Do Dog Cooling Vests Help Summer Dogs?

How does a dog owner keep a furry dog comfortable and cool in warm weather? Do store-bought dog cooling vests work or perhaps a DIY cooling vest is better. It’s a question all dog parents face. I know I have, with my dog, Henry. So, today let’s dig in today and discover if dog cooling vests work or if they are simply all marketing hype. You and your dog will both love this one.

* Updated: March, 2024

a dog mom learns about dog cooling vests and a dog enjoy being cooler
disclaimer note
Budget tip:

The thought of a heat stroke or even heat exhaustion with Henry is downright scary. While a cooling vest is only one part of the tools to combat this illness it's a tool I can use. I'm happy to say some pet stores will even allow you to return a product if it doesn't work or doesn't fit, such as Chewy.

DIY and end of the year sales are great ways to save on cooling vests.

Howver, in the end, for me, a cooling jacket helps Henry's body temperature stay cool in hot weather (at least to my touch).  Thus, it's well worth it in my opinion. You could even add it to your dog budget. And that's a win-win in my book!

How does a dog cooling vest work?

The theory behind cooling vests for dogs is evaporative cooling. Basically, you wet the vest, then as your dog’s body temperature rises or outside weather temperature increases the water, helps to cool your dog. Yep, simple evaporation at work.

Looking for ways to keep your dog cool during the summer heat? This article will give you some great tips.

Do dog cooling vests work in humidity?

This would be great. But since cooling vests are based on the idea of evaporative cooling, humidity doesn’t allow for evaporation. Thus, no or little cooling is provided when there is humidity. If you’ve ever been to a high humid area during the hot weather of summer, you’ll understand this one. You take a shower but you can never get dry because the humidity is so high. The same theory holds true for cooling vests. 

What is the purpose of a cooling vest for dogs?

Basically, the idea is to keep your dog cool and prevent heat stroke or heat exhaustion which can, unfortunately, sneak up on dog parents.

It should be noted with a dog cooling vest, the water should be slightly cool but never iced. Even cold water seems to be fine as long as it’s not iced. There’s evidence that shows iced vests (especially when dogs are exerting energy) can actually escalate dogs into distress with heat stroke or even heat exhaustion.

Do you know that your dog can get sick from dirty water that may not look dirty? Henry got sick from dirty water. In this article, I walk you through everything you need to know.

Do cooling vests work? 

There haven’t been a lot of studies done on cooling vests for dogs. However, a study in 2012 by the University of Florida found that cooling vests with rechargeable packs did have a cooling effect on dogs.

You can also consider anecdotal evidence. Which means how it works for individual dogs. This includes reviews from friends, family, and dog parents you know.

For example, when you see a dog on the hiking trail or dog park with a cooling jacket, simply ask about their experiences. You can even find some posted anecdotal evidence about dog cooling vests on YouTube. Just make sure it’s not strictly a sponsored link or video.

Has your dog ever gotten sap stuck in his/her fur? Henry has more times than I can count. In this article, I share my tested tricks for removing tree sap from dog fur, even if it’s dry.

How does an evaporative cooling vest help my dog, Henry?

Since I adopted my dog, Henry in 2017, he has had a cooling vest. Let me note that Henry is a dark-colored dog. I’ve had a few dark-colored pets in my life and I know they always had a more difficult time in the heat. With this knowledge, I wanted to help Henry as much as possible before the summer heat hit. I’m very grateful to say that I have noticed a difference when Henry is wearing his vest in hot weather.  This includes:

  • More energy
  • Able to go longer distances
  • Less panting in heat (compared to not wearing a cooling)
  • Body temperature feels cooler to me (although I haven’t taken his temperature)

Are you looking for a new summer exercise to do with your dog? In this article I walk you through some fun ones I bet you haven’t thought about.

My dog is a puppy, senior, or has a physical ailment. Can a dog cooling vest still help my dog?

In theory, yes. As long as you use the cooling jacket appropriately and it’s fitted properly it can provide your dog relief from hot weather. Moreover, it may be a helpful tool in preventing heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

What do I look for in a dog cooling vest?

Cooling vests for dogs generally come in different sizes. You will need to measure your dog for a proper fitting. Although there are a few things to look for in a great cooling vest for your dog:

Choice of fabric

Cotton

This is a good choice. It’s not toxic if should chew it. Plus, it can hold up to 400 times its weight. Think how heavy a bath towel is when you transfer it from the washer to the dryer. Most importantly, it’s more comfortable for your dog.

Nylon

While the outer layer can dry quickly, the inner layer keeps your dog comfortable and doesn’t trap heat.

Reflective trim

This is a great addition for warm nighttime walks.

cooling vest in action on a dark colored cockapoo
Henry sporting his shammy cooling vest.

NOTE: One of the first cooling jackets for Henry I bought was made out of shammy material. Yep, like what you would dry your car with after washing. Thankfully, I didn’t pay very much for it. The problem with it was that it dried quickly. And once dried it was hard like a shield on Henry. Not exactly what I was looking for in a cooling vest.

Sizing vests

Coverage

A dog evaporative vest should cover your dog’s chest, abdomen, heart, lungs, and all the vital organs.

Full coat

I like the vests that are fuller for more cooling, although there isn’t evidence that shows this is necessary. In my mind it just makes sense. Plus, Henry seems to be cooler when I touch him. You’ll see some vests only cover the rib cage and stop, like the shammy vest. However, others will go to the bum, like the reflective vest below.

Measuring

Cooling vests are sold in different sizes from extra small to extra-extra-extra large. To find the correct size you’ll measure your dog’s girth. However, each cooling jacket brand is sized a bit differently and sizing is provided for each company.

Cooling ability

The vest should be able to stay cool for a long period of time and help to keep your dog’s body temperature down. Henry’s generally will stay cool for several hours. Most of the time it’s enough for a hike. But I often I will carry a zip bag with cool water for a quick re-cooling if needed.

Tip: You can also get rechargeable cooling vests like what was used in the University of Florida study. These are a bit more expensive. But it might work for you or your dog’s needs better. Personally, I find that as long as I keep Henry’s vest wet, he stays cool, and to my touch, his body temperature stays down too. So, I haven’t needed to invest in anything more.

Cleaning

A cooling jacket is something that gets a lot of use. Or at least Henry uses his a lot during the hot weather in the summer. So, I need a way to clean it quickly. As you can imagine, it can become sticky rather quickly. Most will need to be hand-washed. However, I don’t have an issue with this requirement.

Often I will wash it at night. I use a few drops of either fragrance-free laundry soap or more often a couple of drops of Blue Dawn dish soap. If Henry’s really done a number on his cooling jacket, I’ll add up to 1/4 cup of distilled vinegar. This will kill the stink and let it smell nice again.

While the vest could still be wet by the next day, since it’s cooler inside I don’t worry about it. I simply wet it as I generally would and let him have at it again.

How do I use a cooling vest for my dog? 

  • Fully wet the vest in a basin or sink of cool water.
  • Let the vest soak in the basin for a few minutes.
  • Rub the vest, which will help activate the cooling aspect once it’s been soaked
  • Squeeze out the excess water (pat dry if needed)
  • Put the vest on your dog

Tip: I like to put Henry’s vest on beginning with the neck and then the chest. It seems to work best in this method.

Is your dog stinky? Here are some great tips for taking the stink out but keeping the adorable.

What if I can’t find a cooling vest that will fit my dog?

This can happen for large-necked, short-bodied, or extremely small dogs. If you have a Pug, French Bulldog, or Shih Tzu it can be more difficult to size your pup for a cooling vest. But, don’t worry. You can still protect your dog with other cooling products such as:

  • Cooling pet pad
  • Dog collar with cooling abilities
  • Cooling dog harness
  • Dog scarf with evaporative cooling
  • DIY dog cooling vest

There are videos on YouTube to make all of these cooling dog products at home. I personally like the cooling vest option the best. It provides the most coverage and it’s flexible for Henry.

TIP: However, a bit of warning. If you decide on a DIY evaporative cooling product, remember not to use an ice pack or make it too cold. While we may love to sit in front of a swamp cooler after a workout, at least for now, it seems like extreme cold temperatures (especially when exercising) our dogs on a hot day is not wise. It may have the opposite effect in trying to cool our dogs and avoid heat related issues.

What other dog cooling vest tips should I know?

Ice water

As I’ve mentioned a few times but bears mentioning again, never use ice or ice water. It can cause heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or other heat-related illnesses.

Refrigeration

These cooling vests for dogs do not need to be refrigerated. However, they can be cooled for a few minutes if you desire on a very hot day.

A cooling tool

Keep in mind a dog cooling jacket is a great tool in helping to keep your dog cool and prevent heat stroke or heat exhaustion. However, they are NOT MEANT TO BE THE ONLY TOOL. You still need to provide water and a cool place for your dog to rest. Additionally, do not exercise your dog during the heat of the day, even with an evaporative cooling garment.

Hot car

Again, even if your dog is wearing a cooling vest, NEVER EVER leave your dog in a hot car. Not even for a few minutes. Additionally, don’t leave the cooling vest in a hot car as it will quickly lose its effectiveness.

Should I get a cooling vest for my dog?

This will be a choice you will need to make for your dog. I decided almost immediately that with Henry’s dark coat and our hot summer temperatures, he needed one. Well, let me rephrase that a little, I needed to do everything possible to help him keep his body temperature down in hot weather. One of the tools I chose was an evaporative cooling vest.

However, your dog may live in a cooler climate or have a different type of coat. For example, you may live in North Dakota with a Greyhound. If so, your dog is probably fine without a cooling vest.

On the other hand, when I’ve visited Las Vegas in April and seen fully coated Huskies walking at noontime in the heat. These Huskies never have a cooling vest. But they are always panting and appeared to be struggling in the heat while walking next to their dog owner. That’s a tough environment for a heavily coated dog.

Remember heat stroke or heat exhaustion can happen within moments for dogs. I always encourage pet parents to keep their fur kids well being at the forefront of their minds when making choices. Even simple ones like when to walk your dog.

Related additional information:

A reflective cooling vest on a dark colored dog.
Henry in one of his early reflective cooling vests.

Summary of do dog cooling vests help summer dogs

Keeping your dog cool in hot weather is critical. For Henry, a cooling vest does seem to help.

However, the scientific evidence is a bit lacking. But the anecdotal evidence, for me, supports a cooling vest for Henry. I’ve seen it work for him. That’s not to say it will work for every dog. Moreover, I’ve noticed the effectiveness of cooling vests rests in the preparation and application. I have to admit, I have rushed the process a few times and the vest didn’t work so well for Henry. But it’s worked like a charm when I’ve done it properly.

Although these vests can be pricey, there are workarounds. If you are good with sewing you can make a DIY cooling vest. It is a great way to test if it will help your dog with the heat. Honestly, the way I’ve seen Henry handle hot weather with his cooling vest, makes me wish I had one.

a husky is grateful his dog mom learned about dog cooling vests

Have you tried a cooling vest for your dog? How did it work? 

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22 thoughts on “Do Dog Cooling Vests Help Summer Dogs?”

  1. Layla has a cooling vest, it is fantastic and on hot days she wears it with her harness over it. I swear by them as I have seen how it works on her. The company I got if from has disappeared as I wanted to get her a new one. It is flexible, loose so she can walk and roll in it.

    Reply
    • Oh yes, I put Henry’s harness on the outside as well. That’s a great way to make sure Layla is cool, but still safe with her harness.

      You might want to try a local pet store for sizing at the very least. If you find one you like, then you can either go ahead and get it or see if you can find the same one online for less. There are also several online pet stores, that will let you return or donate an item if it doesn’t work for your pet, such as Chewy. That’s also an option if you can’t find anything local. I’ve done both with success.

      I hope these extra tips help you find a new cooling vest for Ms. Layla.

      Reply
  2. I thought about getting a cooling vest for my Alaskan klee kai, Fenrir. His fur is basically the same as a husky, so as you can imagine, he gets hot quickly. We generally live in a cooler climate, but we do still get some hot summer days. I think the only thing that’s kept me from trying one, so far, is that I don’t like the heat either! So I generally don’t spend a lot of time outdoors (thus neither do my dogs) when it’s especially hot. I’m thinking I’ll still try a cooling vest for Fenrir at some point. Do they make them for people too? lol!

    Reply
    • I hear you on not liking the heat. As I get wiser (not older, but wiser), I don’t like the heat as much either.

      Even short stints outside will do Henry in when during the dead of summer. So, I’ve found that it’s worth it for him to put on his cooling vest even if it’s only for a quick potty break. However, he has more stamina and will want to stay outside longer while I melt.

      Michelle, yes they do make many human cooling products. I was amazed! If you look at a sporting goods store you can find cooling shirts, bandanas, vests, hats, scarf, and it’s almost endless the creativity. You can find even more online if you look for them on construction clothing sites. I had no idea. But now I’ll pass a construction site and easily spot these items. I actually bought a bandana scarf a few years ago. It works great! I can put it on my neck or neck and head. It stays cool for hours and keeps me cool as well.

      I hope these tips help keep you and Fenrir cooler this summer.

      Reply
  3. I’m glad you found cooling vests beneficial for your dog Henry. As you mentioned, everyone is different so taking a trial and error approach may work best. See what works. I never understood how the cooling vests work however after reading how they do, it makes sense that it may not be the best tool in humid areas. I hate feeling wet and sticky too, so I can only imagine how dogs would feel. Thanks for sharing these tips and helpful guide.

    Reply
    • Wet and sticky for months on end is not my favorite. I think there’s a season called “wet and sticky” in parts of this country. I don’t plan to move to those locations.

      I’m glad I could explain how cooling vests and products work.

      I hope you stay cool this summer.

      Reply
  4. Ah, cooling vests–we did try some of them. I would agree that they do work to various degrees. Our experience, however, is that
    – one got too heavy with water to work
    – it still kept the dog damp underneath
    – the other didn’t hold enough water and dried out and stopped working quickly

    Judging by those I tried, it’s a great idea but needs work.

    Reply
    • You’re right, it’s definitely a trial and error type of product. It took me several before I found one I thought was at least semi-decent. But then again, I’m still replacing it each year. However, I feel the relief it gives Henry is still worth the lack of product ability. I will say they do seem to be getting better each year. I’m hoping the technology improves to meet us, picky dog parents. For now, it’ll work while I wait for something better to come along.

      Reply
  5. This is good information to know about cooling vests. Our summers are pretty mild, and we have air conditioning in some of the rooms, so the dogs stay cool. We are lucky that we have a shady yard, so it isn’t too bad even when they go outside.

    Reply
    • I’d say you’re very lucky! I’d love to live where you are located. I can roast an egg on the sidewalk by the end of July. I don’t let Henry outside during the day unless he really needs a potty break and then he’s got on his cooling vest. Maybe next summer, we’ll be in a cooler location. For now, I’ll dream of your location while I sweat and Henry wears his cooling vest.

      Reply
  6. Henry is a cutie! I had an epileptic wooly Siberian Husky, and keeping him was a must as heat is a trigger for seizures. I always had a cooling bed and cooling collar, as well as a cooling fan. They did not really have cooling vests then, but I certainly would have tried one. Great info. Thank you for giving all the deets on the cooling vest. I’ll be Pinning to share!

    Reply
    • Awe, thank you for the comment about Henry. I can’t disagree.

      Gosh, I wish cooling vests and more cooling products would’ve been around for your tribe. It seems like the cooling technology in Henry’s vests improve each year. It’s definitely an evolving area as they continue to improve the technology and products.

      Thanks for the continued support!

      Reply
  7. I had heard of cooling mats for cats but did not know dogs could get vests, although the whole think makes sense, especially if you live in a climate that gets really hot (like when we visited Arizona).

    It is worth trying with a dog, especially if they get hot isn’t it? Even if you only keep it on a short period of time.

    Reply
    • Yes, it certainly seems like it is worth it for me with Henry. They do have cooling pet beds and collars. Plus, some cooling vests are sized extra small, which would fit many cats. It would just depend if your cat has an issue with hot weather and if your cat can stand to wear anything. I never had a cat that would’ve let me put any kind of clothing on them, even if for medical reasons. However, there are many cats that do like wearing clothes. I had several cats that didn’t do so well in the hot weather and always liked it when I took and cool towel to wet them down during the summer.

      I hope you and your cats stay cool when it’s summer.

      Reply
  8. I’ve never thought about cooling vests for dogs. It sounds like a great investment – especially if you live somewhere that gets really hot. Here in Michigan, we do have hot weather in the summer, but it is not like Las Vegas or southern Florida. These vests make a lot of sense. I know humans who use similar cooling devices around their necks or foreheads.

    Reply
    • Yes, cooling vests can be very useful. And you’re right cooling devices are great for humans, especially those that have to be or work outside during the heat of the summer. I have one for my neck/head and it does a very good job. Although, I wish it stayed cool longer. I have to say I’m a bit jealous of your cooler summers in Michigan. It gets rather hot here in Northern Nevada. I hope you and your kitties stay cool this summer.

      Reply
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    Reply

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