Can My Pet’s Winter Coat Predict the Weather?

It’s one of those old farmers’ axioms that if your animals put on a thick coat in the fall, a bad winter is coming, so we should prepare. Is there any truth in that? 

As summer rolls into autumn, it’s the shortening of the days and less sunlight hours that causes dogs and cats to release hormones that build a coat of very soft, short fur underneath their regular coat, to insulate them from winter weather. So even if you live in Arizona, your pet’s body will go through this process. In the spring, when days become longer again, another hormone causes them to shed. 

Not all dogs and cats develop a second coat. Some dog breeds have only one coat. A few even have three. If you are unsure which kind of dog you have, you can find out from the American Kennel Club website. 

Usually, dogs with short fur will not grow an undercoat. Exceptions to this generalization are the long-haired Maltese, Afghan Hound and Saluki. These dogs will need more protection to go outside in colder months.

Triple-coated dogs can grow overlapping matted layers, like the shingles on a roof, that keep growing, sometimes reaching the ground. Certain shaggy sheepdogs are in this category. Also, extreme cold weather dogs like Samoyeds, Pomeranians, Chows, Malamutes and Huskies have a long outer coat, a fuzzy winter undercoat, and a third layer of even tinier fuzz. 

Dog groomers say you can tell the difference with a blow dryer. When you blow cool air directly on the fur, a one- or two-coat dog will show skin between the strands of fur. A dog with three coats just shows more fuzz on top of the skin. 

Do cats grow winter coats? Except for the hairless Sphinx, cats always have an undercoat, but, like two-coated dogs, they respond to the shortened days and begin to grow a thicker undercoat, even if they are housebound. 

Pets shed as their winter coat is growing in, and even more in the spring as it falls out. They’ll need extra brushing during shedding seasons and throughout the winter to avoid matted fur. 

Although your pet’s coat doesn’t forecast the intensity of winter’s upcoming weather, it certainly predicts when summer is coming to an end, so both of you should go out and enjoy it while you can. 

Heron’s Crossing provides end-of-life care for pets in the Metro Atlanta area. In-home appointments with compassionate vets are available. If you’d prefer a home-like setting away from your home, our Decatur office is also available by appointment.