Does my Dog Need a Winter Coat?

4 min read
Jan 09, 2022

With snow, wind, and freezing temperatures covering a majority of the country, pet owners continue to layer up in winter coats and seasonal gear. However, many pet owners may also be wondering: what about my dog?   

Can Dogs Wear Winter Coats? 

You may wonder if dogs necessarily need a winter coat, or if fur can provide all the protection they require. The answer may depend on your dog, as well as a few other factors which may include:1

  • Breed 
  • Size 
  • Age 
  • Health 
  • Climate 

Wind, outdoor temperature and how long you plan to be outdoors with your furry friend can also be relevant.  

Dog Breeds and Cold Temperatures  

Some breeds may be better equipped to deal with the cold temperatures than others. 

There are certain large dog breeds that have thick coats which are better suited for handling the cold.2 Examples of dogs that have fur coats designed to keep them warm are: 

Signs your Dog is Feeling the Chill 

Even if your dog has a thick coat of fur, that does not mean he or she is immune to cold weather.  If your dog’s coat becomes wet or matted, it can quickly become cold. Regardless of size or breed, it’s crucial that you closely monitor your dog for any signs that he or she is feeling cold. 

Signs that your dog is too cold can often include:7

  • Shivering 
  • Trembling 
  • Hunching the back to conserve heat 
  • Lifting paws up 
  • Limping 
  • Acting anxious or distressed 
  • Slowing down 
  • Tucking the tail close to the body 
  • Barking or moaning 
  • Hiding behind things to seek shelter from the cold 

Here are some additional tricks you can use to determine if your furry companion is feeling too cold: 

Touch your Dog’s Body 

Your pup’s blood circulation is concentrated in the core area to protect the vital organs in cold temperatures. As a result, blood flow to the paws, legs, nose, and ears diminishes with frostbite.8 If the edges of your dog’s ears are cold to the touch, his or her body is trying to preserve heat.9 You should probably put some extra layers on your pup for warmth. 

If your dog’s body is cold to the touch, it is time to get indoors. A cold body means the cold has reached the core of your dog, and he or she is no longer able to maintain enough heat to protect their organs. 

Go outside and See How you Feel 

Remember, a dog’s body temperature is higher than a human’s.10 Plus, they come complete with a built-in fur coat. If you step outside with your winter coat, hat, and gloves on, and you still feel cold, chances are your furry friend will too.11 If you think your dog may need a coat, check out what to look for in a dog coat.

How Cold is too Cold? 

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), even dogs with thick coats can get hypothermia or frostbite in freezing weather.  If the temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you should consider bundling up your pup. If the temperature is above 45 degrees, generally, most dogs don’t need coats.12 However, you should watch for signs that your dog is being affected by the cold, particularly if your dog does not have a thick coat. 

Dog Breeds that Commonly need a Coat 

Older dogs and puppies may have more trouble regulating their body temperature, making them good candidates for winter coats. Dogs who are ill or have underlying health complications, as well as small dogs and toy breeds, can also benefit from some help staying warm.  Since some toy breeds, such as Chihuahuas, tend to be shorter, having a coat can help protect their bodies from coming into contact with snow and ice.13

Short-haired breeds or dogs with thin bodies, such as greyhounds, may also prefer to have an extra layer of warmth to make up for their lack of fur.  So, even if you have a large breed dog, it may be wise to have a winter coat on hand.  Despite their size, some Great Danes and American Staffordshire Terriers can also benefit from an extra layer to help keep them toasty.14

If you have questions about whether a coat is the right choice for your pup, consult your veterinarian before heading outdoors with your furry friend.  If you plan on leaving your pup with friends or even at a boarding facility, it could be a good idea to provide a coat for them just in case. 

Protect your Dog with a Dog Insurance Policy 

Having an active dog insurance policy can help you protect your dog this winter. MetLife Pet Insurance1 is proud to stand by dogs and dog owners, both in the snow, and in the sun. Get your free quote

Protect your Dogs

Enroll in 3 Easy Steps

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

1 Does My Dog Need A Winter Coat?, Hill’s Pet 

2 Does My Dog Need a Winter Coat?, American Kennel Club 

3 Siberian Husky Dog Breed - Facts and Traits, Hill’s Pet 

4 Bernese Mountain Dog Breed - Facts and Traits, Hill’s Pet 

5 Newfoundland Dog Breed - Facts and Traits, Hill’s Pet 

6 Saint Bernard Dog Breed - Facts and Traits, Hill’s Pet 

7 Is my Dog Warm Enough?, Elisabeth Geier, Rover  

8 Frostbite in Dogs, VCA Animal Hospitals 

9 Dogs Ears Are Cold, Avid Pup 

10 Why Do Dogs Have a Higher Body Temperature, Martha M. Everett, Dogster 

11 Signs Your Dog Might be Feeling Cold, My Puppy Story 

12 Does my Dog Need a Winter Coat?, American Kennel Club  

13 Chihuahua Dog Breed Dog Breed Hypoallergenic, Health and Life Span, PetMD 

14 American Staffordshire Terrier Dog Breed Information, American Kennel Club