As the name suggests, cooling vests help your pooch stay comfortable in hot weather. Here are five of the best cooling vests for dogs, along with a handy guide to finding the perfect match for your pup.
Dogs can’t regulate their body temperature as efficiently as humans, which puts them at risk of heat stroke. As dog owners, it’s our responsibility to ensure our pups stay cool when the mercury rises.
The best way to keep your pooch safe in hot weather is to simply avoid it. You can do this by not walking in high temperatures, making sure they have a cool room to hang out in, and providing plenty of fresh drinking water.
Cooling vests are another tool for providing extra cooling comfort around the home. They’re not a replacement for other precautions, but can help your dog feel more comfortable in hot climates where the temperature is high day and night.
In this article, I’ll show you what you need to look for when choosing a dog cooling vest and share my five favourite options.
Important: A cooling coat alone cannot prevent heat stroke. They should also never be used as a treatment for heat stroke.
Effective and long-lasting cooling
The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler is our top pick for a dog cooling vest. It’s a high-quality vest that provides hours of cooling and great coverage. The outer layer also offers UPF 50+ protection against the sun’s rays.
There are several reasons why your dog struggles to stay cool in hot weather.
Unlike humans, dogs can’t simply take off their coat when it gets too hot. Also, dogs cannot sweat to cool down like people.
Dogs do have limited sweat glands in their paw pads, but really the only way your pooch can lose heat is by panting, which increases the rate of dehydration. This means that their biological cooling processes can become overloaded fast – leading to potentially deadly heat stroke.
Every dog is at risk of heatstroke in the wrong conditions, but the risk is higher in certain breeds. Breeds with thick fur will overheat quickly, and brachycephalic (flat-nosed) breeds like bulldogs, shih-tzus and pugs suffer breathing issues that make it more difficult to stay cool.
The same is true for overweight dogs, puppies and elderly dogs. These dogs struggle to manage their body temperature in both cold and hot temperatures.
As dog owners, we need to ensure our beloved companions have access to fresh water and shade at all times. Dogs shouldn’t be exercised on hot days, and it’s important to always be mindful of the signs of heat exhaustion – even in moderately warm weather.
Cooling dog vests or jackets keep your pup cool by harnessing the natural cooling power of evaporation. This is the same process that cools you down when sweating.
Most cooling vests consist of multiple layers of cotton and nylon. Cotton is great at absorbing water, while nylon is breathable and quick-drying to accelerate the evaporative process.
Cooling vests usually need to be soaked in water for a couple of minutes and wrung out before being fitted to your pup.
Once the vest is on your dog, the water begins to evaporate. During the process of changing from a liquid state to a gaseous state, energy is taken from the air around the water, which causes a drop in temperature close to your dog’s body.
You might think you could achieve the same result by wetting your pup’s fur, but this isn’t as effective. Water doesn’t evaporate from fur efficiently and your dog’s coat will also dry much faster than a vest, thus losing any cooling effect.
Cooling vests work best in hot and dry air. In humid conditions, the air is already holding a lot of moisture, which results in slow rates of evaporation and limited temperature change.
So long as they are used correctly and kept wet, cooling vests are safe for your dog. They can help your dog stay more comfortable on hot summer days – especially if you don’t have air conditioning.
However, cooling vests are not a solution to heat stroke.
They are great for keeping your dog cool around the home, but should not be used as a protective measure for exercising your pup in hot weather. Exercising in high temperatures is very dangerous, and a cooling vest alone cannot be relied upon to keep your dog safe.
Cooling vests also have the opposite effect once they dry out. When all the water has evaporated, the vest essentially functions just like any other dog coat, and will cause your pup’s body temperature to increase.
Be sure to check your dog’s cooling vest regularly, and re-soak it in water once it begins to dry. This is especially important in hot climates with low humidity, as cooling vests dry out rapidly in these conditions.
Tip: If your dog finds handling difficult, or hates wearing harnesses or vests, you may want to try a cooling bandana. These are smaller and less effective than vests, but still provide a cooling effect. The Ergodyne Evaporative Cooling Bandana is one example, but there are many more on the market.
Heat stroke occurs when your dog’s body temperature becomes elevated above its normal range and their body is unable to lose heat quickly enough.
It is a very dangerous, life-threatening condition that can quickly result in organ damage and death. Rapid treatment is vital, so it’s crucial that you watch for the following symptoms:
If your dog shows any of these signs, move them to somewhere cool and shaded immediately. Place a damp tool underneath the dog for extra cooling.
This method is emergency first aid only. You must take your dog to the nearest veterinarian immediately.
Even if your dog begins to look better, they should still be assessed by a vet as a matter of urgency.
There are a wide range of cooling vests available on the market, but some are far better than others.
Here are my top 5 cooling vests for dogs based on fit, ease of use, and effectiveness
Our top pick for keeping your pup cool in hot weather is the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Evaporative Cooling Vest.
Available in a choice of six sizes to fit all but the smallest breeds, this cooling vest gives great coverage and is simple to use. Just soak the vest in cold water, wring out the excess, and apply to your dog to keep them comfortable on hot summer days.
The triple-layer cooling effect uses a combination of heat reflection, evaporative cooling and breathable materials. The outer layer offers UPF 50+ protection against the sun’s rays, the middle holds cool water to regulate body temperature, and the inner layer is made from moisture-wicking mesh to keep your pup comfortably dry.
We also like that this vest is easy to put on and take off, due to the quick-release side buckles. Its leash portal means it can be worn over a harness too.
The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler cooling vest is flexible to avoid restricting your pup’s movement. The sleeves are cut high for full range of motion without rubbing, so your dog can enjoy a gentle walk without discomfort. The reflective trim ensures your dog is visible in low light, and there’s even a built-in loop for attaching the Ruffwear beacon (sold separately).
Even though Ruffwear claims this vest will allow dogs to “perform” in hot weather, we don’t agree that dogs should be exercised in the heat. A gentle early morning walk in cool temperatures is fine, but running and high-energy games should be avoided, whether they’re wearing this vest or not.
So long as it’s used sensibly, we think this cooling vest is an excellent choice for keeping your pooch safe, cool and comfortable when temperatures rise.
Next on our list is the Ruffwear Jet Stream Vest. This model doesn’t provide cooling for as long as the Swamp Cooler, but is a lighter and cheaper option.
The Jet Stream uses a combination of shade protection and evaporation to give your pup relief from the heat. Just soak the vest in water and squeeze out the excess for a cooling effect that will last a couple of hours.
Constructed from multiple layers, the Ruffwear Jet Stream Vest has a heat reflective outer that bounces the sun’s rays and provides UPF 50+ protection. The inner layer is highly breathable to wick away heat, while the middle layer holds water for evaporative cooling.
This lightweight vest isn’t as heavy as other options when soaked, making it a good choice for slighter breeds. We like that the zippered closure makes it easy to secure in just a few seconds, while the snug, flexible fit with high-cut legs allows your pup to move freely.
This model doesn’t have a leash portal for harnesses, but it is cut low on the shoulders. Therefore, you should still be able to use your harness depending on its design. It also features a reflective trim, to increase visibility in low light.
All in all, this vest is great for keeping your pup cool in the heat without restricting their movement or weighing them down. However, despite Ruffwear’s high-energy promotional pictures, we advise against strenuously exercising your dog in high temperatures.
With its wide choice of eight sizes and short length, the Hurtta Cooling Dog Vest is a great option to keep small breeds cool in the summer heat.
This vest appears a little bulkier than some of the other models on our list, but this enables it to hold more water for hours of cooling. The breathable mesh layers on the outside and inside encourage evaporation to wick away heat, while the close-fitting design hugs the dog’s chest and heart area for optimum cooling.
Like most other cooling vests, just soak the Hurtta in water and wring out before applying. Once it’s on your pup, you can also pour more water over it to extend the cooling effect.
The Hurtta Cooling Dog Vest is secured with a zip closure along the back. This means your dog will have to step into it, so it may be awkward to put on if you have a fidgety pooch. Furthermore, the zip fastening doesn’t allow for any adjustment, so you’ll have to make sure to measure your dog correctly for a perfect fit.
The smaller sizes (XXS-S) include attachment loops to connect a leash, but the other sizes don’t. As this vest isn’t designed to be used with a harness, it probably isn’t suitable for walking bigger dogs.
Overall, we think this cooling vest is an excellent choice for small pups with short bodies. It fits snugly and the material provides several hours of cooling in hot conditions.
Last on our list is the SGODA Cooler Jacket. Available in a choice of seven sizes, this cooling jacket features a three-layer design to keep your pup comfortably cool when the mercury rises.
As with the other cooling vests we have seen, this model is simple to use. Just soak it in cold water and wring out the excess before putting it on. The absorbent cotton inner layer holds water away from your dog’s skin to keep them dry, but also enables evaporative cooling that provides relief in the heat.
The SGODA Cooler Jacket is soft and lightweight, with a mesh outer layer that’s breathable and heat reflective. This helps to prevent UV rays from reaching your dog’s skin and is particularly good for short-haired breeds who are at increased risk of sunburn.
Due to its zinc-alloy D-ring leash attachment, you can use this vest on its own without the need for a harness – although it’s not as strong or comfortable as a “real” harness. The zip/Velcro fastening is secure and easy to put on, and allows for some adjustment for the perfect fit.
We also like how the belly section can be adjusted with an elastic cord – ideal if your pup is more slender or chunky than the average pooch. Keep in mind that this product tends to run large though, so it may be worthwhile buying a size smaller if your dog’s measurements are on the borderline.
Overall, this cooling vest is a great choice for keeping your beloved pooch chilled and comfortable on hot summer days. The wide choice of sizes and adjustable design means it can fit almost every dog, while the reflective edging makes it perfect for improved visibility on low-light walks.
Another great choice to help your pup tackle the heat is the HyperKewl Evaporative Cooling Dog Coat.
Available in a choice of eight sizes, from XS to XX-Large, this cooling vest will keep your pup comfortable in hot weather for 5 to 10 hours per soak.
Capable of reducing skin temperature by a considerable amount, the HyperKewl Cooling Dog Coat uses evaporation to wick away heat. After being soaked for a couple of minutes, the “HyperKewl” fabric inner layer slowly releases water via evaporation. Dogs can’t sweat like humans, so this vest mimics the cooling effect of sweating to ensure they stay safe in high temperatures.
It’s easy to use, too – simply soak the vest in water for 2-minutes, wring out the excess and apply for a happy, chilled pup.
This cooling vest is comfortable to wear and doesn’t restrict your dog’s motion. It’s available in two colors and is secured with a durable buckle.
On the downside, the sizings for this vest run quite large, so if your dog measures on the borderline, you may be better off ordering a size down. It also doesn’t have a leash portal for use with harnesses. However, depending on your style of harness, you may still be able to attach a leash if the ring sits high enough on their back.
There are several factors to keep in mind when choosing the best cooling vest for your dog. Here’s my guide to the most important considerations.
It’s vital that your dog’s cooling vest is fitted correctly. A vest that’s too tight will restrict their movement, but a loose fit reduces the cooling capabilities.
For best results, a cooling vest should cover a large area of your pup’s body. The more skin contact there is between the vest and your pup, the greater the cooling effect will be.
Always check the size guides for each model when choosing the right fit for your dog. Weight is not a reliable indicator of size, so the most commonly-used measurement for cooling vests is the girth around the chest.
Due to their wide necks and short bodies, some breeds, like bulldogs, can be difficult to fit. In these cases, you may have to opt for a cooling pad instead.
You should choose a cooling vest that doesn’t dry out too quickly and will keep your pup cool for a decent length of time.
The best options have a highly-absorbent inner layer for good water retention, combined with an effective wicking mesh on the outer layers to increase airflow and evaporation.
Of course, the length of time that a cooling vest is effective will depend on the temperature and humidity levels. Therefore, you should check your dog’s vest regularly to ensure that it doesn’t dry out.
Keep in mind that your dog’s fur shouldn’t get soaked when wearing a cooling vest. A little dampness is fine, but sodden fur will be uncomfortable for your dog and may cause skin problems.
Your cooling vest should be easy to put on and take off. This is especially important if you have a wriggly pup who can’t stay still for too long!
We recommend looking for a design that has quick-release buckles, so you can fit the vest in just a few seconds with minimal hassle.
Most cooling vests are placed on the back and then secured around the chest and belly – but some zippered models will require you to place your dog’s legs through the holes and fasten along the back. This style can be a little more awkward to use with fidgety dogs.
Some vests have a harness portal, so the dog can wear a harness underneath. While this can be useful on walks, it’s usually not necessary. If the weather is hot enough to require a cooling vest, it’s probably too hot for a walk anyway.
Evaporative cooling is the main method used by cooling vests to lower your dog’s temperature, but some designs come with other useful features that can help protect your pup in hot weather.
Reflective outer layers help to bounce the sun’s rays away from your pup, while those that offer UPF protection reduce the risk of sunburn.
Walking your dog in the early morning or late evening is a good way to avoid the worst of the heat. Some cooling vests feature reflective strips that help to increase visibility when walking in low light conditions.
Cooling vests are a great tool to help keep your pup cool in hot weather, but they are not enough to completely protect them from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Here are a few tips to keep your pup safe in high temperatures.
Used sensibly and in combination with other precautions, cooling vests are a great way to keep your pup comfortable in hot conditions and reduce the dangerous risk of overheating.
Any of the cooling vests we’ve reviewed are fantastic choices, but our overall favorite has to be the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler.
Available in a wide range of sizes and with great coverage, the Swamp Cooler is comfortable to wear and suitable for most breeds. Simple and effective, we love that this cooling vest is quick to fit and features a triple-layer evaporative cooling method, as well as UPF 50+ protection to ward off the sun’s rays.
Whatever model you choose, be sure to measure your dog carefully for the perfect fit – and don’t forget to check their vest regularly to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
Do you have any questions about choosing the best cooling vest for your dog? Please let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!