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Dress your pet for winter in protective outerwear

By Pamela Knudson
Grand Forks Herald

Your dog may have a fur coat, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he can handle the bitter cold and winds Mother Nature batters us with in winter.

“Pet attire,” such as a coat or sweater and booties, provides the extra protection most dogs need to avoid the harmful, sometimes life-threatening, effects of extreme cold, according to veterinarians.

Unless your dog has a thick heavy coat, she could benefit from outerwear to protect against the harmful, sometimes life-threatening, effects of extreme cold, said Dr. Katie Brose, a veterinarian in East Grand Forks, Minn. “Just things to keep their core warm.”

Owners should be concerned about their pets’ feet too, she said.

“If you’re walking in an area where the homeowner uses a de-icer on the walks, not all of those (products) are pet-friendly. The salt can cause soreness between (the dog’s) toes and lead to irritation.

“Those issues go away with cleaning the paw.”

Need depends on breed

Keeping dogs warm, and their paws protected, is important, Brose said, because, unlike humans, dogs don’t have sweat glands; one of the ways they dispel heat is through their feet (the other is panting).

Mark Mayer, a Petco general manager, tells people to imagine themselves standing outside barefoot in snow and ice. “If the dog is going to be out longer than 5 or 10 minutes, 15 minutes tops, I recommend protection on the feet,” he said.

Brose’s advice about dog garments and footwear “would depend on the type of dog,” she said.

“Short-haired dogs, such as Chihuahuas, would benefit from outerwear. Greyhounds need a jacket.”

On the other hand, “Arctic breeds, such as huskies and malamutes, don’t really need protection,” she said. These breeds, “or any breed with a real thick fur coat, such as a chow,” can handle extremely cold temperatures.

“But even these breeds might need foot protection, especially if they’re out for a long time,” Brose said.

Dog booties

Pet stores typically carry several styles of footwear for dogs, Mayer said, including rubber-coated socks that keep paws dry and a heavier-duty fleece-lined sock, with rubberized grips on the soles, recommended for dogs that spend more time outdoors and on icy surfaces.

Another product that “looks like a boot” has fleece lining and rubber soles and is intended for long-duration use outdoors, he said.

Socks and boots cost $20-$40 a pair.

Pet owners could improvise by using infants’ socks or cast-off sweat socks, secured with Velcro, as dog booties, Mayer said.

“You could even use gauze or athletic (bandage)” to wrap your dog’s feet. The goal is to choose, or craft, products “that protect the dog from being cold and wet.”

Frigid weather “dries out the paw real bad,” he said. Because of the resulting irritation, the dog’s “natural instinct is to start licking (the foot pad), and that makes it worse. Then, it breaks open.

“The dog’s tongue surface is rough; licking takes away any dry skin and chafes it even worse.”

Rough or cracked foot pads are best treated with petroleum jelly or a mineral oil-rich lotion, like Vaseline, he said. “The skin absorbs it very well; it has healing power.”

Dogs that are unaccustomed to wearing garments or booties might not like the prospect, Brose said. “Not all dogs do well with booties.”

She recommends taking your dog to the store “to try them on and find the appropriate size, if the store allows it.”

Dogs’ tolerance of outerwear varies, she said.

“Most dogs adjust well to a coat or jacket. Some are not going to tolerate it at all. It just depends on your dog’s personality.”

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