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.
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 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 he’ll likely dry out before your walk is over. Additionally, water doesn’t evaporate from fur especially readily.
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 him 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.
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 his 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 his 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.
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.
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.
About: The Hurtta Cooling Vest is a simple and effective way to prevent your dog from overheating during playtime. The Hurtta Vest features a smaller design than many other cooling vests, which provides a better fit for some dogs than the typical cooling vest style will.
About: The PupPal Cooling Vest not only keeps your pooch cool, the pretty pink color ensures she’ll look adorable while having some summertime fun. The PupPal Vest features a very streamlined design, which is comfortable for dogs and easy for owners to put on or take off, thanks to the single Velcro closure.
About: The BINGPET Cooling Jacket provides a two-for-one solution for summer safety, as it not only helps prevent hyperthermia, but it also includes reflective strips, which increase your dog’s visibility to passing motorists with reflective features.
Additionally, the light-colored surface of the vest also reflects some of the sun’s heat for extra cooling power.
About: The Ruffwear Jet Stream High-Performance Cooling Vest is a sleek and attractive product, which will help keep your dog comfortable when the temperatures are high.
Like Ruffwear’s other cooling vest, the Swamp Cooler, the Jet Stream features a 3-layered construction to keep your canine cool. However, the Jet Stream provides a little more freedom of movement, which makes it the better option for dogs who love to run, jump and play, while the Swamp Cooler is better suited for dogs who just like to go out for a leisurely stroll.
All five of the cooling vests in our review should work to keep your dog cooler, but the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler has every single feature you’d want in a cooling vest and it received stellar reviews from owners who tried it.
It is one of the more expensive cooling vests in our review, but it should still be affordable for most owners.
Plus, Ruffwear is a very reputable company we’d trust with our dog’s comfort and safety!
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.
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:
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.
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.
Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.