There are several dog cooling vests and jackets available for purchase from a variety of dog gear companies. These products are created and advertised to help dogs stay cooler when exercising in hot weather. The goal is to allow a dog to do more outdoors without increasing a dog’s risk of heatstroke.
But the question is, do dog cooling vests actually work? The answer is a little bit fuzzy, as there are limited research studies available on this subject. And the studies that have been completed have conflicting and relatively inconclusive results. So right now, the answer seems to be maybe.
Below we will discuss two research studies on this topic, as well as some case studies/anecdotal evidence regarding how well cooling vests work to actually keep dogs cool.
What Does the Research Say?
Searching online, I was only able to find two publicly available research studies regarding dog cooling vests. There are several studies on cooling vests in humans, but people cool off differently compared to dogs. While sweating is humans’ main method of cooling, dogs primarily cool off via panting. As a result, it is important to find species-specific research studies to truly determine whether or not cooling vests are effective for dogs.
University of Florida Study
The first study we will discuss in this post was performed at the University of Florida by Drs. Robertson and Cooke.
In the UF study, seven dogs went through intense 10-minute sessions that involved running at high speed, finding a hidden person and apprehending a “suspect” by the arm. Dogs performed the exercise with no vest, with a protective Kevlar vest and with a cooling vest that uses patented rechargeable packs to help maintain a comfortable body temperature. The dogs’ blood glucose, acidity levels and other values were measured, along with pulse and respiratory rates and rectal and core body temperatures before and immediately after activity, and throughout recovery periods.https://www.vetmed.ufl.edu/2012/04/26/uf-study-looks-at-role-of-vests-in-heat-related-illness-of-working-dogs/
This study found that dogs took up to 60 minutes longer to cool down and return to baseline temperatures in the summer compared to the winter. The cooling vests helped some of the dogs cool down faster.
These results are not a glowing endorsement for cooling vests, but at least they helped some dogs recover faster.
Racing Greyhounds Study
The second research study was conducted by McNicholl J, Howarth GS, and Hazel SJ. The study was performed on racing greyhounds and used Cool Champions cooling jackets that had been soaked in iced water for 30 minutes prior to initial use (and in between uses).
Results of this study revealed the unexpected finding that the mean rectal temperature of dogs wearing jackets postrace was slightly higher than those dogs which did not. Cooling jackets of a different type have been demonstrated to be effective in reducing the duration of postexercise hyperthermia in military dogs (70). Pre-competition use of ice jackets has been effective in reducing the degree of body heating in human athletes (71), but postexercise use of ice jackets is not advantageous in hyperthermic athletes (72). Further research into their use in greyhounds during hot conditions is warranted.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927620/
As stated above, the cooling vests were not effective in this study. However, I am curious to know if the vests would have been more effective soaked in cool to room temperature water rather than ice water, as applying ice water to dogs suffering heatstroke can actually reduce cooling. This happens because, when hot, dogs move blood to the surface vessels of the skin to aid in conductive cooling. Ice water applied to the skin causes the vessels to constrict, reducing conductive cooling. (This is discussed further in our article: Preventing Heatstroke and Keeping Your Dog Cool While Hiking.)
Regardless, this study did not support the use of cooling vests for dogs.
Types of Cooling Vests in the Research Studies
The research studies above use two different types of cooling vests: one that uses evaporative cooling and one that utilizes conductive cooling.
While the original University of Florida research study is not easily available online (just summaries of the research), they did state that they used rechargeable packs and most rechargeable packs utilize mainly conductive cooling methods. Remember that in this study, dogs didn’t stay cooler, but they cooled off faster than dogs who were not wearing a cooling vest.
An example of a cooling vest with rechargeable packs is the Glacier Tek Chilly Dog Vest shown in the Youtube video below.
The T-Cool K9 collar is another option that utilizes cooling packs and conductive cooling.
If you’ve read our heatstroke article, you will know that the abdomen is the best place for dogs to benefit from conductive cooling (there is less fur there to get in the way of the contact needed for conductive cooling). However, it is harder to make gear that contacts a dog’s abdomen, so as you can see above, most of the products have cooling packs that contact a dog’s neck and chest.
Evaporative Cooling Vests
Most of the cooling vests on the market for dogs today involve evaporative cooling, which is the type of vest used in the study with the racing greyhounds. And if you remember, this is the study that found that the greyhounds’ end race temperatures were actually higher when they wore the cooling vests.
In the study, the greyhounds wore Cool Champions cool coats (a Silver Eagle product). More information about these cooling jackets and how they work can be found at https://coolweave.com.au/. Please note that the research for the Silver Eagle products has been done on people, and not much is known about how much of this research can be applied to dogs.
The Silver Eagle products are activated by soaking in water for five to fifteen minutes. The fabric has both hydrophilic fibers (which are charged when soaked in water) and hydrophobic fill that helps evenly distribute the water and surrounds the water charged fibers with air to help maximize evaporation.
When worn, heat from the body passes into the water-activated fabric. This heat is then able to be released into the air via evaporation.
Although the greyhound racetrack study did not reveal any benefit to wearing a cooling vest (specifically the Cool Champion vest), there is some anecdotal evidence to support the use of other evaporative cooling vests in dogs.
Anecdotal Evidence for Evaporative Cooling Vests
Anecdotal means that this evidence is based on personal accounts rather than facts or research, so it is not necessarily true or reliable. While some of the accounts below do include a small amount of research, they are all based on personal accounts (not research studies with adequate sample sizes or blinded researchers).
During my search for scientific-based evidence that cooling vests help dogs actually stay cool, I came across a couple of YouTube videos containing individual data supporting the theory that evaporative cooling vests may work. These videos are for two of the most popular evaporative cooling vests currently on the market for dogs: the Hurrta Cooling Vest and the Ruffear Swamp Cooler.
*Update: Ruffwear just released several new products in their Swamp Cooler line, including the Swamp Cooler harness. Check out our review of the Swamp Cooler Cooling Harness.
Hurrta Cooling Vest
The Hurrta Cooling Vest is designed to be dipped in cooled water, wrung dry, and placed on your dog. Here is a product video for the Hurrta Cooling Vest.
And here is the anecdotal evidence for the Hurrta Cooling Vest. If you don’t want to watch the video, just scroll below it for a summary of the information presented in the video.
In this video, Dr. Bronwyn Prytz takes a dog through 5 minutes of exercise, obtains a temperature after exercise, and times how long it takes for the dog’s temperature to return to normal. The dog is his own control, as he repeats the experiment with and without the cooling vest during recovery.
The ambient temperature on the day of the “experiment” was approximatly 77 degrees Farenheit.
|Without Cooling Vest||With Cooling Vest|
|Pre-exercise Temperature||101.5 °F||101.1°F|
|Post-exercise Temperature||105.8 °F||107 °F|
|Time to Return to Normal||~ 50 minutes||~ 30 minutes|
In this example, Rogan (the dog in the video), cooled off 20 minutes faster following exercise when wearing the cooling vest. This result is consistent with the results of the study done at the University of Florida.
The Hurrta Cooling Vest can be found on Amazon by clicking the picture below. (This is an Amazon affiliate link. Please be aware that I earn from qualifying purchases).
Ruffwear Swamp Cooler
The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler is also designed to provide cooling through evaporation. As a result, you also activate this coat by soaking it in water. Then just wring it out and place it on your dog and let evaporative cooling pull heat away from your dog.
The Swamp Cooler also has a light-colored fabric to help reflect solar radiation. And a nice feature of the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler is that it is designed with an integrated leash portal to allow it to be worn over Ruffwear Harnesses, which are some of our favorite harnesses.
In case you are interested, below is a list of some of our reviews of Ruffwear Harnesses. We currently use the Flagline and Web Master harnesses as our favorite hiking harnesses.
- Ruffwear’s Flagline Harness vs. the Web Master Harness: which should you choose?
- Ruffwear Flagline Harness Review (and how it compares to the Webmaster Harness)
- Ruffwear Webmaster Harness Review
- The Ruffwear Webmaster vs. Front Range Harness Debate
But back to the Swamp Cooler. Here is a quick video describing how Ruffwear cooling gear works.
The following video is a home test of the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler. A written summary of the video can be found below.
For this test, J.B. the dog’s armpit temperature was used (which is a little less reliable than rectal temperatures). Temperatures were taken before and after a daily 3/4 mile walk (15-20 minutes of walking time). Air temperature, relative humidity, and heat index were all recorded for each individual walk. There there was some significant variation in these parameters over the time period that data was recorded.
When comparing average body temperature rise, the average body temperature rise with the Swamp Cooler was 2.34 degrees. Without it was 2.62 degrees. So according to this data, J.B stayed 0.3 degrees cooler on average when she wore the Swamp Cooler. I have not run any p-values to determine if this is statistically significant, but at least the Swamp Cooler didn’t appear to hurt at all.
It may also be important to note that the vest was dry by the end of each walk. So more cooling may have been possible if there had been a way to re-wet the vest during the walk.
Interested in purchasing a Swamp Cooler for your dog? Here is a link to Amazon. Or if you are interested in learning more about the harness version of the Swamp Cooler, check out our full review of this great cooling harness.
Conclusion: Cooling Vests Help Dogs Cool Off Faster
The jury is still out on whether or not cooling vests help your dog stay cooler during warm weather exercise. But they do appear to help your dog cool off faster after exercise.
To review, both the University of Florida study by Drs. Robertson and Cooke and the small test (sample size of 1) by Dr. Prytz demonstrated that (at least some) dogs cooled off faster after exercise with the addition of a cooling vest.
However, the racing Greyhound study by McNicholl, Howarth, and Hazel actually revealed higher post-race temperatures in dogs who wore evaporative cooling vests.
Finally, the home test of the Swamp Cooler by K9 of Mine (also a sample size of 1), concluded that there was a small (significance unknown) benefit to wearing an evaporative cooling vest during exercise. (It should be noted that J.B. is a black dog and the light-colored Swamp Cooler may have worked as much by reflecting solar radiation as it did by evaporative cooling.)
Overall, we really need more research to determine if cooling vests are effective in reducing internal temperature elevations and the risk of heatstroke in dogs exercising during warmer months. For now, it seems safe to say that cooling vests can help your dog cool off faster, but the benefits of wearing a vest during exercise are unknown.
To find out more ways to help keep your dog cool on warm-weather hikes, check out our post about preventing heatstroke in dogs.
Happy hiking and stay cool everyone!
Kate, Glia, and Sasha
McNicholl J, Howarth GS, Hazel SJ. Influence of the Environment on Body Temperature of Racing Greyhounds. Front Vet Sci. 2016;3:53. Published 2016 Jun 30. doi:10.3389/fvets.2016.00053
Robertson S, Cooke K. Turning up the heat. 28th International Canine Sports Medicine Symposium Orlando, FL: (2012).
5 thoughts on “Do Dog Cooling Vests Actually Work?”
I put an evaporative-cooling vest on my 13-year-old, female, 27-lb. Miniature Australian Shepherd (who sleeps on my bed) during summer nights. She puts it on excitedly and lays down immediately to sleep once she has it on. My “annecdotal” evidence is when I remove it 6-8 hours later, her body under the evaporative cooling coat is noticeably several degrees cooler to the touch than that portion not covered by the cooling vest.
Interesting blog! I find this survey report interesting as it helps me to understand the working procedure of a dog cooling vest. Well I have a 6-year-old pet named Bella and during summer I prefer a dog cooling vest and she feels so relaxed after wearing it. Well, I understand how direct icing can be harmful to our pets and I will be taking care
Thanks for posting this info. Very helpful.
Thanks for the article!! It very interesting and got me thinking!! I’m curious if there is any research about the dog wearing the vest during activity to prevent overheating instead of being used as an aid in recovery after it has already occurred? I have a pug. I am considering purchasing a vest but my goal would be to prevent the temp hike. I’m wondering if there are any vests that are effective to help maintain a healthy temp. Pugs are so bad at regulating & recovery. I worry constantly. I appreciate and value your personal thoughts even if there is not research specific to my question.
When I wrote this article, these were all of the research studies I could find. So the information is kind of limited. The two more detailed research studies only showed that the vests helped dogs cool down faster, but didn’t seem to prove that they kept dogs cooler during exercise. So right now, I think it is a bit of a toss-up on whether they help dogs stay cooler or not dring activity. Wish I had better conclusive information on how the vest work during activity. I am hoping for some better research soon! And you’re so right that pugs can use all the help they can get to stay cool on hot days. Thanks for your comment.