May 28, 2006


Warming to the idea of bodysuits for dogs



A big, macho dog named Kody was quite a sight, clad as he was in a bright blue bodysuit. I’ve never seen a dog coat like this. It fits the body like a glove, and the sleeves snugly encase all four legs, stopping just short of the paws.

I don’t write a lot of columns about pet products, but I was intrigued by the picture and press release from K9 Top Coat.

The company says its Lycra suit is “durable, lightweight and breathable” with a four-way stretch that makes it easy to get the suit on a dog. The suit moves with the animal once it’s on, making this product especially good for dogs that spend long hours outside in harsh weather. That would include hunting dogs, police dogs and search and rescue dogs.

The body suit and other garb made by K9 Top Coat comes in multiple colors and an array of sizes. They’ll fit the tiniest terrier or the biggest Great Dane. They also work for greyhounds, who often need custom-made coats because their deep chests and whip-thin bodies make them hard to fit.

K9 Top Coat adds a layer of fleece beneath the Lycra to produce an arctic fleece body suit for harsher weather. The company also makes a waterproof bodysuit and a hunting vest with four-way stretch, micro-fleece and waterproofing.

The Oregon company was started five years ago by Richard and June Lotz. He was, and still is, a nurse practitioner in a pediatric orthopedic practice. She was a grant writer who wanted to start a home-based business so that she could spend more time with their infant son.

Their dog, Kody, was great with the baby except for one thing. He’s a German shepherd dog and that breed is notorious for heavy shedding.

“Andrew was crawling and was always getting a mouthful of hair. My wife doesn’t enjoy constant vacuuming so she came up with the idea of a bodysuit. Then we had to find someone to make it for us.”

The suit kept the shedding down. Because it was lightweight, Kody wasn’t too warm in the house. When friends saw Kody’s suit, they wanted others for their own dogs to wear outdoors. The home business was off and running.

The Lycra suit has also been used on dogs with wounds, Lotz said. The suit keeps the wound clean and eliminates the need for one of those cumbersome cone-shaped collars that prevent dogs from licking their wounds.

Other customers buy the suits for show dogs, including poodles and cocker spaniels. They can now frolic and ramble through brush and brambles without ruining the abundant natural coats they need to win ribbons and championship titles. The suit also keeps burs and ticks off the dogs.

“And this year two sled dog teams will be wearing our vests in the Iditarod,” Lotz said.

Not surprisingly, each of his family’s four dogs wears the company coats and vests.

Kody and Jackson, also a German shepherd dog, wear the lightweight Lycra to keep the shedding down. Angel, a short-haired pointer, wears a hunting vest, which lengthens the amount of time she can be in the woods.

Dixie, a Labrador retriever, probably doesn’t need any of these coats, for Labs have thick coats of their own and were originally bred to withstand cold weather and icy water. But Dixie is 14 years old and the other dogs wear this stuff, so she does too.

On the Web site — http://www.k9topcoat.com — that’s Dixie and the other Lotz canines modeling the coats and vests.

Prices range from $57.50 to $79.50 and they are made in the United States from fabric made in this country or Canada.

Speaking of cold weather, people shouldn’t have to be reminded that frigid temperatures can kill pets left outdoors. But every winter, shelters and other animal organizations send tons of press releases on this subject.

So here’s this year’s warning. If you are unwilling or unable to bring pets indoors, make sure they have proper shelter. And this means rabbits and other animals, not just dogs and cats.

Don’t put food or water in metal bowls, because their tongues could freeze to the metal. Make sure they have water, not a big hunk of solid ice.

Animals need more food than usual, because they need to burn calories to stay warm.

They should have sturdy pens or houses raised up off the cold ground.

A thick pile of straw will help them to keep warm. Animal Friends, the shelter located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, provides free straw. Contact the organization for further information at http://www.animal-friends.org or 412-566-2103.

Linda Wilson Fuoco

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: