Rumour has it that winter is here.
With snow blanketing the beaches and threats of more on the way, it’s time to put the flip flops away and consider warmer attire for our doggos.
Stylish dog coats, boots, scarves and hats can be found at every pet store, but are they necessary? Is it really important to dress your dog up from head to toe and turn Fido into a fashionista? Lets take a closer look, starting with your dog’s paws.
As humans we often think that if we are cold in the winter then our dogs must be as well, especially their feet, because we certainly would not want to be walking around in bare feet in the middle of winter. But research suggests our dogs can tolerate the cold far better than humans due to the pads of their feet having a high fat content and a unique circulatory system in their paws.
Researchers at the Yamazaki Gakuen University in Tokyo, Japan utilized electron microscopes to observe the feet of dogs and found that within the dog’s feet the veins run parallel to arteries. Arteries carry warm blood from the heart to extremities and veins carry cold blood back to the heart. This means that as a dog’s feet begin to get cold, the heart pumps warm blood to the feet quickly via the artery. When the warm blood arrives in the paws, that heat is transferred to the blood in the veins because of the close proximity to the arteries. This simple, yet effective heat transfer system essentially keeps your dog’s feet warm.
Researchers also claimed that a dog could withstand temperatures as cold as -35 C . . . but I suggest we not test that theory, OK? Under no circumstances should dogs be left outside during frigid temperatures. Yes, husky owners, I hear you yelling at me right now and I know you think your dogs are the exception to the rule. Fine…
Anyway, because of this heat exchange system, dog booties are not really necessary. But even though dogs feet do not freeze, there is a compelling argument for the use of dog boots to protect a dog’s feet from elements other than the cold such as snow build up between toes and corrosive road salt.
If you do choose to purchase boots for your dog make sure they are designed more for traction than warmth because once you cover a dog’s paw with a boot, you remove their built in traction control of naturally abrasive pads and crampons called toe nails.
When fitting the boot, make sure there is ample room for the foot to spread within the boot because a dog’s paw naturally spreads out (it’s part of that built in traction control) while walking and if it is hindered by the walls of a boot it will bruise the toes and be painful.
Now onto jackets. When we see our dogs “naked” in the colder weather we think we have to bundle them up. And while it is important to keep your dog warm, remember that dogs have fur. Some dogs have more fur than others and that is what you have to take into consideration when purchasing a jacket.
Do my dogs have winter jackets? Carter my German Shorthaired Pointer does but Raider doesn’t. Am I playing favourites?
Carter has a short, single layer of fur with no thick downy undercoat. He also has very little body fat for insulation. All of this is by design, to have fur that easily sheds water and burrs and to prevent over-heating when working. What this all means is that dogs like Carter need jackets to help them stay warm. Raider, on the other hand, is a mix of border collie, Australian shepherd and German shepherd, all of which are known for their double coats of long guard hairs and dense downy under coats. His long guard hairs shed snow and rain and his downy undercoat keeps him warm. A jacket on Raider or dogs like him would guarantee overheating.
There are numerous styles of dog jackets to choose from. Try them on your dog to see which one offers the best protection for your dog and remember to put practicality before fashion. The bejewelled faux leather biker jacket may look cute but offer no practical use to keep your dog warm on those chilly days at the park.
Now get out and enjoy the season!
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at email@example.com.