It’s a danger every dog owner fears: heat stroke. It’s when a dog’s body temperature gets up to or exceeds 103 degrees, which can lead to organ failure and even death.
But heat stroke isn’t the only warm weather danger that dogs face. If pet owners don’t take proper precautions dogs can become dehydrated, too. Plus—as most humans can attest—being outside on really hot days can be downright uncomfortable.
To prevent overheating, many pet parents have considered using dog cooling vests to keep their dog’s temperature regulated. But what is a cooling vest, how do they work, and are they beneficial to dogs? Learn more about these warm-weather accessories and read about our top dog cooling vest picks.
What Is a Dog Cooling Vest?
Dog cooling vests work by keeping cool air against your dog’s body and warm air away from it. Most are designed to be comfortable and easy for dogs to wear while being active outdoors.
There are different types of cooling vests for dogs. Some have a layer that requires water to create the cooling effect, while others use frozen gel packs.
The most important thing to know about how these vests work: They are effective for a little while, until the ice completely melts or until they need to be re-wet and refreshed. Once the ice melts or water dries, they can actually make a dog more hot.
7 Dog Cooling Vests That We Love
- Best Overall: RUFFWEAR Swamp Cooler Evaporative Dog Cooling Vest
- Best Evaporative Dog Cooling Vest: Canada Pooch Blue Chill Seeker Cooling Dog Vest
- Best With Ice Packs: HORAY World Cooling Vest for Dogs
- Best for Large Dogs: SGODA Dog Cooling Vest
- Best for Small Dogs: Hurtta Cooling Dog Wrap
- Best Reflective Cooling Dog Vest: Kurgo Core Cooling Dog Vest
- Best Budget-Friendly Option: YOULY Yellow Cooling Dog Vest
All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Living may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Overall Best Dog Cooling Vest
We can’t say enough good things about the RUFFWEAR Swamp Cooler Evaporative Dog Cooling Vest. Using the evaporation cooling method, like most of the vests on our list, this vest boasts accolades in sun protection, ease of use, and harness compatibility. There are over a thousand positive reviews from happy buyers.
- Comes in six different sizes, ranging from extra extra small to extra large
- Vest features UPF 50+ sun protection and reflective trim
- Side release buckles make it easy to put on and take off
- Vest is harness-compatible and can attach to your leash
Things to Consider
- It’s a pricier option than the rest, but well worth the money
Best Evaporative Dog Cooling Vest
This dog cooling vest uses the evaporation cooling method on water-retaining fabric to help pups during warm temps. It features mesh layers for optimal air circulation. One buyer said it was super-easy to put on. Another also mentioned it wasn’t too heavy when wet.
- Comes in several different sizes to pick the perfect fit for every dog breed
- No chemical coolants are used
- Machine washable on a gentle cycle with cool water
Things to Consider
- You will need to add water for it to be activated to cool your pup
- One shopper said she likes the product, but wishes the buckle was placed somewhere else because it is too close to her dog’s leg
Best Dog Cooling Vest With Ice Packs
Our pick: HORAY World Cooling Vest for Dogs
Unlike the rest of the dog cooling vests on this list, which use evaporative methods to cool dogs, this one utilizes ice packs to keep dogs comfy. Simply freeze the packs, then insert before use. This vets is made in Japan and recognized by the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). It won the Innovative Manufacturing Award 2017.
- Its ice packs have 12 times more cooling power than evaporative methods
- You won’t have to worry about your dog getting wet by actual water
- Cooling lasts up to 4 hours
Things to Consider
- Not a ton of size options, so fit may be tricky
- Ice packs may be heavier than the other evaporative water vests, and they don’t bend, potentially restricting dog’s movement
Best Cooling Vest for Large Dogs
Our Pick: SGODA Dog Cooling Vest
Not only do we love this dog cooling vest for its lightweight and innovative design, we also like that its size can go up to extra extra large for dogs with a chest size of up to 39.5 inches. It has a clean, modern look and is lightweight enough to provide dogs with plenty of movement. Plus, it offers UV protection to prevent sunburn.
- Two available color combos: gray with green or gray with orange—which are also reflective
- Features a leash attachment point in a zinc-alloy D ring on the dog’s back
- Buyers like the adjustable drawstring and velcro for a snug fit
Things to Consider
- One shopper said they hung it to dry and it stretched and didn’t fit the dog as snug after. Best to lay flat.
Best Cooling Vest for Small Dogs
Our Pick: Hurtta Cooling Dog Wrap
While most of the dog cooling vests on our list come in different sizes (this one does too), this one is a great option for small dogs because the material is not as heavy or cumbersome as some other options. Your smaller pup won’t feel too constrained by the amount of material and it wears like any traditional dog harness vest.
- Comes in pink or blue
- Uses the evaporation method of absorbed water to cool
- Features moisture-wicking knit material, which will be comfortable when wet
Things to Consider
- Features only one adjustable strap (whereas other options have two or more)
Best Reflective Cooling Dog Vest
Our Pick: Kurgo Core Cooling Dog Vest
Using the evaporation system like many of the other dog cooling vests on this list, what sets this vest apart is its reflective material. Its light color aims to deflect the sun’s heat and harmful UV rays. And when in use at night, that reflective material will also help keep your dog visible while on walks.
- Material is lightweight
- Product is machine washable
- Vest is also adjustable at two points
Things to Consider
- Directions of use for this cooling vest states to wring it out after wetting it before putting it on your dog
Best Budget-Friendly Dog Cooling Vest
Our Pick: YOULY Yellow Cooling Dog Vest
This brightly-colored cooling vest from YOULY (a Petco brand) is ideal for small to medium-sized dogs. It uses the evaporative cooling method to keep your pup cool on warm summer days. The best part is that it won’t break the bank at under $25.
- Has mesh layers and water-absorbing inner fibers
- Comes in five different sizes, ranging from extra small to extra large
- It’s available at an affordable price point
Things to Consider
- While it’s adjustable using a hook and loop closure, you’ll want to make sure it’s a secure fit
Dog Cooling Vest Buyer’s Guide
Aaron Rice, expert dog trainer and co-owner of Stayyy, a community for dog lovers and people who are looking to train their dog, reminds pet owners that “not all cooling vests are created equal.”
Rice says to consider these factors when shopping for a dog cooling vest:
- Where you live
- Availability/ability to re-wet one or freeze one
- If your dog will be willing to wear a vest at all
Rice also says to consider each use case for when you plan to use a vest. For instance, some will be better for active dogs who are running or exercising outdoors, while others will be better suited for leisurely walks or lounging in the yard. Make sure to choose a vest that fits your dog’s favorite activities and your overall lifestyle. You’ll also want to factor in how often you plan to use it during the warmer months. If you live in a particularly warm climate, you may use a dog cooling vest more than if you live somewhere with four seasons. If that’s the case, and you’ll be using the vest frequently, pay close attention to durability and look for vests with warranties.
As for what not to buy? There are dog cooling vests that are not worth your money. “Some can be uncomfortable, don’t fit well, and don’t work as advertised,” cautions Rice. “Some dogs have a difficult time adjusting to the cooling vest, which can cause them to pant excessively and sweat more than usual.”
Slowly get your dog used to wearing the cooling vest in and around your home using positive reinforcement with treats and praise. Only keep it on for a few minutes at a time and gradually work up to longer periods. If your dog seems uncomfortable in the vest, take it off and try again another time.
At the end of the day, the best option for your dog is one that doesn’t restrict his movement and provides him with cool air at all times.
Dog Cooling Vest FAQs
Here are some common questions (plus, answers!) about dog cooling vests…
Do dog cooling vests work?
Yes, dog cooling vests can help keep dogs cool by keeping cool air near their body using the evaporation method or with frozen gel packs. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these vests are not a long-term cooling solution and will stop working once the water evaporates and dries or the gel packs unfreeze. Once the vest dries or the ice packs are no longer frozen, the vest should be removed from your dog to prevent overheating.
Do dog cooling vests work right away?
It may take at least 15 minutes for the dog cooling vest to be effective. If your dog is in immediate need of a cool down, bring them to a shady spot, spray them with lukewarm water, and encourage them to drink.
Are dog cooling vests worth it?
Overall, dog cooling vests can be beneficial if you spend time outdoors with your dog in warm temperatures. Most of these vests are relatively affordable and can provide some comfort to your dog on those high-temperature days. Plus, the vests tend to be durable and pet parents can get a lot of use out of them before needing to buy a replacement. However if you don’t spend much time outdoors with your dog during the summer months or you don’t live in a warm climate, your dog may not need a cooling vest.
Will my dog get soaked by the vest if it’s wet?
While dog cooling vests do typically use water to activate, it doesn’t mean it should soak your dog. In fact, that can be very irritating to a dog. The dog cooling vest should absorb the water to cool the dog, but not drench the dog.
Tips for Using Dog Cooling Vests and Keeping Your Dog Cool
As with everything, it’s important to read directions for use. When you’ve selected the dog cooling vest that’s best for your pup, follow the guidelines that come with it.
Most vests that use the evaporation method will need to be dipped in water, wringed out, and then placed on your dog. If you purchase a vest that uses gel packs, make sure the packs are frozen and insert them into the proper compartments before fitting the vest on your dog. Make sure to adjust and fit the cooling vest to your dog so that it’s not too tight or too loose. You should be able to slide two stacked fingers easily between the vest and your dog’s body.
Not all dogs will want to wear a vest—cooling or otherwise. Allow your dog to explore and get used to the vest at home, in a comfortable environment, before trying it out on a long walk or during a day trip.
To keep your dog comfortable in the heat, use cooling vests in conjunction with other cooling methods. These include:
- Providing your dog with plenty of fresh drinking water
- Finding shady spot to rest
- Using air conditioning or fans indoors if available
- Misting your dog with a spray bottle
- Avoiding walks or outdoor activities during the hottest times of day
While cooling vests provide some relief for dogs on hot days, they aren’t foolproof and shouldn’t provide pet parents with a false sense of security. If there’s a heatwave and it’s uncomfortable for you to be outside for long periods of time, it’s probably best to keep your dog indoors until things cool down.