Fashion accessory or essential? Vet Tony Buckwell gives his opinion

The breed and/or type of dog will usually determine whether it would benefit from wearing a coat.

Avoiding hypothermia in dogs

Coats like Equafleece are good for warming up cold, damp dogs

As far as their natural furry coat is concerned, dogs have two prime variants. Single-coated breeds have, 
as the name implies, only a single layer of hair and lack any form of undercoat. These are typically breeds that come from warmer climates and able to tolerate very warm weather; breeds 
such as the Chihuahua and the Basenji.

Some dogs don’t need coats

Double-coated breeds have a top coat of stiff guard hairs and a dense undercoat to provide insulation. The inner layer of insulation keeps the dogs warm, while the outer layer offers weather-repellant qualities to keep the dog dry and protected from the elements. The Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute, for instance, are double-coated breeds that are well adapted to cold climates. Double-coated dogs are unlikely to need additional protection –— indeed, wearing a coat could even cause them to overheat.

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Older dogs feel the cold more

The single-coated breeds, particularly those with a low body mass, will be the dogs that benefit most from wearing a coat in cold weather. Many sighthounds, such as whippets, greyhounds and lurchers, have short coats and little body fat. These dogs might also benefit from wearing a coat immediately following a bout of intense, strenuous exercise to help prevent them from becoming chilled 
as they quickly lose excess heat.

Avoiding hypothermia in dogs

Hypothermia in dogs

A: Yes. Under the right conditions dogs, and indeed any warm-blooded mammal, can suffer hypothermia. Hypothermia in dogs occurs when an animal’s core body…

Dogs that are low to the ground will benefit from wearing a coat to help negotiate puddles and ice, but it is also important to consider the dog’s age and health. Like us, dogs feel the cold more as they get older and dogs suffering 
with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and kidney disease are more prone 
to suffering the effects of the cold.

Neoprene dog coat

Neoprene dog coat

Neoprene dog coats

Q: Do neoprene coats work when gundog training? The reason I ask is because my spaniel last season shivered badly whenever we went wildfowling. I assume wearing one will not impair the dog’s swimming ability?

Peter Blatch answers: Hands up here – I don’t know. I have never tried one on a dog of mine though I will admit that dogs sent to me for kennelling with one on do look very comfortable in them.

As for wearing one in the field, I am not so sure; maybe if the dog is just sitting in a pigeon hide or roost shooting on a wet night things might be okay but I would be a little cautious sending a dog into water wearing one in case its paws got caught in the straps.

As I say, I don’t have any experience of these garments and I would be pleased to hear from folk – particularly wildfowlers – who have used them on dogs.