Your dog deserves a cozy place to sleep — one that keeps him warm in winter and cool in summer. In addition to the outer fabric, the dog bed filler contributes a lot to the overall comfort of a pet bed. There are different types of filling for dog beds, and many factors can influence your selection of materials such as foam, fiber, cedar chips, and fabric. For instance, arthritic and older dogs need a more supportive mattress such as solid foam, while puppies and smaller dogs can get by with a fluffier material such as polyester fiber. Take your dog's needs into account when selecting dog beds.
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Solid foam dog mattresses
For older dogs and those with arthritic joints, hip dysplasia, or other motion-limiting medical conditions, the best bet in a dog bed is a good firm foam mattress or memory foam. Most of the commercial orthopedic beds available use foam as all or part of their most expensive beds — sometimes topping them with a soft layer of polyester batting to make them more comfortable and snuggly.
You can purchase pre-cut foam or buy a larger piece and cut it down with a serrated knife, but make sure the foam is at least seven-inches thick if you want an orthopedic-style bed. Thinner or less dense foam is fine for younger healthy dogs, but large dogs need a thicker mattress than tiny dogs to distribute their weight evenly.
Polyester fiber dog bed filler
Polyester fiber or fiberfill has long been the favorite filler choice for crafters and quilters because it's washable, lightweight, easy-to-use, and inexpensive. It is also hypoallergenic so is a good choice if you or your dog has sensitivities or allergies to other — usually natural — stuffing like latex foam, horse hair, or plant materials.
The drawbacks to fiber fill are that the cheaper materials tend to clump after a few washings and, of course, it is not especially supportive for heavier dogs. However, it is fine for most smaller dogs, and is inexpensive enough to replace occasionally if it clumps. A bonus with "polyfill" is that it insulates, so it makes a warmer, cozier bed than some other fill materials.
Cedar shavings filling for dog beds
Cedar shavings are often used as bedding material for all sorts of pets — but not without controversy. In addition to containing aromatic substances called thujaplicins, which can cause allergic reactions in some people and animals, that same aroma can irritate a dog's sensitive nose.
However, there is little dispute that cedar repels fleas, moths, and other insects, so it's definitely beneficial as well. Many concerned dog parents find that enclosing a small cloth bag of cedar shavings inside a layer of other filler — like polyester fiberfill or foam is an acceptable compromise. Let your dog's reaction to his new bed be your guide.
Other dog bed filler
Long before we had synthetic materials like polyester, or even the technology to turn natural latex sap from rubber trees into airy, yet supportive, foam products, people stuffed mattresses and pillows by hand. Traditional fillers include hair — especially horse hair — feathers, rags, grains, nut hulls, even sand, although the latter would not be easy to move and might be a uncomfortable on a cold night. If you prefer a natural and inexpensive filler, straw is a good choice.
If you're looking for something simple and effective and don't mind whether it's natural or not, try clean rags — t-shirts and old sweaters are perfect — or re-use plastic grocery bags. Whatever stuffing you use, make sure it stays safely inside the bed. Beans, grains, and other plant products may attract rodents or your dog, and any filler made up of small parts is a potential choking hazard, so beware.