Does your dog struggle to stay cool during the summer months? If so, a cooling dog bed could provide a more comfortable sleep and may help prevent heat stroke. Here are our top 5 picks.
Our #1 Pick
Great cooling power for your pet
My top pick for a dog cooling bed is the Arf Pets Self-Cooling. It provides a continuously lower temperature for several hours and only takes 20-minutes to recharge. It also doesn't require a freezer, refrigerator or electricity.
Tossing and turning on a hot mattress isn't pleasant for us humans - but imagine doing it in a fur coat!
This is the reality faced by many dogs in the summer. While a dog's coat usually maintains a comfortable temperature, once a dog starts to overheat it can be difficult to cool down. To make things worse, pet bed stuffing retains heat, prevents air circulation and makes it even harder for your pet to stay cool - particularly if he has a thick coat.
What can you do to help your pet though?
Dogs are less able to keep cool than humans. While dogs do sweat (contrary to popular belief), this is limited to the paw pads. Panting is more important for canine temperature regulation, but it's not enough to keep a dog's body cool on a hot day.
It's therefore up to us dog parents to keep our pets cool in the summer. Providing plenty of water and minimizing exercise in hot conditions is important - but a cooling pet bed can actively help your pup maintain a comfortable temperature.
So, if you've noticed your dog often sleeps on the kitchen floor in summer, or if he's constantly moving around and can't get comfortable, a cooling dog bed or pad could make a big difference.
How to Choose a Dog Cooling Pad
Choosing the best cooling dog bed isn't always easy, as there are lots of options on the market. It's important to understand why they work, the types that are available, and the features you should look for before buying.
Why Cooling Beds Work
You don't need a deep understanding of thermodynamics to buy a cooling bed for dogs, but it helps to know why they work.
When two objects are placed in contact, heat flows from hot to cold until the two objects are at the same temperature. The speed of heat conduction (i.e. how quickly your dog cools down), depends on the difference in temperature, size of contact area and the materials they are made from.
This is why the material used for a cooling bed is so important. Water and gel-based beds are great for keeping your dog cool, as they are highly conductive and heat transfer happens quickly (assuming they are cooler than your dog). They are also faster to cool down when your dog gets up than a regular bed.
Tip: Want a faster way to cool down your dog? Take a look at my list of the best plastic dog pools.
Types of Summer Cooling Dog Beds
The most important decision when buying a cooling bed or mattress is which type to buy. There are several different types, so the right option depends on your budget and dog's requirements.
- Elevated Beds. An elevated pet bed is a simple and cost-effective way to keep your dog cool. As the name suggests, these beds are raised on four legs and often have breathable fabric. This design increases airflow and can help maintain a cooler temperature - although they aren't as effective as water or gel beds. Elevated beds are highly durable so are great for chewers.
- Gel-Filled Mats. Mats filled with highly conductive cooling gel are excellent for keeping your dog cool. They tend to be smaller than water beds and good value for the price. Many gel-filled mats are "self-recharging," which means they return to a lower temperature when your dog gets up without needing electricity or refrigeration.
- Water Beds. A water-filled bed provides similar cooling power to a gel-based mat. They are heavier to carry around and less convenient, but are often a better option for big dogs.
It's important to note that cooled beds don't contain supportive foam, such as these products, so they don't support the hips and shoulders like an orthopedic dog bed. If your dog has joint problems, a memory foam dog bed (see here) is a more comfortable option - but may be prone to overheating. Gel-infused memory foam can help reduce sleeping temperature though.
Aside from the type of pet cooling bed you buy, there are a few other factors you need to consider. These include:
- Size. As I mentioned earlier, the contact area between two materials affects the rate of heat transfer. In other words, the more of your dog's body in contact with the mat, the faster he'll cool down. For this reason, make sure you buy a cooling mat that's big enough for your pet. Avoid cooling dog beds that don't allow your pet enough space to get comfortable.
- Durability. Most companies use non-toxic gel materials in cooling beds, but that doesn't mean it's healthy for your dog to eat it! Make sure you look for a mat that's tough and durable - especially if your dog is a "digger." I don't recommend leaving your pet alone with a gel-based cooling bed, however, as they aren't as durable as regular beds. If your dog has a habit of destroying beds, an elevated option might be a good compromise.
- Portability. Are you planning on taking the mat on walks or to the park? If so, look for a gel-based bed. Water dog cooling beds are too heavy to carry when full.
- Cleaning. Gel or water dog cooling pads are usually easy to wipe clean. They aren't machine washable though. Elevated dog beds are often cleaned using a hose.
Note: Despite most beds being labelled as "non-toxic," some dogs may still have a reaction if they ingest the gel. This is why I only recommend supervised use of a gel mat - especially if your dog is a chewer.
5 Best Cooling Beds and Pads for Dogs
There are plenty of dog cooling beds available, but not all are worth buying. Here are my top 5 picks based on temperature, price, durability and quality.
|#1||Arf Pets Self-Cooling Mat||Gel-based and excellent cooling power||$$$|
|#2||Green Pet Shop Cooling Pad||Solid gel-based alternative but not quite as durable||$$$|
|#3||K&H Pet Products Cool Bed III||Water-filled cooling bed||$$$|
|#4||NWK Pet Self-Cooling Mat||Low-budget mat for small dogs only||$|
|#5||Coolaroo Elevated||Highly durable with increased airflow but doesn't actively cool||$|
Scroll down for more information and mini-reviews of each of our top pet beds in this category. If you're looking for heated dog pads instead, check out our page here.
1. Arf Pets Self-Cooling Mat
One of the best gel cooling pads is made by Arf Pets. It's not the cheapest option, but I'm a big fan of its non-toxic construction, automatic recharging cooling gel, and foldable design.
The pad provides up to 3-hours of a cooler temperature. It's an automatically recharging mat, so once your dog gets up it returns to a cooler temperature in under 20-minutes. Don't expect "ice pack" temperatures, but it provides a noticeably cooler surface that helps reduce body heat.
Aside from its cooling performance, the Arf Pets is made with latex-free and non-toxic materials. This makes it safe for homes with both children or dogs, although it's not designed to handle heavy chewing.
A bonus is that it has a folding design. This is common for gel-based pads and makes them more portable than water-based options. The Arf Pets also has an easy-to-wipe surface for fast cleaning.
There are only two downsides to this mat: price and the slippery surface. I think it's worth the money as most dogs will love using it to cool down, but if your pet has joint problems the lack of grip may be an issue.
Why We Recommend It: The Arf Pets is a premium dog cooling pad with automatically recharging gel (no electricity, refrigeration or water required). It can provide up to 3-hours of chill, has a durable design and is easy to fold up and store.
- Type: Gel
- Sizes Available: 23x35 inches, 27x43 inches
- Price Range: $$$
- Great performance
- Foldable design
- Tough and durable
- Easy to clean
- Not suitable for heavy chewers
2. Green Pet Shop Cooling Pad
The Green Pet Shop is a brilliant dog cooling mat that's built with pressure-activated gel. This provides 3-4 hours of a chilled surface without refrigeration, water or electricity - and it only takes 15-20 minutes to "recharge."
The pressure-activated cooling gel is non-toxic, so the Green Pet Shop is suitable for almost any home. It's also lightweight, relatively durable and wipes clean.
As with most gel pads, the Green Pet Shop mat has a folding design and is easy to carry. It's also available in five sizes, with the smallest version being great for miniature breeds and the largest suitable for dogs up to 80lbs.
In truth, there is little to choose between the Green Pet Shop and Arf Pets cooling mats. Both provide excellent cooling power and value, so if you want the best mat your dog won't be disappointed with either. The Arf Pets seems to have fewer issues with long-term durability, however, which is why I've ranked it #1.
Why We Recommend It: The Green Pet Shop cooling pad is a great alternative to the Arf Pets if you need more size options. It provides a continuous chill for up to 4-hours and automatically recharges within 20-minutes.
- Type: Gel Cooling Mat Pad
- Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Medium/Large, Large, X-Large
- Price Range: $$$
- Automatic recharging gel
- Foldable design
- Easy to clean
- Not as durable as other options and not suitable for chewers
3. K&H Pet Products Cool Bed III
If you're worried about potentially toxic gel or want a thicker cooling pad, the K&H Cool Bed III is a great option. It's a water-filled bed that's available in three sizes, has a wipe-down surface and is cheaper than many gel-based options.
The biggest difference between this bed and a gel mat is that you need to fill it with water. You don't need to constantly drain and refill just to keep your dog cool though - it remains surprisingly cold and doesn't need to be frozen or refrigerated. The bed can also be stored when full of water.
Most importantly, it does a great job at keeping a dog cool. Water can absorb a lot of heat before becoming noticeably warmer, so the bed provides a cooling effect for an extended time. In fact, K&H estimates the bed remains 22 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than a dog's body temperature in a room at 80 degrees.
It's not all good news though. The biggest drawback of a water bed is the weight when full, which means the Cool Bed III isn't as portable as gel-based options. Water beds are also prone to mold if not cared for correctly.
There's also the issue of durability, as even a small hole can ruin this type of bed. It's certainly not hardy enough to withstand heavy chewing, but the Cool Bed III can withstand everyday use and the occasional light digging. There's no gel to worry about if your dog decides to make a hole in the lining though!
Note: Adding a small amount of grapefruit seed extract to the water can prevent mold build-up. This has a natural anti-bacterial effect.
Why We Recommend It: The Cool Bed III is one of the best water cooling beds on the market. It does a great job of keeping dogs cool while providing excellent value for money. It's not as portable as gel-based dog cooling beds though, so don't plan to travel with it.
- Type: Water
- Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large
- Price Range: $$$
- Long-lasting cooling effect
- Doesn't need to be frozen or refrigerated
- Suitable for outdoor use
- Much less portable than gel dog cooling pads
4. NWK Pet Self-Cooling Mat
The Arf Pets mat is an excellent cooling pad for dogs, but it costs at least $45 depending on the size you need. If this is outside your budget, the NWK Pet Mat is a great alternative - at least for small dogs.
Let's start with the negatives. The big one is that the NWK has dimensions of just 16"x20". This is fine for small dogs or cats that need a cooler surface to settle on. For larger dogs, the mat simply isn't big enough.
It's also not the most durable on this list. While it can withstand some light scratching, it's not going to withstand a determined chewer.
Despite these issues, the NWK is a great mat for small dogs - especially considering the low price.
It has a foldable design, provides cooling for up to six hours, and is made with wipe-proof materials. The small size also makes it highly portable.
Why We Recommend It: If you're on a tight budget and have a small dog, the NWK Pet Self-Cooling Mat provides great value. It's not the toughest, nor is it suitable for big breeds, but it provides efficient cooling for a low price.
- Type: Gel Cooling Mat Pad
- Sizes Available: Medium
- Price Range: $
- Cheaper than many other cooling gel mats
- Foldable design
- Efficient cooling and great comfort
- Too small for big dogs
- Not chew proof
5. Coolaroo Elevated
When most people look for a cooling bed for their dog, they imagine a gel or water pad such as the top four on this list. Elevated beds might not be as efficient at staying cool, but they increase airflow compared to a normal bed and are much more durable.
One of my favorite elevated beds is made by Coolaroo. It has a stainless steel frame, making it highly durable and able to withstand chewing. There's also a breathable sleeping surface to keep the air flowing and dissipate body heat.
Another advantage of the Coolaroo is that it's cheaper than most cooling beds. If you want a strong and long-lasting bed that your pet can use all-year round, it's an excellent choice.
The downside is that it's not as comfortable or supportive on the joints as a foam bed. It's much cooler for your pet though and is one of the best beds on the market (see here for my full list).
Why We Recommend It: The Coolaroo Elevated is a great compromise between a standard pet bed and a cooling pad. It's not as efficient at temperature regulation as a pad, but helps increase airflow while providing a durable place for your pet to sleep.
- Type: Elevated Pet Bed
- Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Price Range: $
- Highly durable pet cot and an alternative to a gel or water cooling pet pad
- Breathable fabric and raised platform to increase airflow
- Relatively cheap
- Not as effective as a gel pad
Other Ways to Keep Your Pet Cool in the Summer
Overheating can be a serious problem for dogs. Heatstroke can be fatal within minutes - and once the symptoms are visible (excessive panting, dribbling, collapsing) it's often too late.
Heatstroke is common because dogs aren't great at regulating their temperature once they start to overheat. Many dogs also lack "common sense" when it comes to staying safe in the sun, so it's up to owners to help them out. A cooling bed for dogs is one way to provide relief - but there are many other things you can do.
- Provide access to clean water at all times. Always remember to top up a big bowl of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration. A cooling bowl can be great to keep the water cold, although some dogs may prefer a water fountain. Don't forget to provide water in his crate too.
- Bring water with your when walking. The exertion of walking on a summer day can potentially cause dehydration. Take a water bottle and bowl with you and provide plenty throughout the walk.
- Make sure your dog has a shaded area to relax. This is especially important if he spends a lot of time outdoors. Adding a cooling pet bed to a shaded part of the garden can make the area even more comfortable. On hot days, a cooling vest may help lower your dog's body temperature.
- Never leave your pet in a car. It's frightening how quickly dogs can die in a hot car - even if the windows are left open. It doesn't take long for a dog's body heat to reach dangerous levels.
- Avoid walking during the hottest times. The best times to walk during the summer are early morning and late evening. Avoiding direct sunlight by walking in shaded woodland can also help.
- Shorten walks and provide other types of stimulation. As I mention in my article on dog exercise, mental stimulation is just as important as physical. If it's too hot for a long walk, try playing some mental games or doing some trick training. In fact, any type of positive dog training can mentally tire your pet.
- Know the signs of heatstroke. The RSCPA has a useful article here, but the main symptoms are heavy panting, excessive drooling, lethargy, drowsiness, lack of coordination, collapsing and vomiting.
- Avoid pavements during hot days. While a dog's paw pads are tough, they can burn on scorching pavement.
- Take your dog swimming (if they enjoy being in water). Swimming is one of the best ways for a dog to stay cool while exercising. Some dogs don't enjoy swimming though - so don't force them to.
IMPORTANT: If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, move them to a cool place (ideally with a slight breeze), use cool water to wet their coat, and contact your vet immediately. Don't take risks with such a serious condition. Don't rely on cooling mats to keep your pet safe.
Summary & Our #1 Cooling Pet Pad
If your dog finds his bed too hot during the summer, a cooling bed could be a great alternative. Cooling pads and mats also lower your pet's body temperature when he starts to overheat.
My top recommendation for a cooling mat is the excellent Arf Pets. It stays chilled for several hours without needing to be refrigerated, and the gel recharges automatically once your pet gets up. If you want a water dog bed, the K&H Pet Products Cool Bed III is a high-quality alternative.
Remember that cooling mats don't provide the same support as an orthopedic dog bed. If your pet suffers joint pain, you may want to place additional padding beneath the pad.
Do you have any questions about choosing the best cooling dog bed? Or have you tried one of the cooling mats above and want to give feedback? Please let me know in the comments - I'm always happy to help. You may also want to read our tips for keeping dogs cool in the summer.
About the Author: Richard Cross
Richard is a journalist who specialises in dog behavior. He's written hundreds of articles and books related to dogs, including for the Continental Kennel Club, Dog Fest (the UK's biggest dog festival) and various veterinary surgeries. When he's not spending time with Jess and Rudy (his beloved Labrador and Golden Retrievers), he enjoys reading, hiking and watching sports.