DOES MY GREYHOUND NEED A COAT?
You wear a coat when it’s cold outside, so naturally, you may wonder if your Greyhound should wear one, too. Although dogs come equipped with their own fur coat, during the winter some dogs may need a little extra insulation. Are dog coats necessary in the winter, or is their fur enough to insulate them from the cold? Let's find out.
Greyhounds are more sensitive to the colder weather so they could use the extra layering. Slender breeds like Greyhounds and other sighthounds should always wear a coat in winter months. In general, all breeds with low body fat should wear a coat to insulate the body. Cold affects your dog mentally as well as physically! Years ago, when I got my first Greyhound, my vet said when you need a coat, your dog will need a coat! I never forgot that.
Intense cold can cause hypothermia, which occurs when a dog’s body temperature falls to dangerously low levels. Hypothermia causes muscles to stiffen and breathing and heart rate to slow. In serious cases, it can be fatal. Frigid weather may also cause frostbite, which most often affects a dog’s ears, tail, or paws. (A winter coat can help prevent hypothermia, but has no effect on frostbite, which afflicts extremities.)
Other times when more breeds of dog will need a coat:
- Young dogs, older dogs, and immunocompromised dogs should wear a coat to help prevent chilling
- Dogs with thin, short, or missing fur should wear a coat to protect the skin from chilling and to slow loss of body heat
- Dogs fighting illness or disease can benefit from the added warmth of a coat
- Small dog breeds need coats to prevent rapid chilling due to loss of body heat
- Dogs with arthritic or painful joints can benefit from the warmth of a coat to keep joints moving more freely
Some Greyhounds are uncomfortable wearing apparel and should never be forced to do so. Try letting your dog wear the coat in the house for a few minutes at a time. If he or she is not responsive — or does the famous “freeze in place” pose — scratch the idea and move on. Don’t force your dog to wear clothes that stress her out, as this can do more harm than good when you look at the big picture. If your dog is clearly opposed to wearing a coat (for example, shows signs of anxiety or repeatedly tries to take it off), then modify their routine to minimize their exposure to cold weather. A dog probably doesn’t need a coat if she’s going outside for a short bathroom break. Just make sure it’s very short.
Some people opt for dog booties, which is a smart idea in the winter months. Chemicals can be absorbed through a dog’s sensitive pads. In turn, those chemicals (such as what’s found in antifreeze) can be licked by dogs and cause severe problems. Wash dog pads off thoroughly after a walk, perhaps using some warm water and a washcloth to melt any ice balls that may have formed on the bottom of their feet, if they don’t want to wear booties.
If you purchase booties for your hound, make sure to choose ones that have good traction so your pup won't slip on wet sidewalks or grass. Remember to check how the boots fit, too. Most dog booties come with Velcro or a strap to tighten the boots around the paws.
If you've decided that your pooch could benefit from additional clothing in the winter months, it's time to choose how you'll dress them. Depending on the weather and your pet's sensitivity, a dog sweater might be all they need to stay warm. However, if the weather forecast includes freezing temperatures, snow, hail or cold rain, a winter jacket might be necessary. Make sure to purchase outerwear that is properly suited to your dog's size. It should fit snug around them to trap in their body heat, but not tight to where it cuts off circulation or mobility.
Fit is a critical factor for your dog’s comfort and safety. It is important to make sure your pet’s sweater or coat is not too snug or too loose, as that can be dangerous. It is especially important to check the fit around your pet’s neck and armpit area to ensure there isn’t any rubbing or irritation. Measure your dog before making any purchases.
To find the right fit, you’ll need to know how to measure a dog for a sweater or coat. With the Greyhound standing up, use a soft measuring tape (or a piece of string and a ruler) to measure your dog’s neck, chest girth and body length. Match these up to the size chart for the clothing, and size up if your dog is between sizes.
Experts also recommend finding a coat or jacket that’s easy for your dog to get in and out of. A good dog coat will cover your dog’s neck, belly, and back. Waterproof fabrics are important, because a wet dog will get colder much faster than a dry one. The dog coat shouldn’t have parts that can be chewed off and swallowed, so look for one that doesn’t have a zipper, buttons, or tags.
Never leave your pet unattended while wearing a jacket or coat, and never leave your pet outside during extreme temperatures. Even if your dog is wearing a coat, monitor them for shivering, whining, or anxiety. These behaviors could indicate that your dog is too cold; even with a coat on.
When dressing your pet up in their new winter fashions, make sure to keep an eye out for signs of hives or itching. Some dogs can have allergies to certain fabrics or detergents, so you will want to make sure they are comfortable and safe.
Be sure to remove your dog’s coat when you return home. A dog wearing a coat indoors can overheat quickly.
Many factors come into play when determining whether or not you should put a winter coat on your dog. It’s important to consider wind chill, whether or not your dog could get wet, and how sunny it is before taking your dog outside. When in doubt, play it safe. You can always take the coat off if your dog appears to be getting too warm. Any time you’re out in the cold and see your dog shivering, seeking out warmth, limping, slowing down, or acting anxious or distressed in any way, it’s time to go inside.