also a practical way to keep your pet warm.
As temperatures cool down outside, your dog might be less able to keep itself warm. Some hairless or short-coated breeds may get cool more easily and appreciate a sweater for their outdoor trips during winter months.
Dog sweaters can also be a great choice when spending time inside the house. Even if there is heating indoors, dogs can get chilly despite their coats and may be more comfortable with an extra layer or curled up in a thick blanket.
Should You Put a Sweater on Your Specific Dog?
Some dogs, including huskies, malamutes, Newfoundlands, and Saint Bernards, have thick coats that are meant for cold weather. They have evolved to adapt to colder temperatures and might overheat if wearing a sweater. They may even like cold climates.
But it’s not just the length and density of the fur; it’s also the size of the dog. You tend to see Chihuahuas, dachshunds, and small breeds on the street with little coats because these dogs have a harder time retaining body heat.
Adult hairless or very thin-haired breeds can benefit from sweaters inside the house, Dr. Maja Drozdz, a veterinarian at Goldsmith Veterinary Clinic in Denver, told The Spruce Pets. That includes not just chihuahuas, but also Mexican hairless dogs, Chinese crested dogs, and other similar breeds.
Drozdz also said that some very small, thin-haired puppies, such as those of the Maltese, Chihuahua, and Yorkshire terrier breeds, may also need sweaters as they don’t have a lot of fat when they are babies. If your dog likes to be nestled in blankets all the time, they may like wearing a sweater.
Not all small dogs, however, should be bundled in a sweater, even if it’s an adorable look. Pomeranians, for example, would not need a sweater because of the sheer length of its coat.
How Do You Know If Your Dog Needs a Sweater?
Watch your dog. Their body language will tell you whether they need an extra layer of warmth.
“If your dog is shivering, feels cold to the touch or their teeth are chattering, they need a sweater,” Drozdz said.
Your dog might need to wear a sweater inside. Most temperatures higher than 45 degrees Fahrenheit don’t require sweater wear. In all cases, Drozdz advises normal ambient temperatures such as 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you do put your dog in a sweater, the arms and neck area should have freedom of movement without too much excess fabric. Also, be careful of zippers, hooks, buttons, or other things your dog can chew off and potentially swallow. If your dog has a history of eating other cloth objects like socks or towels, a sweater may not be the best choice for them due to the risk of ingestion.
Sweaters shouldn’t be overused for practical purposes, Drozdz said. It’s best to be cautious about what activities you’re doing with your dog while they are in a sweater.
“It’s not safe to have sweaters on your dog with an off-leash play like at dog parks or hiking because they can get caught on other dogs’ paws/teeth, branches, or fences,” she said.
If you have decided to put on a sweater for your dog, the material is an important consideration. Polyester, for example, may make your pet itchy and uncomfortable. Make sure to take your pet’s measurements before buying a sweater so they can’t pull it off, get it caught somewhere, or have circulation issues from it being too tight.
Lastly, take your dog along with you to the store to try on the clothes. Because it’s important to make sure the sweater fits your dog’s body safely, it might be best to make the sweater yourself.
Signs of Overheating
If your dog is wearing a sweater and begins to frantically pant, keeps sticking its tongue out to salivate, or has a hard time breathing, it could be overheating. If the dog begins to walk around as if disoriented, that’s also a warning sign, says Drozdz.
“Panting, red ears, red skin, the dog biting their sweater off: these are all common signs to look for,” she said.
When in doubt, take off the sweater to see if it makes a difference. As an alternative, you can provide blankets for your dog to cuddle in if it's cold, allowing them to regulate their temperature.
Overall, sweaters can be such a cute and fun way for your pet to participate in festivities and keep warm. Despite this, keeping them safe should, first and foremost, be your top priority.