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Paws to Consider — Marty McFly and his life-changing wardrobe PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, November 14, 2013 9:32 PM



Marty McFly is a well-dressed man. It’s a sentiment that you will not hear me dispute – other than the fact that he’s not actually a man. “Marty McFly” is my dog. Marty came into my life about three years ago. I adopted Marty from a local rescue group in Toledo. I must divulge that I grew up with Newfoundland dogs and English Mastiffs. So a small 18-pound senior citizen chihuahua-terrier mix was kind of a “big” change for me. Sure my family has had a beagle and dachshunds in the smaller-framed category before but none of these heartier fellows had the problems Marty seems to have. The other guys have had lots of bulk and muscle mass and tons of fur, which my new twig-legged, short-coated friend does not.

Marty McFly gets cold. He gets cold easily. I figured out that his little internal thermostat is set at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If the external temperature is anything over 73 degrees, he is panting. Anything under 71 degrees and he is shivering and gives me sad puppy-dog eyes pleading for warmth.

I must admit that before my time with Marty, I knew that people dressed their dogs but I always wrote it off as kind of a silly thing to do. My past experiences with giant- breed dogs led me to believe it was a frivolous practice to dress your pet.

I still remember the day when I experienced the first real bout of shivering from Marty as the weather got colder. It was a late autumn day and only wrapping him in blankets would stop it.

I realized I had a decision to make. Do I dare become one of those dog-dressing people? Do I cross that line? I decided I might as well try it. If it made Marty’s life easier, I would do it. I would sacrifice my dignity.

I brought home a red plaid fleece jacket from a doggie boutique. He wore it around well, didn’t try and shake it off or fight it as some dogs do. Miraculously, the shivering and pleading puppy-dog eyes stopped.

During my first year out of vet school, I had a client who was an elderly lady who owned an elderly 7-pound toy poodle. Her complaint was that her dog was having “seizures.” She would have fits of shivering and chattering teeth that lasted several minutes at a time. What she described could have been considered a type of seizure. We discussed the varying symptoms of seizure disorders and our medical options. She was an older poodle due for annual wellness testing anyway and to be thorough, we ran an organ profile.

As we were discussing her poodle’s history and symptoms, I asked her if she kept her heat low in the house. She reportedly kept her house warm (or so she thought). I suggested before starting her dog on seizure medications as she was asking, that we try a week of doggie-sweater wearing. She took home the prescribed sweater. The blood work came back normal. As I called to check in on the pooch a week later, the fits had stopped. I had unwittingly converted another person to the lifestyle of being a dog dresser.

Older dogs, puppies and sick pets can have trouble regulating their body temperatures. Puppies especially routinely need warming in blankets and will cuddle with each other in “dog piles” with their litter mates. If you have a young or small-breed puppy, you must offer them a warm place as hypothermia is a life-threatening concern and is avoidable. You don’t necessarily need to dress them in puppy sweaters but rather be vigilant of their environmental temperature.

Extreme weather conditions are a major concern for dogs that spend significant time outdoors. Even my beloved block-headed mastiffs will sometimes require small horse blankets in frigid climates. Outdoor dogs need easily- accessible shelters with warm bedding to keep them safe from the elements. Frostbite and hypothermia are considerable risks with any dog living outdoors.

Since that cold autumn day when I first experienced Marty’s shivering escapades, his wardrobe has filled out. He doesn’t have as impressive a clothing line as some that I know but he has a significant collection, nonetheless. I have accepted the fact that I am now a dog-dresser. I no longer make excuses for it. At Halloween, Marty McFly makes the cutest pterodactyl this side of the Ice Ages. So please be sympathetic and don’t shake your head in disgust at the next dog you see dressed in a bedazzled denim jacket or a Santa sweater – it may be a result of a veterinary prescribed wardrobe.


Marisa L. Tong, DVM is a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and is an associate veterinarian at Delphos Animal Hospital.


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