Hey, you’d be nonstop panting, too, if you were in your dog’s position—they have no other choice but to rock their fur coats even when temps soar. Luckily there are other ways to keep your furry friends cool without restricting them to the air-conditioned house for the next few months. If you haven’t tried a cooling vest, now is the time to do so. We spoke with a veterinarian to give you lowdown on why cooling vests might be the hot-weather solution you and your pet need—where ever your high-flying adventures may take you.
The 10 Best Dog Cooling Vests to Keep Your Pup Safe All Summer
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Meet the Expert
Dr. Katy Nelson is the senior veterinarian at Chewy. An associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia, she served as the host of "The Pet Show with Dr. Katy" on Washington DC's WJLA ABC 24/7 news channel for 8 years. Dr. Katy earned her veterinary degree in 2001 from the Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
How Do Cooling Vests Work?
"Most cooling vests rely on evaporation by wetting the vest or filling it with water and then placing it onto the pet," says Dr. Nelson. "As the warmer water evaporates from the vest’s layers, the fabric around the pet’s skin stays cool. It's the same principle as a dog panting, which she explains is "also an evaporative heat loss process. Dogs cool themselves by causing airflow (panting) to flow over the dog’s wet mucous membranes in the nasal cavity and the mouth and evaporating the warm water from their mouth, leaving the surfaces behind cooler and the blood flowing through that area to cool down."
Which Breeds Need Cooling Vests?
Dogs with shorter noses such as bulldogs, pugs and boxers have less mucus membrane surface area, so panting may not thermoregulate them as effectively as with other dogs—so they might especially benefit from cooling vests, says Dr. Nelson. Further, she emphasizes that cooling vests are appropriate for small or large dogs in a hot environment. However, "proper fit is important to prevent blisters/chafing," she says, "so ensure you measure appropriately prior to ordering and read the instructions for wear carefully."
How to Choose the Best Cooling Dog Vest?
Think of how you'll use the vest and choose it according to its features. Will you only be taking Fido on quick daily jaunts in hot weather? Then perhaps an affordable stretch-panel number is in order, since it's easy to pop on and off. Want to take long leisurely last afternoon walkabouts? A cooling vest with a reflective element keeps you pup visible as well as cool. And if you want really long-lasting cooling—like three days of camping long—then consider a higher cost but longer-chill dry model.
Whatever design you opt for, you may need to train your pet to wear it. Dogs can can be taught over time to wear vests, says Dr. Nelson. Introducing them to the vest, then have them wear it for short stints while giving them lots of praise and treats. Extend sessions over a couple of weeks and—praise, praise, praise. "By summertime, you’ll have a dapper pet ready to wear its cooling vest and enjoy that warm weather!" she says; however "if your pet isn’t having it, I recommend trying a pad or even a bandana or band."
The Best Dog Cooling Vests At a Glance
- Top Evaporation Cooling Vest: GF Pet Elastofit Ice Dog Vest
- Top Adjustable Vest: Hurtta Cooling Dog Wrap
- Great for Long-Wear Cooling: Suitical Dry Cooling Vest
- Super Sizing Options: Canada Pooch Chill Seeker
- Good Cooling Vest with Ice Packs: Horay World Cooling Vest
- Perfect UPF Cooling Vest: Dogzstuff Dog Cooling Vest
- Great Reflective Vest: Popetpop Dog Cooling Vest
- Fun T-Shirt Design: Pumyporeity Dog Cooling Vest T-Shirt
- Most Innovative: Coolerdog Vest and Collar
- Premium Cooling Bandana: GF Pet Dog Ice Band
Top Evaporation Cooling Vest
- Pros: lightweight PVA material, stretch panel on underside for fit
- Con: salt water has to be rinsed out or may damage fabric
- Size Range: XS to 4XL
Just dampen this vest in cool water, squeeze out the excess and fasten onto your pup. Thanks to the unique fabric that absorbs and slowly releases water through evaporation, it can keep your pooch much cooler for four to six hours at a time. "Our 14-year-old lab suffers from LarPar [laryngeal paralysis] and hot humid days are awful for him," writes one reviewer. "This jacket really helps to cool him down. And it doesn't get his bed terribly wet (a concern i had). It works well as instructed (just wet with cold water) but it works faster if I put it in the fridge for a few mins (wet)." In short, bring on the nature walks.
Top Adjustable Vest
- Pros: elastic strap customizes fit, attractive design
- Con: not compatible with harnesses
- Size Range: 16-20 inch to 34-to-38 inch
This vest, which you wet then place on your dog, covers their chest, large blood vessels and the lungs. As circulation occurs, the vest’s cooling effect spreads the chill throughout the body. It's constructed so that mesh directs air flow upward as water evaporates from the lower comfy liner. "I have purchased Hurtta cooling coats in the past for my Spaniels and was really impressed with the craftsmanship and attention to detail," says one reviewer. "I wasn't sure about this one wrap because it is shorter but it fits great and I really like it. The wrap covers all the vital organs you want to really keep cool."
Great for Long-Wear Cooling
- Pros: cools for 1-3 days, stays dry
- Con: pricey
- Size Range: XS to XL
One reviewer gave this five stars for the comfort it gives his 50-pound cattle dog mix, Roscoe. "He accompanies me to the farm...on super-hot days if the horses get out or something breaks, this vest isn't 'magic' by any means but it allows him to lay in the shade and maintain a normal pant instead of his excessive over-heating pant," he says. "The vest works when it has airflow so, if your dog is laying on the vest, it will stop being cool on the part that they are laying on until air can get to it again." To use it, you just open the valve and fill it with water to immediately and continuously keep your pet's body temp at safe levels for one to three whole days. This one is ideal for weekend camping trips, and it’s easy to drain and refill on the go.
Super Sizing Options
- Pros: adjustable chest closure, machine washable
- Con: difficult to fit with a harness
- Size Range: 12- to 26-inch back lengths
This mesh number stays cools for hours, and works like a champ. "I wanted to be able to only wet [it] down and wring [it] dry once a day, so we rolled it up, put it in a bread pan, in the fridge and wonderful, it worked like a charm," says one reviewer. "I'm sure later we will consider a Zip-lock bag. Our 18-pound Boston Terrier loves clothes and she did not want to take it off or come in. She just had to look in the mirror, we have at ground level. So sweet." Bonus: If you're into wild hues, this style also comes in tie-dye and rainbow patterns.
Good Cooling Vest with Ice Packs
- Pros: design allows for maximum ease of movement, harness strap hole
- Con: cooling elements centered where ice packs are
- Size Range: XS to XL
Rather than water, this cooling coat uses dehydrated ice packs to offer serious heat relief. Plus, the mesh material is so lightweight, it's not adding any extra heft to your dog in the heat. One reviewer writes: "Here in Texas it gets unbearably hot, so the vest works great. I was pleased at how long it stayed cold. There is some kind of soft gel In the ice pack which allows it to stay cold much better than water. I have a fluffy dog (Maltese) who is very active outside and this kept him cool."
Perfect UPF Cooling Vest
- Pros: lightweight, wide coverage
- Con: material may snag
- Size Range: XS to XL
This vest also uses an evaporative cooling approach—soak it in water to activate the cooling potential. But our favorite thing about this coat? It provides UPF 50+ protection, because, yes, dogs can get sunburns just like us. A wrap design makes it easy to put on and take off and it’s harness compatible, so you don’t have to worry about getting a new one just to wear with this vest. "At first, I thought this cooling jacket was way too light to help keep my doodle cool. I was wrong," says one reviewer. "It kept his body relatively cool for the 45 minutes I walk him in the afternoon. The top of the jacket dried out first but his chest and belly were cool to the touch. Easy to put the jacket on as well."
- Pros: reflective fabric helpful in dim lights, harness attachment hole
- Con: won't fit dogs with over 20-inch necks
- Size Range: S to L
This adjustable vest uses a three-layer approach to keep your pup nice and cool: The outer layer reflects heat, the middle layer absorbs and stores water and the mesh lining transfers the cooling effect to your dog’s skin. "I have as black dog that, on sunny days, walked from shade tree to shade tree until I got this vest," writes one user. "Now he is happy to continue walking, sunshine be damned."
Fun T-Shirt Design
- Pros: two cute patterns, also recommended for cats
- Con: limited sizing
- Size Range: XS to M
This thin T-shirt is made to wet, wring then place on your pet to lower their temperature three to four degrees. "Our pup is black all over his back so I turn this inside out(all white) and it helps him run cooler in the sun," writes one reviewer. Another hack recommended by users is to pop the shirt in the freezer before placing on the dog on very hot days.
- Pros: lightweight, the vest and collar fit on separately
- Con: inserts warm quickly in very hot weather
- Sizes: S to XL
This vest and collar combo was developed by veterinarians to pull heat from your dog at his hottest areas: the neck and chest. Unlike other vests that store water until it evaporates, this one features ice cube pockets that cool him down in any temperature. The fabric is completely machine washable, doesn’t have any buckles or latches that might pinch, and it’s chew-resistant. "Thank you so much for this product," says one Malamute owner and reviewer. "I was weary of the cooling vest that evaporates water versus an actual ice pack, which is so much cooler and truly helps them displace the heat better with less panting."
Premium cooling bandana
- Pros: keeps cool up to 6 hours, streamlined adjustable band
- Con: recommended hand washing
- Size Range: XS to L/XL
"I have a 70-plus pound black Lab who is always hot, winter or summer, and is probably the loudest panter on the planet!" says one reviewer. "This neck band is amazing. I've used it daily for the past week and he stops panting within minutes." Though this is a bandana and not a vest, it works in the same way to cool down your pup. Soak it in water, ring it out and then loosely tie it around your dog’s neck. The material will remain cool until the water completely evaporates, and it’s easy to re-wet with a water bottle. It takes up zero space, so you can even bring it along on walks and trips (just in case!), without any problems.
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