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
- Ruffwear Swamp Cooler [Best Overall Option]. The best of the best for keeping your canine cool. It uses a 3-layer design and includes sun-blocking materials for additional cooling power.
- Ruffwear Jet Stream [Dual-layered Design]. A mid-tiered option with a dual-layered design that offers a more comfortable fit for some dogs.
- Hurrta Cooling Vest [Ultra-affordable Option] This cooling vest lacks some of Ruffwear’s fancier features, but offers basic cooling via the power of evaporation.
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.
Be sure to scroll down to see our hands-on experiment that explored this very issue!
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.
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.
5 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
Most owners who tried the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler were very happy with the product, finding that it not only helped to keep their dog cooler, but it fit well and didn’t seem to bother their pooch while wearing it. Additionally, unlike some other cooling vests, which dampen the dog’s coat, the Swamp Cooler cools your pup while keeping her dry.
Despite the large number of owners who found the vest to be very effective, a few owners complained that the Swamp Cooler dried out too quickly – however, these opinions were quite rare. A few others reported that they experienced sizing problems with the vest, with most of these indicating that the vest was too large for their dog.
2. Hurtta Cooling Dog Vest
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.
- Vest material can absorb 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)
Most of the owners who purchased the Hurtta Cooling Vest reported that it helped to keep their dog cool and comfortable during the dog days of summer, with several remarking that this was the best vest of several they had tried. The shorter design also appeared to be more comfortable for many dogs.
Some owners had difficulty obtaining the right size and fit for their dog, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s sizing guidelines before making your purchase.
3. PupPal Pet Cooling Vest
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.
- Vest arrives pre-soaked for your initial use; to reuse later, simply saturate with water and wring it out
- You can purchase with confidence, thanks to the 100% no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee
- Suitable for all coat types and breeds
- Generous holes for the front legs allow your dog to move naturally
Most of the owners who tried the PupPal Pet Cooling Vest were very pleased with their choice. Unlike a lot of other fabulous-looking dog accessories, the PupPal Vest is available in sizes suitable for relatively large dogs (a few owners of dogs in the 50-pound range noted that the extra-large size fit their dog perfectly).
While negative reviews of the PupPal Cooling Vest were quite rare, several owners did experience sizing problems. Just be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines and consider ordering a size larger than you think your dog needs, as the product appears to run small.
4. BINGPET Dog Cooling Jacket
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.
- Easily adjusted, side-release buckles provide unparalleled convenience
- Reflective strip provides even more visibility
- Made from soft and breathable PVA air mesh for maximum cooling power and comfort
- Minimalist design covers most of the back, but leaves the sides and most of the belly uncovered
The majority of owners who tried the BINGPET Cooling Jacket were quite pleased with its performance. Several owners expressed appreciation for the dual-safety value of the vest, as it not only kept their pooch cool, but it kept them more visible too.
Most complaints about the BINGPET Jacket related to sizing problems, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully before making your purchase.
5. Ruffwear – Jet Stream High-Performance Cooling Vest
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.
- Athletic cut works great for dogs engaged in athletic endeavors
- Spandex back panel included to provide protection from the sun’s rays
- Zippered closure provides a fantastic fit
- Available in six sizes and two colors
By and large, owners were very pleased with the Jet Stream High-Performance Cooling Vest, praising both its fit and the length of time it stayed damp while in use. Most dogs seemed to like wearing it, and they appreciated the comfort it provided.
Some owners complained that the zipper didn’t work as well as they’d have liked.
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 (more than is normal for your pooch)
- 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.
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.