Many dogs require copious amounts of exercise to remain healthy, happy and reasonably well behaved. But this can be difficult to accomplish during the peak of the summer when temperatures soar.
Some owners can adjust their schedules to provide their dog with some early morning or late afternoon outdoor time, and others have access to shady areas, which aren’t as sweltering as the surrounding area. But many owners are unable to alter their schedule or visit shady, wind-swept parks on a daily basis.
Fortunately, there is a solution: You can fit your dog with a cooling vest to keep her comfortable while playing under the sun.
Quick Picks: Dog Cooling Vests
- #1 Ruffwear Swamp Cooler [Best Overall Dog Cooling Vest]: The best of the best for keeping your canine cool, this cooling vest uses a 3-layer design and includes sun-blocking materials for additional cooling power.
- #2 Truelove Dog Cooling Vest [Runner Up for Best Dog Cooling Vest]: This lightweight cooling vest features a double zipper to ensure a good fit, it comes with a built-in leash attachment, and it’s priced competitively.
- #3 KYEESE Cooling Shirts [Most Affordable Dog Cooling Vest]: These machine-washable cooling shirts will effectively provide your pooch with some relief from the heat, but they’ll do so without breaking the bank.
What Are Dog Cooling Vests?
Cooling vests are essentially dog vests that help cool your dog through the process of evaporative cooling.
This phenomenon is exceedingly simple, and it has been used by almost every human civilization since the Egyptians were building pyramids. This technology is still used today in the form of swamp coolers, which work like small air-conditioning units.
In fact, evaporative cooling is the same mechanism at work when you sweat.
It takes energy for a droplet of water to change from a liquid to a gaseous state. This energy is pulled from the air surrounding the water, which results in a small temperature drop. When you evaporate enough water, the resulting temperature drop can be significant.
You could accomplish this by simply wetting your dog before going for a walk in the hot sun, but this is messy and she’ll likely dry out before your walk is over. Additionally, water doesn’t evaporate from fur especially effectively.
But cooling vests are designed with special materials that help accelerate the rate of evaporation. And while this evaporation helps cool the air surrounding your dog’s body, which in turn cool her off, some of the best models feature conductive layers, which further accelerate the removal of heat from your dog.
Note that cooling vests work better in dry air, where evaporation occurs quickly, rather than humid air, where evaporation proceeds at a snail’s pace. This means that dogs living in the arid southwest will likely enjoy greater benefits from cooling vests than those living in the perpetually damp southeast will.
Cooling vests do not require any type of power, and they are easy to prepare for use: Simply dunk the vest under cool or cold water, wring it out and put it on your dog.
If it dries out before your walk is over, you can simply pour some more water on the vest. Some owners also like to put the vest in the freezer for a short time before putting it on their dog.
10 Best Dog Cooling Vests: Our Top Picks
Each of the following five cooling vests below function well and are sure to help keep your dog cooler in the summer. Just be sure to review the features and characteristics of each vest to ensure you select the one that will work best for you and your dog.
1. Ruffwear Swamp Cooler
About: The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler is one of the most popular cooling vests for dogs, and it provides a wonderful way to keep your dog cool during the long, hot summer.
A dual-function cooling vest, the Swamp Cooler cools your dog by allowing water to evaporate from the surface and by reflecting the heat of the sun.
- 3-layered construction provides the maximum cooling power
- Side-release buckles make it easy to put the vest on or take it off
- Active fit allows for a full range of motion
- Reflective trim helps improve your dog’s visibility in low light conditions
- Keeps dogs cool while keeping their fur dry
- Reflective trim improves visibility
- Built-in leash portal makes the vest easy to use on walks
- Athletic fit that won’t impede your dog’s movement
- Very easy to put on
- Some owners found that the vest dried out too quickly
- One of the pricier options on the list
2. Truelove Dog Cooling Vest
About: The Truelove Dog Cooling Vest is another high-quality cooling vest that’s a great choice for owners who want Ruffwear-caliber quality at a slightly lower price. With a double zipper and Velcro closure, this cooling vest will stay secure while your pooch enjoys just about any outdoor activity.
The vest has three layers to hold cooling water and D rings so that you can easily attach a leash directly to the vest.
- Features 3 cooling layers
- Bright-colored, reflective trim for visibility
- Multiple leash attachment points
- Lightweight materials won’t weigh your woofer down
- Zipper and Velcro secured cooling vest
- This is one of the few vests that offer models suitable for deep-chested dogs
- Attached D rings are convenient for easy leash attachment
- Adjustable drawstring straps makes for a snug fit
- Not ideal for dachshunds and other long-bodied breeds
- A couple of owners noted that this vest was difficult to clean
3. KYEESE 2 Pack Dog Cooling Shirts
About: If you’re looking for a super-affordable way to cool your canine, these KYEESE Cooling Shirts are worth giving a try. To use these shirts, simply moisten and freeze one for 10 minutes, and then throw one on your pooch.
The shirts are machine washable and come in packs of two so your dog will always have something to wear while the other is being cleaned.
- An affordable way to keep your pet cool
- Made from lightweight, breathable materials
- Ready to go after 10 minutes in the freezer
- Sold in packs of 2
- Thin material won’t weigh your pet down
- Super affordable shirts provide great value
- Easy to clean and wash
- Thin shirts easily fit under a harness
- Not quite as effective as premium cooling vests
- There are no harness attachments or ports
4. Canada Pooch Dog Cooling Vest
About: Does Spot have a distinct style? If so, these adorably patterned cooling vests from Canada Pooch may be the perfect choice. Available in different sizes based on back length, these vests fit well and have a reflective trim to provide additional visibility.
With adjustable straps, these vests are designed to hug close to your dog’s body to keep him cool, yet the inner mesh lining means it still breathes well.
Canada Pooch Dog Cooling Vest
Proof that cooling vests needn’t be boring, this option will keep Spot cool and looking adorable at the same time.
- Colorful cooling vests available in two adorable patterns
- Adjustable straps ensure a great fit
- Reflective trim provides additional visibility
- Lightweight rayon outer layer and mesh inner liner
- Long cut is great for long-and-lean doggos
- This is a great pick for pups with long bodies
- These adorable designs help your pooch stand out from the crowd
- Adjustable straps provide a great fit
- We wish it had a buckle at the back end to prevent it from flapping about
- Not a great pick for pups with larger heads like French bulldogs
5. Hurtta Cooling Dog Vest
Hurtta Cooling Dog Vest
A great choice for active dogs who need maximum freedom of movement while playing in the sun.
About: The Hurtta Cooling Vest is a simple and effective way to prevent your dog from overheating while still allowing him to move around freely. Featuring a minimalistic cut, this vest won’t impede your dog’s movements, but it’ll still keep him cool as a cucumber.
Most importantly, this vest concentrates the cooling materials near your dog’s heart and vital organs to help keep him safe when the temperatures soar.
- Absorbs twice as much water as standard terry cloth coats
- The cooling effects of the vest are concentrated near your dog’s heart
- Includes a leash attachment loop for convenience
- Available in a few different colors (not all colors are available in all sizes)
- Shorter vest length will be more comfortable for active dogs
- Owners in humid climates reported that this vest still helped keep their dogs cool
- Typically continues to cool dogs for an hour or more
- A couple of owners noted that this vest runs a little large
- This short vest might not be the best pick for breeds with long bodies
6. DOGZSTUFF Dog Cooling Vest
About: DOGZSTUFF’s Cooling Vest is a full-coverage cooling vest that’ll keep your dog comfy from neck to tail. This vest also features a wrap-around Velcro strap to ensure a snug fit for your pooch. The microfiber fabric used in the construction is lightweight and has built-in UPF sun protection to protect your pooch in the sun.
While this cooling vest doesn’t have any leash attachments, it’s thin enough to wear underneath a harness.
- Long, wrap-around vest design
- Made from soft microfiber materials
- Built-in UPF sun protection
- Full coverage design provides whole-body cooling
- Comes with an adjustable Velcro strap
- Built in UPF sun protection provides additional cooling power
- Full coverage cut is a better choice for some dogs
- The vest is thin and can be worth underneath a harness
- No leash attachments are provided
- Thin cooling vest may dry out faster than other more heavy-duty cooling vests
7. CoolerDog Dog Cooling Vest
About: Traditional cooling vest cut not a great fit for your dog? You may want to check out something completely different, like this two-piece option by CoolerDog. This two-piece “vest” is comprised of a wrap-around neck piece and a matching belly wrap.
Notably, this option doesn’t rely on evaporative cooling as most of the other products discussed here do. Instead, this two-piece getup features ice-bag inserts to keep your pooch from overheating. This alternative approach helps to ensure your dog’s fur will stay dry, and the ice typically remains frozen for about 30 minutes.
- Cooling kit features 2 pieces — one for the neck and one for the belly
- Removable “ice” inserts
- Wrap-around Velcro straps to ensure a good fit
- Pieces can be worn separately or together
- Two-piece design may be more comfortable for some doggos
- Each piece can be worn separately
- Freezable inserts may work better for some pups and climates
- Two-piece design means it is possible to lose one half of the kit
- Requires more prep time than evaporative cooling vests
8. Smartelf Dog Cooling Vest
About: Frequently walk your pup near busy roads? Well, you may want to go with a cooling vest that provides unmatched visibility — and that means opting for the Smartelf Dog Cooling Vest. Dyed bright orange, this cooling vest will ensure EVERYONE sees your dog while it keeps him cool.
Eye-popping color aside, this vest comes with most of the features pet parents would want, including adjustable straps and high-quality, quick-release buckles.
- Bright orange color is super easy for motorists (and you) to see
- Reflective, adjustable straps with quick-release buckles
- Microfiber fabric is comfy for your canine’s coat and skin
- Can be “refilled” while your dog wears the vest
- Owners loved the visibility of this vest
- Strap is easy to adjust to achieve a perfect fit
- Lightweight material is super comfy for canines
- Owners loved the visibility of this vest
- Strap is easy to adjust to achieve a perfect fit
- Lightweight material is super comfy for canines
9. Suitical Dry Cooling Vest
About: If your mutt hates wet fur, it might be worth checking out this Dry Cooling Vest From Suitical. Unlike other cooling vests, this vest features a flexible water “tank,” that prevents liquid from seeping through and soaking your dog’s coat. Aside from keeping your dog cool while keeping him dry, this vest provides a great fit thanks to the two adjustable belly straps.
While this vest does come at a premium price, many owners feel a dry coat is worth the additional expense.
- A unique cooling vest that won’t wet fur
- Machine washable, making it easy to clean
- Lasts for multiple hours on end
- Includes adjustable belly straps for a perfect fit
- Water is held in a flexible reservoir to keep your dog’s fur dry
- Unique design aside, it’s just a well-built, high-quality cooling vest
- Dual buckled adjustable belly straps make for a snug fit
- It’s one of the most expensive cooling vests around
- It’s a little heavier than many other cooling vests
10. Derby Originals Hydro Cooling Jacket
About: Are you seeking a cooling jacket that’ll work with just about any hound’s harness? The Derby Originals Hydro Cooling Jacket is a great choice, as it will work perfectly with a front- or back-clip harness.
In addition to using evaporative cooling to keep your pupper comfy, this vest also reflects UV rays for additional climate control. And its triple-layer design helps keep your pet’s fur dry during the process!
Derby Originals Hydro Cooling Jacket
A long-cut cooling vest made with three layers and multiple leash attachment points for your dog’s harness.
- Features a harness-compatible cut out
- Reflects UV rays for additional cooling capabilities
- Three-layer quilted material to keep Fido fresh and dry
- Attached back clip for leash attachment
- Adjustable Velcro straps
- Most dogs found this vest comfortable to wear
- Perfect for use with harnesses
- Three-layer design is great for keeping Rover dry
- Full-coverage design may be more than some dogs and climates require
- It has fewer owner reviews than we typically like
Things You Want in a Good Dog Cooling Vest
While the principle behind evaporative cooling is very simple, some products simply function better than others. Be sure to select a vest that possesses as many of the following characteristics as possible.
Cooling vests must fit properly. Some dogs are more comfortable wearing clothing than others, but no dog likes to wear things that don’t fit well. To ensure your dog is willing to wear her new cooling vest, you want to be sure you select a style that is suitable for your dog’s body type, and you’ll need to make sure you select the best size. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines when determining a size, and rely on your dog’s measurements, rather than her weight, to obtain the best fit.
Cooling vests should function for a reasonable length of time. A cooling vest that dries completely in 5 minutes is pretty worthless; minimally, a cooling vest should work for about 15 minutes to make it worth the effort. Remember that while cooling vests will work better in arid climates, they’ll also dry more quickly when there isn’t much water in the air. Accordingly, this is a very important consideration for owners and dogs living in the desert-like areas.
The best cooling vests also reflect the sun’s heat. Although evaporative cooling is the primary way by which cooling vests lower your dog’s temperature, some of the nicer designs incorporate materials that help protect your dog’s back and sides from the sun’s rays, which helps keep them even cooler.
Ideally, cooling vests should also feature reflective strips. Even though you’ll usually be using the cooling vest during the day, it can still be hot after the sun sets during the peak of summer. And because you always want to be sure drivers can see your dog easily in the dark, it just makes sense to opt for cooling vests with reflective trim whenever possible.
Cooling vests should be designed to work well with your harness or collar and leash. You should always keep your dog leashed when you are not in an enclosed area, so you’ll want to select a cooling vest that will work with your dog’s harness or collar. A few designs feature a leash clip, allowing you to use the vest as a harness.
Cooling vests should keep your dog’s fur cool and dry. Wet fur can be irritating to your dog, and it may even lead to chaffing or skin problems. A little dampness is not a problem, but you want to avoid vests that allow your dog’s fur to become soaked.
Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Hands-On Test: Will It Work When the Humidity is High?
As explained earlier, high humidity levels can reduce the rate at which the water in a cooling vest evaporates. This means that cooling vests likely aren’t as effective for those living in the southeastern U.S. or other hot-and-muggy locations.
But we wanted to know whether they were still helpful in these types of situations. My pupper (J.B.) and I live in Atlanta and tend to spend lots of time at the park, so we grabbed a Swamp Cooler and tried to find out ourselves.
You can see a full explanation in the video above, but here’s a basic outline of our process:
- J.B. and I went on a series of 18 walks during the late summer of 2019 (we initially intended on performing 20 trials, but the weather didn’t work with us).
- We sought to keep everything as similar as possible during each walk:
- They all took place during the middle part of the day.
- The temperatures were 85 degrees or higher and the relative humidity level was at least 33% during each walk.
- Each of the walks was approximately the same length – we just made one lap at one of our regular parks (the route is approximately 3/4-mile long and it takes us about 15 to 20 minutes to complete).
- The only difference we incorporated in the trials was the use of the Swamp Cooler – J.B. wore it every other walk. This means she wore the vest nine times and went sans vest nine times.
- I took her axillary (armpit) temperature at the beginning and the end of each walk using the same thermometer each time.
- We tallied the results and calculated the average change in her body temperature. This way, we could compare the change in body temperature from trials that utilized the vest with those trials that didn’t include the vest.
You can see our results in the chart below (trials that incorporated the Swamp Cooler are highlighted in blue).
Now, this obviously wasn’t proper science – it was more of a Mythbusters-level experiment. To qualify as real science, we’d have needed to conduct far more trials, and we’d have probably wanted to take her temperature in a more, uh, personal location (rectal temperatures are the “gold standard”). We’d have also conducted trials of varying lengths.
But, we still believe our research proved valuable and should be of interest to other owners living in humid locations.
Bottom line: The vest did help keep her cooler on average.
The difference between her body temperature increase with the vest and without the vest certainly wasn’t overwhelming (the difference was about 1/3 of one degree), but the point remains — it did keep her cooler and (presumably) more comfortable.
And that’s a win in my book. We’ll likely use it again next summer.
So, while cooling vests will unquestionably be more effective in hot, dry environments, they should still provide some value for those living in the southeast.
Summer Safety For The Four-Legged & Furry
Cooling vests certainly allow your dog to remain safer and more comfortable when the temperatures are high, but they don’t completely protect your pet from the heat.
You’ll want to keep a few safety guidelines in mind when the mercury climbs.
- Try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Although it isn’t always possible to stay in the shade, you should make every effort to do so while walking in the summer. Not only will the shade protect your dog from the sun, it also keep the pavement and ground cooler as well, which is more comfortable for your dog’s paws.
- Be sure your pooch remains hydrated. Stop and give your dog a chance to drink water every 15 to 30 minutes. Because water fountains can break, it is always wise to bring a water dish and water bottle along with you on your journeys.
- Use care when crossing hot pavement. Hot pavement can burn your dog’s feet, so try to stick to softer, non-paved surfaces. If this is impossible, consider fitting your dog with some protective booties. Just be aware that this may reduce her ability to cool herself, as dogs vent heat via their paws (as well as their ears and mouths).
- Scale back on the running and playing when temperatures soar. Vigorous activity will increase your dog’s body temperature, so ease back on the time spent playing fetch when it gets hot.
- Take frequent breaks. Even if your dog normally walks for several miles during the cooler portions of the year, you’ll want to give her plenty of opportunities to rest in the shade and pant for a few minutes during summer walks. Minimally, you should plan on taking a break every 15 minutes or so, but don’t be afraid to do so even more frequently if you think your dog needs it.
- Apply canine sunscreen. If your dog is has light-colored fur or has thin fur, make sure to apply dog sunscreen when you’re out in the sunshine. That’s right, dogs can get sunburned too!
- Take a dip In the pool. A cooling vest isn’t the only way to keep your dog refreshed – consider getting a dog-friendly pool for your pup to take a dip in when it’s really sweltering out.
The Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthermia
Even if you follow all of the summer safety tips referenced above and fit your dog with the best cooling vest available, your pup can still become sick if his temperature climbs too high.
Called hyperthermia, this condition is a medical emergency that requires you to immediately reduce your dog’s body temperature and contact your vet.
Always be prepared to act quickly if you observe any of the following signs or symptoms of hyperthermia in your dog:
- Reddened gums
- Excessive drooling
- Vomiting blood
- Breathing distress
- Muscle tremors
- Rapid heart rate
- Black, tarry stools
Note that very young or very old dogs are at increased risk of hyperthermia, as are dogs with short faces (brachycephalic breeds), thick coats or excess body fat. Take extra precautions when playing outside with dogs with these traits.
Other Ways To Cool Your Canine
Cooling vests can be a great tool for helping your pooch stay comfortable in the heat. But don’t hesitate to try some of the following strategies to help your pooch feel his best in the summer sun, too:
- Provide plenty of water. Keep your hound hydrated by providing a constant supply of clean, fresh, and cool water at home. But also, be sure to provide plenty of water while you’re on the go via a doggie water bottle.
- Try out a cooling mat. Cooling mats can make excellent crate inserts, and they can also be used on their own to provide a refreshing place for your pooch to rest his head.
- Avoid walking during the hottest times of the day. To the extent possible, schedule most of your walks in the morning or just after the sun goes down to keep your canine cool. Avoid being outside between 12:00 and 3:00 PM, as this is usually the hottest time of the day.
- Opt for a pooch pool party! If Spot loves to swim, spending time in a dog-friendly pool can be equal parts fun and refreshing during the warmer months. If you opt for a more natural body of water like a lake or beach, be sure to pack a dog life vest.
- Limit intense outdoor activities. If you have to go outside during warm weather, limit your dog’s exposure and avoid high-intensity activities like exercising or playing while in the direct sun.
Best Dog Cooling Vests FAQ
Are you having trouble deciding on the perfect cooling vest for your pooch? Here are some commonly asked questions and answers to help fill in the blanks.
Do cooling vests for dogs actually work?
You betcha! Cooling vests not only block out some sun’s rays, they also help your dog cool down through evaporative cooling. And as we demonstrated in the trial above, they even work in hot and humid locations.
What’s the best dog cooling vest?
The best dog cooling vest is one that fits your dog properly, prevents your dog from getting wet, and has some sun-blocking features like reflective strips. Our list above should give you a good starting point in your search.
Are cooling vests worth it?
Cooling vests are a good choice for dogs spending lots of time in the sun, and they’re particularly useful in places with a hot-and-dry climate. And because they’re typically rather affordable, they are certainly worthwhile investments.
Can you put a dog cooling vest in the freezer?
Some vests can be put in the freezer for a short period of time before fitting Fido. Just check the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure.
Have you ever used a cooling vest for your dog? How did it work out? Did she mind wearing it? Was it easy to use and durable? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.