Winter Fashion

By Teri Errico Griffis

A baby in a wintry hat and mittens can make us all coo out loud, but the next cutest sight to see may be a puppy in a sweater or rain boots. But while it’s adorably entertaining—is it necessary? An expert at Charleston Animal Society weighs in on what pets really need during inclement weather.

“Pets don’t need winter clothes because they normally wouldn’t be putting themselves in situations that would make them necessary,” says Angele Bice, DVM, Director of Veterinary Care at CAS. She notes that in poor weather, pets would take care of themselves by finding shelter and steering clear of rain or cold—or coming indoors. She adds that most animal attire, short of Thunder Jackets which are medically useful, exist simply because owners find them aesthetically pleasing. And there’s no harm in that!

Of course, all dogs are different in how much cold—or even heat—they can withstand and their coats have varying thicknesses and lengths. “Depending on the breed, some dogs, like Huskies or Pomeranians, are quite insulated with extra intra-abdominal fat and thicker coats that help them keep warm longer. Other dogs, like Italian Greyhounds, have little body fat and thin short coats and can get cold more easily.” Bice adds, “If you have a very lean dog with a short, thin coat, that will need to be outside for a long period of time, then a coat may be helpful.”



For the most part, however, if it’s too cold for you to stay outside, it’s time to bring your dog inside, as well. “Dogs should be outside in the cold for the same length of time their owners are comfortable being outside with them. If it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your pet,” Bice says. Dogs that have proper shelter available to them can usually do all right in cold conditions. They need a space that’s small enough and enclosed enough to allow them to retain the body heat, block the wind, and keep out moisture. It also helps to have a proper place to lay down that absorbs their heat rather than retain the cold temperatures.


As for the question of whether or not dog boots are made for walking, the answer is: maybe!

“Dogs have a thicker callus like paw pad that helps protect against rough surfaces and to some degree the weather,” Bice explains. “If conditions are extreme though, their feet can be damaged. Walking outside to use the bathroom in the snow would not be a problem, but walking on ice for hours could cause frost bite.”

When in doubt, let nature be your guide (rather than your fashion sense) for the dos and don’ts of dressing up your pet.