How do you know if your dog needs a winter jacket?
By Dr Daisy A. May MRCVS BVSc (Distinction), Veterinary Surgeon
Not every dog needs a winter jacket, and not every dog that needs a winter jacket will need to wear it on every outing!
The first factor to consider is your local climate. If conditions are sufficiently cold or wet that you find yourself reaching for your own winter apparel, then your dog may also benefit from wrapping up. However, this is also dependent on your pet’s breed, age and natural insulation (that is, your dog’s fur coat).
Some breeds, such as the Siberian Husky or the Malamute have thick, double-coats and are already extremely well prepared for outdoor expeditions even in sub-freezing temperatures. On the flip side, short-haired breeds such as Greyhounds, toy breeds such as the Chihuahua, and those originating in temperate and tropical climates such as the Basenji or Mexican hairless dog will obviously require protection from frigid temperatures as they are not adapted to the cold.
Finally, be aware that puppies and senior dogs are generally more vulnerable to extreme temperatures, and will likely benefit from wrapping up warm in winter.
What should people look for when selecting a jacket for their dog?
First and foremost, the choice of jacket should be appropriate for the climate in which your dog will be wearing it. If you are lucky enough to abide in a region with mild winters, a lighter jacket may be suitable, whereas if your region experiences subzero temperatures then thicker insulation is justified. And of course, if rain is a regular feature, then it’s a given that your choice should be waterproof!
If your pet is particularly cold sensitive, consider a fuller coverage jacket that covers the neck and legs as well as the body. Whether you’re looking for a partial or full coverage coat, be sure to select a jacket with adjustable straps as this allows a more customisable fit, and allows some leeway for minor weight changes (particularly important over the holiday season!)
If buying a jacket online, it’s important to check the size guide for your chosen apparel. You’ll likely need to use a tape measure and note down your dog’s girth (around the widest part of the chest) and length (the distance from the base of the neck, to the start of the tail) to ensure a good match.
Finally, it’s crucial to choose a jacket that is breathable to prevent your dog from overheating during outdoor exercise. The material should also be machine washable, because as pet parents will know all too well, most dogs delight in getting dirty!
Are there any dog jackets in particular that you recommend?
Absolutely! For a lighter, waterproof option I recommend the Fjord Raincoat by Non-stop Dogwear. This jacket is windproof and extremely waterproof (with a 15.000 mm waterproof rating), yet remains totally breathable. It’s also available in a large selection of sizes, to ensure the perfect fit.
For a moderately insulated option suitable for most dogs on colder days, I’m a big fan of the WarmShield Water-Resistant Jacket by Spark Paws. This jacket provides more warmth than the Fjord Raincoat, but (as with any padded or quilted jacket) the tradeoff is a lower degree of breathability - so if your dog is doing very strenuous exercise, do keep an eye on things to check he or she doesn’t end up getting too hot.
Lastly, for an extra cosy option (think frosty mornings and frolicking in the snow!) and to suit very cold sensitive canines, I absolutely love the Extreme Warmer jacket by Hurtta. This jacket represents the perfect solution for dogs who don’t possess a thick coat or undercoat, and who may struggle to stay warm on frigid days. Because why should they miss out on all the fun?