Basic Pet Care
Does My Pet Need Clothes
Ever wonder if your pet needs clothing? The answer depends on your pet's "natural coat". Most dogs and cats grow three types of hair: whiskers, the undercoat, and the outercoat.1 The undercoat is the layer of hair that is closest to the skin and insulates the animal. The location of the undercoat makes it harder to see than the other types of hair, so you might not realize it is actually there! The outercoat, which is the layer that grows past the undercoat, is what you typically see and feel when you pet your dog or cat. For hairless breeds, they have little to no hair of any kind. These animals are ideal for clothing year-round.
As the weather becomes warmer, your pet's body signals to let go of the undercoat to in a process called "shedding". When the undercoat is fully shed, the space it leaves allows air flow next to the skin to cool the animal, so shaving your pet may not be necessary. It is recommended to brush your pet routinely especially while they are shedding as they may need help in the removal process to prevent matted fur. It is important to note that if shaved, the hair might not grow back to the previous length, texture, and color. The outercoat does not shed in order to protect the skin from harmful UV rays, and even helps to protect your pet from pests like flies! However, the outercoat cannot protect your pet from all pests so a flea-and-tick preventative such as Bravecto or Activyl is still recommended.
As the weather becomes cooler, your pet's body will trigger undercoat growth which should be sufficient to protect your pet in cold weather. Since humans have begun breeding dogs and cats for selected qualities such as coat quality and type, some breeds may need additional layers for their health depending on your climate. If you live in a cooler area and have a pet with shorter hair, you may want to invest in some coats, sweaters, and jackets. Pet clothing is available online and in retail stores, so the perfect outfit for your pet is always at your fingertips! Make sure that your pet is comfortable in whatever clothing item you purchase by ensuring that two fingers may be comfortably placed at the tightest places: collar, sleeve cuffs, chest and shoulders. It should not constrict movement or breathing. Also, choose a material that will not irritate your pet's skin to avoid causing a secondary bacterial infection from your pet trying to scratch the clothing item off. If you are on a budget, stores also have sales and clearances on pet apparel. Another option would be to create your own clothing for your pet. Many pet clothing patterns can be found in craft stores and on the internet.
Not all animals will tolerate clothing. If you are more interested in protecting your pet's feet, booties are available for your pet's paws. The booties will help protect your pet's feet from frostbite, cuts from sharp ice, and from chemical snow melt products in the winter. If your pet is unable to walk comfortably in booties, other products such as paw wax and paw balms are available to moisturize and protect paws from cold temperatures. Please discuss with your veterinarian what options will work best for you and your pet.
Consider the season when dressing your dog or cat. If your pet shivers when it is outside and wants to go back into the house quickly, then your pet needs a coat. If you have a hairless breed, your pet should have a light shirt in the summer and perhaps warmer apparel such as sweaters or coats when outside in the winter months. You should also remember to protect your pet from harmful UV rays when outside. If you notice that your otherwise outdoor-loving pet does not want to go outside when it rains, raincoats are available. There are times when it is smart to provide your dog with optional clothing such as a life jacket when doing water sports.
While many dogs and cats may not need clothing, there are plenty of reasons and events that may justify a piece of fashion for Fluffy or Fido! Just remember to make sure the clothing is appropriate to the situation or season and is properly fitted. Then snap a cute photo for your social media post!
Written by Ruth Yang, a proud "Dobermom" and a seasoned pet-dresser. Ruth has been dressing her red Doberman in functional and fashionable, seasonal apparel for 12 years. She has never regretted it once!