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: May 28, 2023
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.
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 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.
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)
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
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.
While the outer layer can dry quickly, the inner layer keeps your dog comfortable and doesn’t trap heat.
This is a great addition for warm nighttime walks.
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.
A dog evaporative vest should cover your dog’s chest, abdomen, heart, lungs, and all the vital organs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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:
- Way To Cool Down Your Dog in Summer
- Dirty Water Risks To Avoid With Your Dog
- Steps to Build a New Dog Budget
- How to Find the Best Veterinarian
- Easy Hack To Remove Sap From Dog’s Fur
- Great Exercises With Dogs
- How To Cure A Smelly Dog Before You Pass Out-6 Solutions
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.