With the recent heat wave, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep our pup cool in the summer weather. While going for a swim or simply hosing a dog down with water will help them cool off, it’s kind of inconvenient and you get that wet dog smell afterwards. Alternatively, a dog cooling vest allows you to keep your dog cool in a much more convenient way.
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How to Prevent Your Dog From Overheating
Dogs can’t sweat like humans can, so they have to give off excess heat in other ways. The main way they do that is through panting. While cooling vests will aid in this process, there are other ways to reduce overheating, especially if you are in a hot climate.
- Never leave a dog in a car during warm or hot weather.
- Try to take walks or runs in the early morning or after sundown, instead of during the middle of the day.
- Try to keep your dog well-hydrated. A good rule of thumb is one ounce of water per pound of dog weight (so a 50-pound dog would drink 50 oz. a day). Your dog may need more if they are particularly active or if it is particularly warm outside. If you go out for a walk or hike, bring water for yourself and water for your dog.
- Make sure they’re able to find shade in their kennel, backyard, etc.
- Be extra attentive to dogs that are older, have more body fat, have longer hair, have shorter snouts (brachycephalic breeds), or are in poor health.
Canine Heatstroke Symptoms
It’s also important to recognize what heat stroke looks like in dogs. Heat stroke (also known as hyperthermia) is an elevation in body temperature, and can be very serious. Symptoms include:
- Excessive panting
- Dehydration and dry nose
- Excessive drooling
- Increased body temperature (above 103° F)
- Reddened gums
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
- Blood in vomit or poop
- Little or no urine
- Seizures or tremors
If you think your dog is experiencing heatstroke, get them out of the sun, cool them with water, and get them to a veterinarian immediately.
How Cooling Vests Work
Most cooling vests work either by water evaporation, water pouches, or with ice packs.
Water evaporation, known as evaporative cooling, works by lowering the temperature of nearby air as the water droplets evaporate into gas. You get the vest wet, and wring it out. The rest of the water will then slowly evaporate, and keep your dog cool.
Some dog cooling vests use a twist on this idea, with internal water pouches that react with chemicals in the pouch to lower your dog’s temperature without your dog ever coming into contact with the chemicals or the water. This cold pouch will draw heat out of the nearby fur via conduction.
The last cooling method requires you to put ice packs in the vest. This also works by conduction, meaning that the cold packs draw heat out of the surrounding area. This option is much less common, but we included a few on this list.
Some of the options on this list also have a UV-reflective and/or SPF top layer that helps reflect the sunlight away from your dog.
It’s important to keep in mind that dog cooling vests are preventative measures. They are not effective for cooling a dog down that has heat stroke. If you think your dog has heat stroke based on the symptoms described earlier in this article, please seek medical help immediately.
Are Dog Cooling Vests Effective?
It depends who you ask.
A study out of the University of Florida showed that dogs who used a cooling vest recovered more quickly than dogs who didn’t. The study only measured cool down periods after the fact, which is part of why this study recommended further research.
By comparison, a study on racing greyhounds showed that dogs who wore cooling vests with cold water actually had a negative effect on keeping dogs cool. This may be because they soaked the vests in ice cold water for 30 minutes.
Very cold water has a constricting effect on blood vessels in both dogs and humans, and paradoxically, having a cooling method that is too cold may actually slow overall cooling. If blood vessels constrict, this reduces flow of blood close to the surface of the skin, which would otherwise allow for more conductive cooling. And, because greyhounds have such short coats, this effect may have been more noticeable than it would be in a long-haired breed. In any case, using cool water, not cold water, is important.
That being said, many people online and in product reviews have reported that cooling vests and collars are effective for their dog. It may simply be a matter of figuring out what works for your dog’s breed, activity level, preferences, and the climate that you live in.
Lastly, this blogger did their own study with cooling vests, their dog, and a thermal camera. They found that cooling vests were effective for their dog. A similar experiment along the lines of the Florida study found the same thing.
It’s hard to draw a conclusion from the small amount of research available, especially given the iced water used in the greyhound study. There are also other factors involved that may or may not apply to your own dog, such as fur length and body insulation and climate.
What to Look For in a Dog Cooling Vest
- Sizing: both types of dog cooling vests require a close fit for the cooling to be effective. You’ll want to look carefully at sizing guides and pick the right size and style for your dog.
- Ease of Use: some dogs are better than others with complicated vests and harnesses. If your dog (or you!) does not have the patience for a difficult-to-put-on vest, consider one of the simpler options
- Cooling Time: while this is somewhat dependent on your climate (both the temperature and the humidity), you will of course want something that keeps your dog cool for the length of your walks or day trips. Evaporative-style cooling vests will not work as quickly in humid climates, as there is already a lot of moisture in the air.
- Material: some of the vests on this list are made of material that helps reflect the sun’s rays. Some cooling vests also have bright colors or light-reflecting details for roadway safety.
- Compatibility: If you have a particular harness that you use with your dog, make sure the cooling dog vest you buy has appropriate holes or attachments. This will ensure that you don’t have to return the vest, or find a different harness.
Our Top 6 Cooling Dog Vests
With no further ado, here are our dog cooling vest picks:
Best All-Around: RUFFWEAR Swamp Cooler Evaporative Dog Cooling Vest
The RUFFWEAR Swamp Cooler Dog Vest is our pick for the best all-around dog cooling vest.
It’s got a decently wide range of sizes, it’s harness-compatible, it has UV protection, easy on/off buckles, and reflective safety trim. The vest works using evaporative cooling: get it wet and wring it out.
- Three-layer cooling where the middle layer absorbs water and provides cooling, and the inner layer wicks moisture away from your dog’s coat
- Back “portal” for harnesses
- Available in XX-Small for very small dog breeds, and up to X-Large
- UPF 50+ protection
- Side buckles make it easy to get on/off
- Low-light reflective trim for safety
- Less chest cooling compared to other options
Best Option for Very Big Dogs: GF Pet Elastofit Ice Dog Vest
Even though this vest has “ice” in the name, the GF Pet Elastofit Ice Dog Vest works with evaporative cooling. It is available in sizes from extra small to 4XL, making it suitable for bigger dogs.
- Lightweight cooling for hours
- Large variety of sizes to fit bigger breeds
- Antimicrobial fabric
- UV-blocking fabric
- The vest fits using velcro, and has fitted arm holes, which may be less convenient for fussy dogs
- Only one color option
Best Option for Odd Fits: Canada Pooch Chill Seeker Cooling Vest
The Canada Pooch Chill Seeker Cooling Vest has two side buckles that are adjustable. This makes it a good option if you’ve measured your dog and sizing for the other vest options seems off.
This dog cooling vest works by getting the vest wet and wringing it out (evaporative cooling).
- This vest covers their back and chest/heart, the most important areas for cooling.
- 10 different sizes based on back length
- Three different color options, including blue, rainbow and tie-dye
- No chemical coolants
- No clips or holes for harnesses
- No UV protection or reflective material.
Best for all-over dry cooling: Suitical Dry Cooling Vest Dog
No “wet dog smell” with this one… the Suitical Dry Cooling Vest Dog is completely dry. The vest works by filling up the internal pouch with water (and draining the excess). The water reacts to chemicals inside the vest and provides significant all-over cooling.
- Stays completely dry inside and out
- Cools their back, chest, and belly
- Sizes from X-Small to X-Large
- Has buckles on the sides for easy on/off
- Filling the water pouch adds weight to the harness
- No holes for harnesses
- No UV protection
- Is not chemical-free, although the chemicals are isolated within the pouch
Best Ice Cooling Option: CoolerDog Cooling Vest and Collar
The CoolerDog Cooling Vest and Collar is a different style than the other options on this list. It’s a separate collar and vest (with a linking strap) to focus the cooling effect on the dog’s neck and chest, which are two of the most important areas for cooling.
It works using ice packs that are placed inside the vest and collar. After the ice melts, you will have to re-freeze the ice packs, or buy more.
- Separate collar and vest for cooling neck and chest area
- Velcro straps and chew-resistant nylon material
- Two-piece design might fit dogs whose proportions don’t work in other vest options
- Uses ice packs for fast cooling
- Dog’s fur might get wet as the ice packs melt
- Not as much cooling on back or front of chest
- Need to buy additional FlexiFreeze ice packs for back-to-back usage, or wait for packs to refreeze
Best for Active Dogs: FrontPet Dog Cooling Vest
The FrontPet Dog Cooling Vest has buckles for easy/on off, and has high-visibility reflecting material which makes it good for dogs that like to go for walks or runs with their people. This vest works by getting it wet and wringing it out (evaporative cooling).
- Good back and front/chest coverages
- Side buckles for easy on/off
- Light-colored side fabric for reflecting sunlight
- Likely won’t fit very small or very large dogs
- No UV protection
- No holes for harness compatibility
To summarize, it can be hard for dogs to stay cool in the summer. Heat stroke is serious and should be prevented with a number of methods, including proper hydration, avoiding the hottest part of the day, finding shade, being extra attentive to older, sick, or brachycephalic dogs, and with tools such as cooling vests, collars, or mats.
Cooling vests can work through conductive or evaporative cooling. While they can be helpful for your pup, keep in mind that they are only part of heat stroke prevention. Emphasis on prevention. If your dog is showing symptoms of heat stroke, help cool them off and get them medical treatment right away.
We hope you’re enjoying your summer safely with your pup!
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