Canine Couture

Winter attire for pets goes beyond fun fashion; it’s also functional
Wednesday, February 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:34 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

If you have walked outside recently, you may have seen more than people bundled in coats and sweaters. Now dogs also have the opportunity to strut their fashionable winter attire while keeping warm.

During the winter months, remaining warm yet stylish has been a challenge for people and dogs alike.

Fifi and Romeo, a Los Angeles dog boutique whose clothes have been featured on the “Legally Blonde” films dog, Bruiser, offers a full line of cashmere clothing for dogs. The line’s original 100 percent cashmere sweater is one of the most popular selling items. It runs at $125.

If you’re not one of the 65 million dog owners ready to put down $125 for a new dog sweater, though, don’t worry. Several Columbia pet stores offer more reasonably priced items for dog owners to choose from.

Pet store managers said their stock of dog sweaters, coats and booties have been selling quickly.

“We’re about out of everything now,” said Catherine Morgan, assistant manager of Petco.

A dog’s core body temperature is 101.5 degrees, said Burton Schauf, a veterinarian at Columbia’s Pet Center, Ltd. If the temperature decreases, it could result in problems for the dog.

“When temperatures get to be this severe, then a person needs to be sure that even the dog is doing OK out there,” he said.

Schauf said dogs unacclimated to the cold weather should not be outside unsupervised for long periods. Dogs that stay outside need to be kept out of the wind and moisture and have dry bedding of straw or blankets in their doghouses, he said.

“With severe wind chills, we encourage dog owners to ensure that their dogs have protection from the wind,” said Julie Noie, manager of Doggie Empawrium.

Doggy Empawrium is one of many local stores to carry winter dog apparel. Noie said dog coats are the biggest seller in apparel at the store. The coats come in a variety of styles, including fleece and denim with fur collars. All the styles are washable and range from $30 to $70.

“We’re being really picked over right now,” Noie said.

In addition to selling coats, Petco also offers sweaters for dogs.

“The little dogs seem to prefer sweaters,” Morgan said.

Petco’s sweaters are $10 to $30. For $25, owners of small dogs can choose from decorated or embroidered styles with fake scarves.

According to Schauf, dogs can benefit from sweaters or coats while outside.

“Some of the little dogs that have a difficult time keeping warm certainly benefit from that,” Schauf said.

Owners must be sure, though, that when the dogs come back inside, they do not become overheated, Schauf said.

Besides warm bodies, dogs also need to have dry, clean feet. Booties are one way dog owners can ensure their dogs’ paws stay warm and dry.

“People think as long as the dogs have coats, they’re OK,” Noie said. “But their paws are as important as anything.”

Exposure to ice-melt products can cause chemical burns on a dog’s feet, and ice chunks can damage its pads, Schauf said. Owners should check their dogs’ feet for any signs of damage.

“The booties can be helpful keeping the slush and the snow and the salt away from their feet,” Schauf said.

Ashley Robertson, manager of Award Pet Supply, said the store sells booties with a fleece inside and a rubber, waterproof material on the outside. The booties range from $20 to $40.

Morgan recommended putting booties on a dog while it is still in the house, so the dog has time to get used to them.

“They just feel so strange,” she said. “Whether the dog will wear them or not depends entirely on the dog.”

Schauf said the dog’s clothing should not be restricting, particularly on the feet.

“I think common sense needs to reign with these pets,” he said.

When a dog is cold, it will shiver, Schauf said. Although some small dogs naturally shiver, owners should pay attention to a noticeable shiver, he said.

“Again,” Schauf said, “Common sense.”

Michelle Petersen, of Columbia, said she knew her dog Baron, a miniature poodle, was cold when Baron started to shake. Baron now wears a green Air Force coat to keep warm when he goes outside.

As long as the cold weather continues, pet stores will continue to keep their shelves stocked with winter dog clothing.

“It’s kind of like department stores and swimsuits,” Morgan said. “We’re getting out, and they’re not really replenishing a lot of our sweaters right now. We’ll be getting in T-shirts [for dogs] here probably shortly.”

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