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Published September 11, 2010, 12:06 PM

Dog clothes: More than a fashion trend

Today, many dogs have a wardrobe that could rival that of a diehard fashionista. That's because many pet parents want to lavish attention on their pooch in unique ways.

Pet retail sales in the United States top $35 million each year, say reports. A growing chunk of those purchases are going toward the booming pet clothing industry. What started out as a niche boutique market, has turned into a national obsession, with many mainstream pet stores and supermarkets carrying clothing for dogs and cats.

While pet clothing is a way to express individuality and whimsy through your dog, pet attire can also be functional and a safety precaution.

Many people inaccurately assume that a dog has all it needs to survive the weather conditions. While a fur coat can provide some protection, the truth is that the elements can be as harsh on dogs as their less-furry companions.

Did you know that dogs are susceptible to sunburn just like people? Applying a sunblock product to a pet can be worrisome, particularly if the dog licks off the lotion and ingests too many chemicals. Clothing can provide protection against the elements in the way fur alone cannot.

For example, a light-colored doggie T-shirt can reflect the sun's rays and keep your pooch cooler when outdoors in the warm weather. A rain slicker can keep him dry when the weather is particularly wet. In the winter, a sweater can hold in body heat, particularly for short-haired dogs or small breeds that are more susceptible to extreme weather changes.

Bug repellents also may be applied to the clothing and therefore limit the amount of flea and tick protection you must use directly on the pet.

A dog's paws are very sensitive and can use protection. Think about how hot pavement feels underfoot on a blazing summer day? What about chemical rock salt or ice when winter is in town? All-weather booties can protect the pads of a dog's feet from cuts, burns and contact with the myriad of chemicals that are used outdoors for landscape care.

When selecting clothing for your dog, keep a few things in mind:

  • It should be comfortable for the dog, who shouldn’t show any aversion to wearing the item, such as pulling or biting.

  • It should be functional. Clothing should be designed to fit the animal, not modified human clothing.

  • It should be safe. Ensure the clothing does not hinder movement or block the animal's vision.

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