Americans spend over $60 billion on their pets annually. A lot of that money is spent on novelty items, including winter clothing for dogs. A dog owner might mean well when purchasing a warm sweater for a pet, but not all dogs need the additional warmth. Here is a guide to help determine whether a beloved pet dog can benefit from a cold weather sweater.

Does the Dog Have an Undercoat?

Certain dogs were originally bred to thrive in cold climates, like Alaskan malamutes, Siberian huskies, Bernese mountain dogs, and Newfoundlands. They are able to work in and withstand frigid temperatures because of their undercoats. An "undercoat" is a second layer of soft, insulating fur that keeps the animal warm. 

Certain other dog breeds were created to help their owners in wet environments, like wirehaired fox terriers, wirehaired Jack Russell terriers, and Cairn terriers. These breeds have coarse "guard hairs" that slough moisture away from the dog's body. 

Because these dogs already have built-in "sweaters," their owners do not need to help them stay warm. Breeds that were not created for cold-weather survival, however, could use the extra protection that breeding did not provide. Breeds lacking protective coats include Chihuahuas, Basenjis, and especially Xoloitzcuintlis, which have no coat at all.

Does the Dog Have Little Body Fat?

Dogs that have more "meat" are better able to maintain their body temperatures than dogs that have very little body fat. Thus, dogs with less body fat can benefit from a sweater more than their thicker companions. Examples of thin breeds are Greyhounds, Whippets, and Doberman Pinschers. These breeds have high metabolisms and little body fat, so they have a difficult time regulating their body temperatures in winter. 

Is the Dog in Poor Health?

Even if a dog is bred for cold climates or can maintain its body temperature, it still might enjoy a sweater if it is older or in poor health. Like people, dogs can suffer from arthritis, cancers, liver disease, and kidney disease. These conditions can decrease a dog's ability to withstand cold temperatures.

The owner of a dog with a health condition should take note of how the pet reacts to winter weather; if it trembles or seems intolerant of the chill, then the owner should consider giving it a sweater. 

Parting Thoughts

Sweaters can enhance a dog's quality of life in the winter months. Yet, if it is a breed that is naturally able to withstand the cold, then a sweater is unnecessary and potentially even dangerous because it can cause the dog to overheat.

When ice or snow is on the ground, however, even cold-weather breeds can benefit from special boots made specifically for dog paws. Dogs' paws are very sensitive and will not be protected from the elements by an extra coat or extra body fat. As a result, almost all dogs can better enjoy their time outside when outfitted with dog boots. For more information on protecting your dog in the cold, contact a veterinary hospital like Lincoln Way Animal Complex.