Do Dogs Need Warm Clothes?

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Your dog has been cooped up in the house all day long, so when you come home and head out to your car for just a few minutes, he can’t help but follow you with his tail wagging. Once inside, however, things get much cooler which means that it’s harder than ever for him to keep himself from overheating.


Dogs don’t sweat like humans do, so instead of panting through their mouths, they tend to overheat by releasing excess body heat through their fur. When temperatures outside hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), these furry little critters start sweating buckets. In fact, some dogs will actually take off more weight during hot weather because they’re shedding so much water-rich perspiration.


This causes two problems: one, your pet doesn’t cool down as quickly as he heats up, and two, without any way to regulate his temperature, he’ll become dehydrated. Both can lead to serious health issues, including kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. Since most pets aren’t able to control their own internal thermostat, we’re going to talk about how to cool them down effectively.


First, let’s look at what happens to your dog’s temperature when it gets really hot. The human version of this is called hyperthermia, and it occurs when our core body temperature rises above 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees C).


This increases the work of our muscles and nervous system, making us feel weak and tired. Our bodies also release toxins from damaged cells as part of an immune response, causing further muscle cramps and dehydration. If left untreated, hyperthermia can even cause death. For your dog, excessive heat does exactly the same thing.


So what keeps your pet’s temperature regulated? It turns out that, unlike humans, dogs don’t have any sweat glands or other cooling mechanisms built into their skin. Their only method of regulating body temperature comes from the blood vessels on their tongues, ears and paws. As such, dogs typically use three basic methods to stay cool: drinking lots of fluids, finding shade and applying ice packs or fans. They may also lick cool objects like cucumbers, bananas or snow. And remember those little strips of cloth that veterinarians put on cats’ eyes to treat conjunctivitis? These are sometimes used on dogs, too, though not always with great results.


What is a Pet Heat Wave?


In 2007, scientists coined the term “Pet Heat Wave” to describe the deadly effects of extreme heat on pets. A heat wave is defined as three consecutive days where high temperatures reach 90 F (32 C) or higher. During a typical summertime heat wave, temperatures rise to around 100 F (38 C). However, if the heat stays extremely humid, then the mercury could easily climb beyond 110 F (43 C).


During a recent heat wave, the New York City Fire Department rescued dozens of small animals trapped inside cars. Many were found dead due to carbon monoxide poisoning after running out of air while trying to escape the stifling conditions. Other pets perished after becoming trapped in windowless garages. One woman reported that her cat died after spending hours baking in her South Carolina garage in August 2006.


While many people think of dogs as being especially susceptible to extreme heat, cats are often victims, too. Cats spend more time lounging indoors, where the temperature remains consistent year round. This makes them less likely to seek shelter outdoors during a heat wave.


On top of that, cats are generally smaller than dogs, meaning that they don’t have as much room to shed extra moisture and lose heat as fast. Even if cats do find refuge in the sun, they still run the risk of getting sunburned. In addition, indoor cats are also exposed to allergens and chemicals like ammonia and cigarette smoke. All of these factors combine to make cats particularly vulnerable to extreme heat.


If you want to see if your dog might be suffering from extreme heat, check its coat for dryness and dandruffiness. To test its ability to cool itself, put your pet in front of a fan or open window. After five minutes, give it a pat on the backside. If it seems lethargic or uncomfortable, immediately call your vet. Now that we know why extreme heat is dangerous for pets, let’s talk about how to prevent them from overheating.


Keeping Your Dog’s Temperature Balanced


When it comes to keeping your dog cool, there are several different types of clothing available for pooches. Some provide a simple barrier between your pet and the elements. Others offer additional protection from UV rays. Still others protect against extreme cold. Let’s go over each type of option.


For milder cases, Ruffwear manufactures fleece blankets designed specifically for dogs. Made from soft yet durable nylon fibers, the company’s blankets keep your pet snugly wrapped in warmth. If your pet needs something warmer, Ruffwear offers sweaters, vests and leashes made from similar material. You can also purchase custom hoodies and sweatshirts tailored to fit your pup. There are also special ponchos that attach to collars for maximum coverage.


Another popular product is Petmate’s Coolaroo jacket. Instead of relying solely on insulation, this garment uses a combination of reflective panels and zippered vents to regulate airflow. While it won’t stop your pet’s tongue from evaporating moisture, it should help reduce the amount of liquid that escapes through the animal’s hair and fur. Unfortunately, the jacket costs $199.99, which isn’t cheap for most owners.


Fido would probably rather wear a T-shirt than a sweater. That’s OK, because there are plenty of options for providing your pooch with some extra comfort, whether it’s just protecting him from the sun or keeping him warmer during extended outdoor excursions. Most major retailers carry fleecy t-shirts made from lightweight cotton.


Look for tags that indicate the shirt meets safety standards set forth by Underwriters Laboratories Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on consumer products.


Another excellent choice is a hat made from breathable mesh fabric. Simply slip your favorite canine companion into a protective cap with a wide brim. There’s no reason for your pet to suffer during extreme cold weather either. Several companies design coats, hats, mittens, booties and neck gaiters to combat frigid temperatures.


While these items may not help regulate your pet’s internal temperature, they should be enough to save him from frostbite and hypothermia. Some manufacturers even create specially formulated fabrics that repel moisture, helping to keep your pet dry in wetter climates.


We’ve looked at what happens to your pet’s temperature when it gets too hot. Now let’s discuss how to keep your dog safe when the mercury drops. One of the best ways to keep your dog cool is to build a backyard pool. By building a sturdy plastic structure filled with water, you can easily create a swimming area for your pet. Just ensure that your dog wears a life vest when using the pool. Also, be sure to install motion sensors near the entrance.


Cold Weather Gear


As winter approaches, experts recommend giving your dog a bath before taking him outside. Not only does bathing remove loose debris and dirt from his coat, it also helps to lower his body temperature. Bathing can also help eliminate the odor caused by bacteria that accumulate when your dog licks soggy grasses and leaves.


Afterward, apply petroleum jelly to your pet’s nose and feet to seal in body heat. Don’t forget to feed him well, since he’ll be eating fewer calories to maintain his normal temperature. Finally, bundle your dog up in a heavy blanket, and leave him alone in a dark, quiet space until spring arrives.


Since dogs naturally live in colder climates, they can withstand harsher environments than their feline counterparts. Cats require a lot of sunlight and fresh air to remain healthy. Dogs, on the other hand, can survive in areas with harsh winters thanks to thick layers of fat under their skin. Like bears, polar bears and Arctic foxes, dogs can hibernate throughout the winter months. During this period, they eat very little food, drink plenty of water and avoid direct sunlight.


Wrap Up

To learn more about keeping pets healthy, explore the links on the following page.

Some people believe that the number of times your pet urinates per hour indicates how healthy he is. If your pet goes to the bathroom four or more times in half an hour, you should pay closer attention to his diet. Otherwise, try to ignore the frequency of your pet’s toilet breaks.