Are Coats and Sweaters for Pooches Posh or Practical?

Sweaters and coats for dogs are cute, but they may not need that extra layer.

ByABC News via logo
January 31, 2010, 10:01 AM

Jan. 31, 2010— -- With the wind chill, it felt like nine degrees this weekend on the Upper West Side of New York City. That's why Peanut and Jelly, a pair of 10-year-old mixed-breed dogs, were sporting the latest in cold-weather canine couture.

"I think they're very cute," said owner Eric Amel. "I like seeing the dogs in their coats, so I don't think they look silly. I think they look very cute."

Cute, no doubt. But are all those pet parkas, sweaters and vests you've been seeing around the dog park during this cold snap really needed?

"For the most part, it's not necessary," said Matthew Cooper, an emergency veterinarian at New York Veterinary Specialists, a 24-hour emergency vet clinic in Manhattan. When it comes to enduring long walks in the cold, Cooper says, "I don't think the dogs mind it half as much as we do."

Some veterinarians take it even further, saying heavy coats can be dangerous for dogs. If they're getting a lot of exercise, it could lead to heat stroke. Plus, dogs don't catch colds, and low temperatures don't give them the sniffles. The truth is, many dogs don't mind the frigid temperature one bit.

For example, Iditarod dogs mush through more than 1,000 miles of Alaska snow every year in below zero temperatures.

"Certain dogs are built for this," Cooper said. "Certain breeds enjoy this. I mean, this is kind of what they've been waiting for. So to put a coat on them is kind of ridiculous."

Besides, some dogs already have plenty of padding. Like Ray Ramsey's pug.

"Any time it's like 10 below freezing, we put him in a sweater. Otherwise, because he's so heavy, he doesn't need it," said Ramsey, who lives in New York City.

If you play doggie dress-up, you're not alone. Last year, pet clothing was a $300 million industry. It's a trend fueled for years by Hollywood movies such as "Legally Blonde" and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," and pet-loving socialites like Paris Hilton.

And when the temperature dips, dog owners will do anything to keep their pets warm and fashionable. Peanut and Jelly, for example, wear coats that cost owner Eric Amel between $80 to $100.

It's money you don't have to spend, according to Dr. Cooper, unless your dog has really short hair, or a case of the shivers. Of course that's easy for him to say. Turns out, his dog wears a coat, too. It cost him $125.