When the temperatures drop, we bundle up in jackets, mittens and boots, but our pets aren’t always so well-equipped to deal with the cold. Small dogs and those with short coats are especially susceptible to hypothermia. Freezing weather can cause painful ice balls to form between dogs’ toes—and their tender ears, noses, and even the tips of their tails can suffer frostbite.
That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy walks and play time in the cold. But we do need to protect our pups with winter gear that will keep them warm, safe, and dry.
Dog Boots and Booties
If your dog will tolerate boots or weather-resistant booties, you’re in luck. These offer good protection from ice, snow and the chemicals used on slippery sidewalks and streets. Tip: Look for boots or booties that are snug enough to stay on, but that won’t crowd or hurt his toes.
Ultra Paws Durable Dog Boots are water resistant and have tacky bottoms to help prevent sliding.
The American Kennel Club recommends dog boots or booties with textured soles and waterproof or water-resistant materials that are flexible and breathable.
Opt for Velcro straps that adjust for a proper fit. Then let your dog get used to his new footwear indoors, for short periods of time, before he ventures out.
Wool is a great insulator, but some dogs, like some people, find it itchy. Make sure your pup can tolerate wool before you buy. Washable wool items made with cotton or acrylic are a good choice. Avoid anything with buttons, snaps or other items your dog might chew and swallow. Tip: when purchasing a jacket, sweater, etc., make sure it has an easily accessible opening so you can hook your dog’s collar to his leash.
Weatherbeeta makes waterproof, breathable dog coats for a variety of weather conditions. You can find everything from durable polyfill parkas to lightweight windbreakers, and coats made of fleece or tweed. Many come with reflective strips.
Alpine Outfitters uses Therma Stretch Polartec in their high-tech, extreme weather jackets. The slick material helps keep snow from sticking and repels wind and rain. They’re lined with fleece to keep your pet snug.
If you want to cover your dog’s exposed neck and chest, consider a jacket from Hurrta. Their Ultimate Warmer is made for active dogs and has a waterproof Houndtex shell and elastic leg straps. Hurrta also offers a Casual Quilted Coverall that covers all four of your dog’s legs and repels water.
Not all dogs need winter jackets; Malamutes, for example, have dense coats. But Chihuahuas and other breeds can benefit from winter wear, unless you live in a warm climate.
Dog Rain Slickers
Most humans don’t enjoy the smell of wet dogs. Most dogs don’t enjoy being wet, either. Keep yours dry with a raincoat or poncho with a reflective strip, so he’ll be easy to see even on cloudy, rainy days.
Thundershirt, already the choice of many pet parents who use it to calm their dogs during storms, makes an Outerwear Raincoat that offers light protection from wind and rain and can be worn with or without the regular Thundershirt underneath.
For rainy, cool days, opt for a PETBABA reflective poncho. This waterproof jacket is lightweight and comes with a hood.
The hooded rain slicker by i’Pet, for medium to large dogs, has a waterproof outer layer and mesh inside for breathability.
Dog Sweaters and Sweatshirts
If you live where the winters are mild, your pup may not need more than a light sweater or shirt.
Equafleece, based in the U.K., sells t-shirts made from 97% cotton and 3 % elastane (spandex).
BaxterBoo offers sweatshirts with or without hoodies (sorry, no ear holes). Made of cotton and polyester, they’re recommended for chilly weather.
Dog Balms and Salves
If your furry friend refuses to wear boots or booties, you can still protect his paws with a balm.
Developed in Canada for sled dogs, Musher’s Secret is a natural wax coating that’s semi-permeable, so sweat can escape from between his toes.
Your nose gets cold when you’re outside in the winter; your dog’s can, too. His can also become dry, cracked and painful.
Protect it with Snout Soother or Nose and Toes Pet Balm.
Once you’re back inside, be sure to remove your dog’s winter gear, so he won’t overheat. After an exhilarating walk or romp in the cold, it’s time for a cup of cocoa for you and a nap by the fire for him.
Editor’s Note: For more tips on how to keep your pet warm in the winter, read these 5 tips for winterizing your pet.
Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at LynnCoulter.com. She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.