Does My Dog Need a Winter Coat? | PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

Does My Dog Need a Winter Coat?

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
2 weeks ago

With snow and cold temperatures covering a majority of the country, we continue to layer up in our winter coats and seasonal winter gear. While layering up, many people are also wondering what about my dog?  Does Fido need some extra warmth to protect him against the elements?

You may have wondered if you need to buy your pooch a winter coat or if his fur is all the protection he needs this winter. The answer depends on your dog and several other circumstances. Some of the circumstances to consider when deciding if your dog needs extra layers includes: 

  • Breed
  • Size
  • Age
  • Health
  • Climate

  You should also consider the outdoor temperature and how long you plan to be outdoors with your furry friend. 

Breed and cold temperatures 

Some breeds are better equipped to deal with the cold temperatures.

There are certain large dog breeds that have thick coats that are biologically better made for handling the cold6. Examples of dogs that have fur coats designed to keep them warm are:

Nicole Ellis, dog training and product expert at Rover.com, said that if you will be outside for less than 10 minutes time, it is not necessary that you put a coat on your dog. However, as a pet parent, you know your dog best and should monitor for any signs that he or she is cold and needs extra protection or to go inside11

Signs your dog is feeling the chill

Even if your dog has a thick coat of fur, it does not mean he or she is immune to cold weather.  If your dog’s coat becomes wet or matted, it can quickly become cold. Regardless of size or breed, it’s crucial that you closely monitor your dog for any signs that he or she is feeling cold and take your cue from them.

Signs that your dog is too cold:

  • Shivering
  • Trembling
  • Hunching the back to conserve heat
  • Lifting paws up
  • Limping
  • Acting anxious or distressed
  • Slowing down
  • Tucking the tail close to the body
  • Barking or moaning
  • Hiding behind things to seek shelter from the cold

Here are some additional tips you can use to determine if your furry companion is feeling too cold:

Touch your dog’s body

Your pup’s blood circulation is concentrated in the torso area to protect the vital organs in cold temperatures. As a result, blood flow to the paws, legs, nose, and ears diminishes. If the edges of your dog’s ears are cold to the touch, his body is trying to preserve heat. You should probably put some extra layers on him or her for warmth.

If your dog’s body is cold to the touch, it is time to get indoors. A cold body means the cold has reached the core of your dog, and he or she is no longer able to maintain enough heat to protect their organs.  

Go outside and see how you feel

Remember a dog’s body temperature is higher than a human’s, and that is with a built-in fur coat on. If you step outside with your winter coat, hat, and gloves on, and you still feel cold, chances are your furry friend will too12.  

When spending time outside with your pup, you will also want to consider the wind-chill and whether or not your dog will be active while outdoors. Just like humans, dogs tend to warm up once their activity level increases.

How cold is too cold?

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), even dogs with thick coats can get hypothermia or frostbite in freezing weather.  If the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you should consider bundling up your pup13. If the temperature is above 45 degrees, generally, most dogs don’t need coats. However, you should watch for signs that your dog is being affected by the cold, particularly if your dog does not have a thick coat.

Dogs who commonly need a coat

Older dogs and puppies have more trouble regulating their body temperature and are good candidates for winter coats. Dogs who are ill or have underlying health complications can also benefit from some help staying warm.

Small dogs and toy breeds are closer to the ground and tend to lose heat more quickly, so they should have coats on for protection.  This is partially because their bodies are more likely  to come in contact with snow and ice. This category would include breeds like Toy poodles, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire Terriers14.

Short-haired breeds or dogs with thin bodies, like greyhounds, are more easily affected by cold temperatures.  So, even if you have a large breed dog, it would be wise to have a winter coat on hand.  Despite their size, some Great Danes and American Staffordshire Terriers can benefit from an extra layer to help keep them toasty15.

If you have questions about whether or not a coat is the right choice for your pup, consult your veterinarian before heading outdoors with your furry friend.

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets – even during the winter months. PetFirst Pet Insurancecan help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1  has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget. 

Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.


1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force.

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