We’re in the dog days of summer, and it’s HOT out there. It’s important for everyone, human and canine alike, to stay cool and hydrated to avoid overheating, bad moods, and heat stroke.
While keeping hydrated is fairly straightforward–this is your reminder to get a drink of water for both you and your pup–cooling is a little bit more complicated.
The reason for that is because humans and canines cool off in different ways. Our bodies are built different.
One way to keep your dog cool (that doesn’t involve a wet, smelly dog in your house) is to use a cooling collar.
This post will cover how cooling collars work, which features are important to keep in mind, where to buy them, options for DIYing your own cooling collar, and last but not least, other cooling alternatives.
Note: this post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!
What is a Cooling Collar?
A cooling collar is, well, a collar that helps your dog stay cool.
You may already know that dogs can’t sweat. Or, at least they can’t sweat as much as humans do. They do sweat a little bit through their paws, which is why your dog might have feet that smell like Fritos or fish.
If your dog can’t sweat, what are their options for cooling off? First is panting. When a dog pants, they are rapidly inhaling and exhaling air. This air picks up humidity from the dog’s mouth, nose, and lungs, which is then exhaled. This evaporation cools them off in the same way that you get chilly when you step out of the shower. Panting cools a dog off from the inside out.
By the way, this also means that they’re losing hydration by panting, so make sure you provide plenty of fresh water!
This evaporative cooling idea can work on the outside of the dog too. The easiest way to do this is to get your dog wet, through swimming, sprinklers, etc. The water will evaporate, pulling heat away with it. Again, this is just like the “stepping out of a shower” situation you’re no doubt familiar with.
But this leaves you with a sopping wet dog. And, it’s less effective in humid climates because there’s already a lot of moisture in the air, and the evaporative effect doesn’t happen as quickly.
Since you probably don’t want to have a smelly, wet dog in your house every day in the summer, let’s talk about some other options.
These include cooling collars, cooling vests, and cooling mats.
Do Cooling Dog Collars Work?
Cooling dog collars are fabric covers over ice packs that go around your dog’s neck like a collar. Ice pulls heat out of surrounding objects, meaning your dog’s neck will cool off. The scientific term for this is conduction.
The idea for cooling a dog’s neck is based on human studies that show an outsized cooling effect when the neck is targeted. This is because cooling the neck reduces constriction of neck arteries, ensuring proper blood supply to the brain, and lowering the risk of heat stroke.
The effectiveness of dog cooling collars is based on this principle, and the assumption that it is true for dogs as well. However, there isn’t much research specifically on whether this idea applies to dogs or not, so it remains theoretical.
Dogs also cool off by conductive cooling facilitated by blood vessels in their skin. When they’re warm, blood vessels carrying blood close to the skin can help dissipate heat. However, very cold water can paradoxically reverse this cooling process by causing blood vessels to constrict.
This means that very cold methods of cooling (such as a towel soaked in icy cold water) can actually make your dog warmer. You want to go for cool, not cold, especially for short-haired breeds.
While there are not studies on cooling collars, there are a few on cooling vests. A study out of the University of Florida found that cooling vests did help working dogs cool off faster. By contrast, a study with racing greyhounds found that icy cold cooling vests made the dogs warmer. Perhaps this study would have different results with slightly warmer water, but in any case, two studies isn’t very conclusive. These studies also don’t account for much variation in dog breed or climate.
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.
Luckily, cooling collars are pretty inexpensive, and you can even make your own cheap cooling dog collar to test it out for yourself.
As with cooling vests, this is only one part of the strategy for keeping dogs cool. You’ll want to make sure you’re paying attention to their hydration, how much shade is available, avoiding the hottest parts of the day, and looking out for symptoms of heat stroke. We’ll cover these in more strategy at the end of the article.
What is Important to Look For in a Cooling Collar?
Much like any other piece of dog gear, there’s different aspects to cooling collars:
- Cooling method: cooling collars can be ice-based (conductive cooling that pulls heat away from the dog) or evaporative (the collar is wet and pulls heat away as it evaporates).
- Cooling time: this is how long it takes for the cooling collar to be ready. If your collar uses evaporative cooling, you only need to soak it in cool water. If it uses ice or an ice substitute, it will take longer before it’s ready to put on your dog.
- Cooling length: how long it stays cool after it’s on your dog. Ice-based collars are able to provide cooling for longer than evaporative collars. This factor is important for pups that take longer walks or hikes.
- Weight and size: of course, the collar needs to fit your dog. Collars with ice packs are heavier than those without, and may be an issue for smaller dogs or dogs with joint issues.
- Compatibility: do you want to be able to leash your dog while the collar is on? Make sure you find a cooling collar that doesn’t interfere with access to your dog’s regular collar.
- Toxicity: if your cooling collar has an ice alternative, you want a collar that is not chewable, if this is a concern for your dog.
Best Cooling Collars for Dogs
There are many cooling collars available online, including ice-based and evaporative, in many different styles and price points.
Best ice-based cooling collar for dogs
If you want an ice-cooled collar for your dog, this high visibility option will fit nearly all dog sizes, is easy to use, and is relatively affordable.
- Ice-cooling collar that has an inner sleeve for ice packs.
- Comes with two ice strip inserts. Leave one in the freezer and put one in the collar.
- Velcro closure for easy use
- More affordable than other ice-cooling options (at time of this blog post)
- High-viz orange reflective material.
- Sizes S, M, L, XL
Buy it here on Amazon.
Best evaporative cooling collar from dogs
Evaporative cooling collars work by getting wet, and slowly evaporating water (and heat) away from your. Our top pick in this category is from Canada Pooch, whose bandana designs are stylish, made of sports material, and have a convenient snap (no tying and untying knots).
- Evaporative cooling style
- Different prints and colors available
- Snap closure so you don’t have to tie or untie knots
- To use, dunk in cool water, wring out, and put on dog
- Polyester mesh material, lightweight and easy to wash
- Sizes S, M and L
Most stylish cooling collar for dogs
If you want a little more flair in your dog’s cooling collar, check out this ice-cooled option with 5 included ice packs and unique prints. It also has a zippable pouch if you need to quickly swap out ice packs!
- Canvas cotton material with lots of different fun patterns to pick from.
- Ice cooling, comes with 5 ice packs. Put in the fridge or freezer to cool them.
- Zippable pouch allows you to quickly swap out ice packs instead of waiting for the collar to re-cool.
- “One size fits all” that fits necks from 17.7-23.6″. Elastic cord for security.
Buy it here on Amazon.
Best handmade cooling collar for dogs
If you’re looking to avoid big stores like Amazon, we’ve got you covered. This cooling dog collar from Etsy seller MadeByDe is made from synthetic chamois fabric and can work with evaporative or ice cooling!
- Evaporative AND ice-cooling. Dunk in water and wring out for evaporative cooling, or use the built-in pocket with an ice pack for ice cooling
- Fastens with velcro hoop and look closure
- Each collar is handmade so you can customize the color and have your dog’s name embroidered on it.
- Sizes S, M, L, XL and XXL.
Get it here on Etsy.
DIY Cooling Collars for Dogs
As you may have noticed, these bandanas are pretty simple. It comes down to fabric choice, securely holding ice packs (if it’s an ice-cooled collar), and keeping it on your pup.
If you are someone who loves to DIY, here are a few options for you, whether you have a sewing machine or not
Handsewn DIY Dog Cooling Collar
This DIY uses a bandana, ice cooling pack (available at a grocery store or online), needle and thread, and tape during the construction process.
This is a great option if you are looking for supplies around your house and don’t have your own sewing machine and are comfortable with hand-stitching instead.
Best Machine-Sewn DIY Dog Cooling Collar
While there are many tutorials online for cooling collars, I thought this one was one of the best. The reason why is because the collar is actually a clever double sleeve.
One part of the sleeve holds the ice pack. The other sleeve is for your dog’s collar, allowing you to attach it to your dog’s normal collar. This lets you avoid the awkwardness of your dog’s regular collar (and tags) getting hidden under the cooling collar.
See the tutorial here.
Cooling Vests vs Cooling Collars
Should you use a cooling vest instead of a cooling collar? We can’t give a definitive answer on this, because it depends on your dog’s needs. For example:
- A cooling vest might be better suited for longer walk durations, and/or hotter climates.
- A collar might be better suited for a dog that can’t handle the weight of a vest, such as very small toy dogs, or dogs with joint issues.
- A cooling vest that also has reflective material might be better for dark-haired dogs in sunny climates.
- A collar might be better for dogs that don’t like having “clothes” on them and would try to remove a full vest.
For an in-depth read about cooling vests with recommendations, check out this post.
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 collars can 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.
Keep in mind that cooling collars and vests are preventative! If your dog is already suffering from heat stroke, you need to get them medical attention right away.
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 cool (not cold) water, or a cool, soaked towel, and get them to a veterinarian immediately.
In summary, cooling dog collars are a tool in your arsenal for keeping your pup happy and healthy in the summertime. They should be used along with proper hydration and common sense about being out in the heat.
The idea behind cooling collars is to use evaporative or conductive cooling to give thermal relief to your dog’s neck. Neck cooling is important in humans because it keeps blood flow going to our brain and reduces the chance of heat stroke, and the theory is that dogs work the same way.
We hope this post has been useful! Do you use a cooling collar for your pup? Let us know!