Dressing your Pet – Is it a Good or Bad Idea? Analysis

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Translated by Nick R

While many owners enjoy dressing up their pets, others find it silly and unnecessary. However, is this trend good or bad for our pets?

Well, you’ve come to the right place; here I’ll explain everything about this practice and you’ll learn about the pros and cons of dressing up your pet.

Reasons why owners dress up their pets 

There are two main reasons why an owner decides to dress their pet. Either because you have to take care of it and one way to minimize the harm is to make it wear clothes (Duty) or because you want it to look cute and maybe you want to show it off on your social networks (want).

Below, I’ll elaborate on the reasons for these two factors.

They “have” to – Medical reasons 

Taking care of your pet involves the professional approach of a veterinarian. That means sometimes you don’t dress your pet for pleasure, but because it needs it.

Clothing, apart from being a fashion item to show off, can also be a complementary tool to help your pet’s health.

Therefore, clothing can be of great use in medical issues such as your pet’s temperature stability, behavioral change, insulating an affected area, and problems that arise from early or advanced life stages.

The temperature of your pet

This is usually the most common reason since both cats and dogs are sensitive to the climate. Within each species there are breeds more sensitive to the environment than others, so clothing is important to help stabilize their body temperature and avoid, for example, conditions like hypothermia.

The behavior of your pet 

Some pets present behaviors such as anxiety and nervousness, which makes them feel unsafe in their environment.

Clothing, specifically an adjustable shirt or sweater, will be helpful because the pressure effect produces a calming effect on the animal. This article is also known as a Thundershirt.

Insulation in an affected area 

Clothing may be helpful when our pet’s skin has been affected by an allergy, self-injury from a previous allergy, or after surgery where the affected area is healing.

This option can help the animal not to rub the area directly and thus prevent further aggravation. Clothing can provide good insulation and help calm your pet’s insistence on scratching or biting.

Health problems due to being a puppy or senior 

Whether your cat or dog is at a very advanced age or just starting to live, it will experience certain health problems.

Older pets often have their immune system weakened, which leads their defenses to decrease to a great extent. On the other hand, puppies are in a stage of development and building to strengthen their immune system.

Whatever the case, clothing is an element that minimizes the environmental impact on the animal and allows to preserve certain conditions that contribute to the health of your pet.

They “want” to- Personal reasons 

On the other hand, wanting is a decision made solely by the pet owner. The use of clothing is done out of whim and not for utility and necessity. There are basically two factors involved, for a special occasion and for simply following a trend.

A special occasion 

It can be said that the pet products market has contributed to the integration of our pets by creating costumes for special occasions such as Christmas, and Halloween, among other important festivities.

Thus, to spend a closer and more fun time with our pets during the holidays, we resort to using these costumes on them.

Following a trend 

A 2020 report by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) indicated that the national pet industry surpassed the $100 billion mark in annual sales for the first time.

It reached $103.6 billion, of which $31.4 billion came from veterinary care and product sales (including apparel and accessories).

This shows a large increase in pet product consumption compared to 2019, which was $97.1 billion. The result of this report indicates that the trend of dressing and ‘accessorizing’ pets is getting stronger over time and is also supported by the exhibition of such products (clothing and accessories) on social networks.

On the other hand, veterinarian Myriam Acero commented in an interview conducted by SEMANA (Colombia’s news magazine) in June 2018 as part of her study “The human-pet relationship as a sociocultural phenomenon”, published by the National University of Colombia in 2017.

She states that the human-pet relationship has become very close, indicating that the development of the market has given rise to “the social tendency to humanize animals.” As a result, the consumption of clothing and accessories has increased in recent years, as well as exposure on social networks.

This trend has influenced pet owners with the goal of making their pets look more beautiful and, why not, show them off on social networks, since people are interested in and enjoy this type of content.

How your pet feels when wearing clothes 

Clearly, the sensation of clothes will depend on your pet’s breed and personality. Thus, the animal may enjoy the experience of wearing clothes or, on the contrary, it may hate being dressed because it feels uncomfortable. Let’s now analyze each factor.

My pet enjoys wearing clothes 

According to the animal’s personality, whether it is a cat or a dog, it will be happy or relaxed if it enjoys wearing clothes.

Dogs, as we already know, are very social animals, so they like to wear clothes because they will get more attention from their owner in return. So the canine feels happy thanks to the extra attention, accompanied by caresses and compliments for its appearance.

If we are talking about medical factors, whatever function clothing is fulfilling in the animal, it’s going to provide calmness and stability both physically and mentally.

On the other hand, cats may show signs of emotion such as tail wagging or purring if they like something. However, some cats are not that expressive, so if when wearing clothes they act relaxed and don’t seem to behave strangely, it can be said that they like the idea of wearing them.

Similarly, mentioning the medical aspects, it is going to be the same as with canines, felines will find a balance and peace of mind both physically and mentally.

My pet hates wearing clothes 

If your pet doesn’t like something, it will show some sign of discomfort so that its owner understands that it doesn’t want to wear that sort of thing.

Generally speaking, both cats and dogs, if they don’t like the idea of wearing clothes, will feel a lot of tension and stress. This will make them act very restless and try to take off their clothes.

In addition, they may resort to staying still as the clothing is an obstacle for them to seeing, hearing or moving well. The animal doesn’t feel safe to move in the environment because their physical and cognitive abilities are impaired.

Olivia Anderson Nathan, a veterinarian at the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), points out in a BBC UK article that when dogs feel discomfort when wearing clothes, they’ll show signs of stress such as licking their lips, yawning, or panting constantly and trembling.

Olivia also mentions that in the case of cats, they’ll show an aggressive attitude. They’ll start grooming themselves a lot, and when lying down or sitting, they’ll stay very still because movement makes them uncomfortable. They’ll also be more vocally expressive.

Does clothing cause any health problems to my pet? 

In most situations, the prolonged use of clothing on the animal is what can cause certain health problems. We’ll see how they affect each species.

Dogs and clothes

Canines can develop health problems related to breathing, temperature, behavioral change, allergy production, and physical ability to relieve themselves.

Breathing can be cut off 

If you put the wrong size of clothing on your canine, you will clearly see breathing problems. The clothing may be too tight around the neck, and it is very likely that if it is not removed as soon as possible, the dog may suffocate due to lack of oxygen.

In this case, as soon as you notice that your furry dog’s breathing is cut off, remove the clothing immediately. This is a problem that can occur in a short period of time, so be careful if what he is wearing is too tight and it is better to give up the idea of putting clothes on him.

Poor body temperature regulation 

If brachiocephalic breeds wear clothing in a warm season when they should be wearing nothing, clearly their temperature regulation will be affected. Especially clothing made of synthetic fibers such as polyester, which heats up very quickly.

Remember that brachiocephalic dogs are those with certain characteristics in their skull that predispose them to have breathing problems when their temperature gets very high. Some of these breeds are the Pug, the English, and the French Bulldog.

In turn, they can also have an episode of hyperthermia or, as it is commonly known, “heat stroke” and end up collapsing.

Behavioral changes 

The use of clothing in some canines causes them to start acting totally different from what they usually do. It all starts from the discomfort caused by having those clothes on, and it results in stress, anxiety, and, in some cases, signs of aggressiveness.

Development of skin allergies 

Canines can develop contact dermatitis or also called contact allergy. It consists in that the skin is exposed to synthetic materials that are harmful to the dermis by rubbing and as a result, an allergy is formed.

Some materials are polyester, spandex (also known as lycra), nylon, and acrylic. The production of these synthetic fabrics involves the use of various chemicals derived from petroleum or petrochemicals.

This implies that the fabric has allergens and when used for a long time, it will produce an allergy in the canine’s skin.

Obstruct the canine’s physical ability to relieve itself 

In this case, if the canine wears clothes that cover the whole body, there will be problems when relieving itself. This is due to the discomfort generated by being with these clothes, which does not allow it to be calm to do them and, on the contrary, it will force itself to hold it.

In addition, if the body is all covered, the dog will not be able to express himself in his own way to let you know that he needs to relieve himself. Not being able to do it will cause an infection in the urinary tract, and the formation of kidney stones or crystals among other problems associated with his digestive system.

Felines may also have health problems associated with breathing, temperature regulation, the development of allergies, behavioral changes, and skin sensitivity.

Breathing obstruction 

Chances are high that your cat is not comfortable in the clothes it is wearing if they are too tight. This can cause cut-offs in breathing or circulation.

It can also be dangerous for this clothing to become entangled with something due to the feline’s desperation to take it off and in this process obstruct its breathing.

Poor regulation of body temperature 

Felines are more sensitive to temperature change, and therefore they have a regulation system thanks to their fur. However, if they wear clothes in a not convenient season like summer, it will lead to problems in their health.

In addition to being prone to hyperthermia (increased body temperature more than normal), they may also produce more saliva than normal, have muscle tremors and have their tongue turn bluish (shortness of breath).

Development of allergies on the skin     

Like dogs, cats are also sensitive to synthetic materials which include polyester, nylon, acrylic, and spandex, better known as lycra.

These artificial materials are composed of various petroleum-based chemicals. Therefore, they produce allergies in the dermis due to contact over a long period of time.

The change in behavior 

In some cases, your cat may act aggressively and try to take the clothes off. In the process of removing it, it may hurt itself as it is not aware of its surroundings.

Increased sensitivity in the dermis 

It would be terrible if your cat suffers from feline hyperesthesia syndrome and you make it wear clothes: it could aggravate the disease condition.

Hyperesthesia is an “abnormal increase in skin sensitivity”. It’s a syndrome that can occur at any age and in any breed and is seen in felines with high levels of stress and nervousness.

Clearly, putting clothes on your feline will make it more difficult for it to control this medical condition.

Is it really necessary to dress your pet? 

There is no right or wrong answer, the decision to dress your pet lies in their needs and is always made with their welfare and comfort in mind.

Wearing these clothes shouldn’t cause them any harm and above all, you should respect their nature as animals.

Dressing Dogs 

Positive aspects 

These are some good effects of clothing on canines.

Cold Tolerance

This is a great help for breeds that cannot stand the cold and allows them to regulate their temperature. Some of these breeds are the Chihuahua, Greyhound, Pinscher, Whippet, Pitbull, Yorkshire Terrier, and Saluki.

Calming anxiety

The Thundershirt garment with its function of constant pressure produces a calming effect in order to control anxiety or nervousness problems.

Excellent insulator for injured areas

As mentioned above, clothing can be a very useful tool to isolate areas with irritation, allergies, or recovering from a surgical procedure.

Protection from environmental conditions due to their age

In both puppies and senior adults, clothing is a complementary element when it comes to protecting them from the environment.

For example, clothing is beneficial for puppies to keep their temperature from dropping too low, as they’re still developing their immune system.

On the other hand, in senior dogs suffering from arthritis, clothing will provide the extra warmth they need, helping to reduce their joint pain.

Visibility of working dogs

Reflective clothing will help dogs that work on roads, mountains, or anywhere else to be more visible to others.

Getting attention to make them happy

When you put the clothing on your doggy, it will probably get more attention from you and others than usual. The extra attention will make your canine happier and help strengthen your bond.

Negative Aspects 

Just as clothing can help, it can also cause havoc on our canines’ health.

Producing more heat than normal

Just as it helps cold intolerant dogs, it’s a bad choice to use it on canines that can’t stand the heat.

This can generate respiratory problems or hyperthermia in brachiocephalic breeds such as the English Bulldog, the French Bulldog, the Pug, and others that don’t belong to this group such as the Newfoundland, the Pomeranian, the Bernese Mountain Dog, or the Pekingese.

Generates discomfort

Clearly, if the canine doesn’t feel comfortable with the clothes, it will generate discomfort because it won’t be able to act the way it normally does.

Development of allergies

Some breeds are more sensitive in their skin than others, which makes them more prone to develop dermatitis.

This is caused by prolonged contact with synthetic fabrics. Among the most sensitive breeds are the West Highland Terrier, the Shar-Pei, the Labrador, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the Boxer.

Physical and mental behavioral changes

The dog will develop stress due to the confinement of these clothes, which in some cases may lead to aggressive behavior.

Affects communication

Clothes that cover most of the dog’s body will prevent it from expressing itself the way it wants to. Canines use their whole body to communicate with both people and other dogs.

This makes it impossible to interpret what the dog is feeling because the clothing limits its physical capabilities.

Hostility towards their own kind

Since the clothing isolates their natural scent, other dogs, not recognizing the typical body odor, will interpret it as a threat and may become aggressive towards each other.

Dressing Cats 

Positive aspects 

Now we’ll see which are the beneficial factors of dressing felines.

Cold Tolerance

Like dogs, clothing also helps cats to protect themselves from the cold and avoid episodes of hypothermia. Breeds that are intolerant to cold are Siamese and Sphynx.

This is also true for baby kittens and older adult cats, which in their life stages are especially sensitive to cold, either because they’re still developing their immune system or, on the contrary, their immune system is deteriorating.

Relieving anxiety

Although it is not common, the Thundershirt is also used in felines with anxiety or nervousness problems. This garment allows you to put pressure on the body generating a sense of calm and gradually releasing anxiety.

Isolation of wounded areas

Cats’ tendency to self-clean makes them want to lick and tease wounds, irritations, and areas healing after surgery. Thus, clothes become useful to isolate such areas.

Negative Aspects 

Not all uses of clothing are good for felines, and we’ll now take a look at the factors that affect them.

Raising the temperature higher than normal

Most cats can regulate their body temperature very well, which means that if you make them wear clothes they’ll overheat and this would lead to physical breakdown.

Development of allergies

Constant contact with the skin can cause contact dermatitis. The fabric contains chemicals that affect the feline’s dermis. Additionally, feathers or wool clothes can affect them too.

Change in behavior

The discomfort generated by the clothing will cause them stress, which can lead them to act in two ways. One is your cat freezes or stands still due to the sensation caused by the clothing. The other is that it becomes aggressive, scratching repeatedly and meowing desperately.

Communication Difficulties

Like dogs, cats also use their bodies to communicate. Clothing that covers most of their body will limit their ability to express themselves and their body language won’t be recognizable either.

Hostility towards their own kind

Cats will feel that whoever is wearing clothing is a stranger, which will generate a sense of threat and the need to defend themselves by hurting each other.

Types of clothing for cats and dogs 

There is a variety of clothing for both cats and dogs. Some samples are:

  • Shirts
  • Vests
  • Pants
  • Sweatshirts
  • Dresses
  • Shoes
  • Costumes

Clothing is also designed for its function, such as raincoats, snow boots, or special anti-anxiety vests.

Materials for pet clothing 

If pets are to wear clothing, it is recommended that it be made of natural fabrics which are not as exposed to chemicals compared to synthetic materials.

Some examples of natural fabrics are cotton, linen, and ramie. Others may be of animal origin such as wool.


 If you decide to make your pet wear clothes, make sure it is out of necessity and not for fashion. Always think about the well-being and comfort of your companion, choosing clothes that don’t hurt it, don’t suffocate it, and don’t limit its motor skills. Also, consult your veterinarian to find out if he is allergic to any special fabric and avoid using it.