Man in blue hoodie holding small dog, also wearing blue hoodie

Does my pet need clothes?

It’s more than just a fashion statement. Your pet may benefit from seasonally appropriate clothing.

Ever wonder if your pet needs clothing? The answer depends on his natural coat, breed, body conditions, and more. There’s more to pet fur than meets the eye, and fur tends to change with the seasons. Understanding this process is the first step in determining whether your pet needs clothing to protect him from the outdoors (whether he needs it to show off his style is a matter of taste).

The facts on fur1

Most dogs (and cats) grow three types of hair: whiskers, the undercoat, and the outer coat.2

The undercoat is the layer of hair that’s 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 even realize it’s there!

The outer coat, which is the layer that grows past the undercoat, is what you typically see and feel when you pet your dog or cat. Unless, of course, your pet is hairless. Hairless breeds have little to no fur of any kind.

As the weather becomes warmer, your pet’s body signals to let go of the undercoat in a process called shedding. When the undercoat is fully shed, the space it leaves allows airflow next to the skin to cool the animal. Brushing your pet daily is always a good idea, but it’s especially beneficial when she’s shedding since brushing helps remove loose fur and prevent matting.1

As the weather becomes cooler, your pet’s body will trigger undercoat growth. For many pets, this undercoat growth is enough to keep them warm during cold weather. But, depending on the climate and the breed of your pet, he may benefit from some additional layers.

Bundling up your buddy

If you live in a cooler area and have a pet with shorter hair, you may want to invest in coats, sweaters, or jackets. If your pet shivers when he is outside and wants to go back into the house quickly, then some extra outerwear is worth a try. If you have a hairless breed, the extra warmth provided by clothing may be especially important.

If your primary cold-weather concern is your pet’s paws, consider trying pet booties. Booties help protect your pet’s feet from frostbite, cuts from sharp ice, and irritation 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. Talk to your veterinarian about what options will work best for you and your pet.

If you notice that your otherwise outdoor-loving pet does not want to go outside when it rains, you can even get him a raincoat.

Clothing for summer sun and fun

It’s also important to protect your pet during the summer months, too. If you have a hairless breed, your pet should have a light shirt in the summer.3 If you and your pup are going out on the water or participating in water sports, a pet life jacket is essential.

Comfort is key

Whether you’re going out for winter fun or summer sun, make sure your pet is comfortable in the clothes you choose. Make sure that two fingers can be comfortably placed at the tightest places: collar, sleeve cuffs, chest, and shoulders. Clothing should never constrict movement or breathing.

Choose a material that will not irritate your pet’s skin like cotton, spandex, and polyester.4 Too much scratching at uncomfortable clothing can lead to a secondary bacterial infection of the skin.

And be aware that not all animals will tolerate clothing — no matter how adorable they look. Talk to your veterinarian about any clothing issues your pet may be experiencing.


  1. Coile, Caroline. Does My Dog Have Hair or Fur? American Kennel Club.
  2. Skin & Hair 101: Anatomy & Function in Dogs. PetCoach Editorial.
  3. Meyers, Harriet. Do Dogs Need Sunscreen?
  4. The 3 Best Cat Clothing Materials. Essentials Pet Care.

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