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Smaller dogs just might need a winter coat

Also, what to look for in dental chews for dogs; and don't make assumptions about owners of lost pets.

Cute West Highland Terrier wears a coat.

Cute West Highland Terrier wears a coat. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Marjan Apostolovic

When I walk my King Charles Spaniel in the morning and afternoon, I’ve noticed a lot of dog owners have their dogs bundled up with coats on. My dog has a beautiful thick coat and from all appearances isn’t bothered by the cold weather. She goes out into the backyard the first thing every morning and spends 10 to 12 minutes checking out her territory. My questions are, should she be wearing a coat of some sort? If not, how cold can dogs, and especially my dog Rosie, stand before needing some protection against low temps? -- Tom, Jamesport

There is no general temperature rule for when dogs should wear winter coats, but when temperatures drop below 40 degrees, pet parents should consider a number of factors when deciding if their pet needs extra protection from the cold:

First, consider the dog’s size. Smaller dogs less than 20 pounds and with shorter coats tend to get colder faster and may be shivering at 40-degrees whereas a dog like Rosie with a heavy coat may love the brisk air. Other factors to consider include an individual dog’s tolerance for cold; a dog’s age (senior pets may need extra protection); and the length and thickness of a dog’s coat.

Each day also presents a new set of weather circumstances to consider. For example, it could be 35 degrees outside, but sunny, which may be easier for dogs to tolerate, than a 35-degree day that’s windy, wet and icy.

The best determinant, however, is how your dog actually behaves in cold weather. Many Cavalier Spaniels have thick coats, and Rosie may be just fine without any outerwear on most days. If Rosie balks about going or staying outside or starts shivering from the cold, then you might want to consider a winter coat for her. Otherwise, she sounds like she loves cold weather.

  

Can you recommend any brand or brands of chew bones that are safe for my small female dog? There are so many on the market that are dangerous. -- Earl, Pembroke Pines, Florida

There are many great dental chews on the market, so I am reluctant to name brands. But I am happy to give you some guidelines on how to select a good dental chew for your dog.

Most dental chews are packaged by the weight of the dog, making it easy for pet owners to find the right-sized product for their pet and prevent choking hazards. These products range from mini and petite for 5 to 15 pounds dogs to extra-large for dogs 90 pounds and over.

When it comes to the number of ingredients, less is better. Look for products that say they are “highly digestible,” and don’t have added grains, sugar, salt, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Look for products made in the United States, and steer clear of dental chews made in countries like China or Taiwan, which have proved hazardous to dogs.

  

Regarding the letter writer who found a lost cat, I wanted to mention that microchips can work their way out of the skin after several years. My vet told me this when I first chipped my pets. It’s possible that the cat’s owners thought if someone found their cat that the chip would reveal their location, so they didn’t put signs up right away. Or, maybe they were out of town and unaware the cat didn’t return immediately. I agree it is not wise to leave cats outside for many reasons, but to keep this pet when someone is looking for it seems cruel. It would be nice for the rescuer to give this pet back. Maybe the rescuer could offer to pet sit or educate the pet owner on the dangers of letting cats roam. -- Renee, Skokie, Illinois

Very often, people make false assumptions about a pet’s previous owner to justify keeping a lost pet. If a pet looks ruffled and shabby, the rescuer thinks the previous owners didn’t take care of the pet when, in actuality, the pet may look like that from being on the street for just a day or two.

Sadly, lots of people get attached quickly and decide to keep a lost pet. I ask them to imagine how they would feel if their beloved pet was lost and never returned. It’s a desperate feeling. The right thing to do is return lost pets to their owners when the owners are known.

  

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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