How Does A Dog Cooling Vest Work?

June 7, 2022 // 9 minute read

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The main purpose of a dog cooling vest is to reduce the body temperature of a dog in hot environments. These vests are perfect for keeping active dogs comfortable during long walks with little to no shade, hot summer days, etc. But, a question we get a lot and will talk about in this article is: how does a dog cooling vest work?

To put it simply, dog cooling vests work by using water or frozen ice packs to cool down your dog. There are two very common types of vests: evaporative vests and ice-pack vests.

An evaporative cooling vest works to cool your dog in a similar way that sweat helps to cool down a human body. All you have to do is soak the evaporation vest in cold water, wring it out, and put it on your pup. While the vest is on your dog, it slowly evaporates over a few hours which cools the air around your dog, resulting in your dog not getting too hot.

Ice pack vests work to keep your dog cool by simply putting gel-chilling ice packs, or normal ice cubes, into insulated pockets within the vest. The ice works to keep your dog comfortable in the heat for a couple of hours.

But there’s more to it than just those simple answers! In this article, we’ll elaborate more on the following:

  • The difference between the two vests
  • How each vest works
  • Other ways to cool your dog

If this sounds interesting to you then keep reading!

german shepherd and husky heat stroke in grass
Photo by Rachel on

Evaporation Vests and Ice Pack Vests: What’s The Difference?

Pet parents might be asking if there really is a difference between the two types of vests. The answer is that yes, there is! These pieces of cooling gear have specific strengths for the type of environment you live in, the type of dog you have, and more. Let’s first take a look at evaporation vests.

How Do Evaporation Vests Work?

As we mentioned earlier, evaporation vests work by taking a big surface area of your dog that’s covered in cold water and evaporating it and reducing your dog’s body temperature. Most of the cooling jacket options on the market today are this style. 

The evaporation process begins when cool water in the vest changes from a liquid to a gas. In order for water to change from a liquid to a gas, it requires energy. So, energy is taken from the air surrounding your dog’s body as well as the water in the vest. 

Through this interaction, there is a small temperature drop resulting in a lower overall body temperature for your dog. It is the cool air itself around your dog that will cool them down, not the water in the cooling jacket.

In some evaporative cooling vests, there is a unique material in the layers that help speed up this process and allow your dog to cool down in the most efficient way possible.

Evaporative cooling jackets are great because if you need to re-wet the vest while on a walk, all you need is some cold water with you!

However, one of the downsides of an evaporative cooling vest is that the process of evaporation depends on the climate. For example, if you live in a humid area, evaporation may take a long time. As a result, your dog may not get cool quickly enough. But, if the air is dry, and you get lucky with some strong wind, then the process takes place quickly!

So that’s how evaporative cooling jackets work! We still want to fully answer “How does a dog cooling vest work?” for you, though. Keep reading to learn about ice pack vests.

How Do Ice Pack Vests Work?

Ice pack dog cooling vests work a little differently than evaporative cooling vests. As we touched on earlier, ice pack cooling vests use cooling packs, or regular bags of ice, to cool your dog as opposed to water, like evaporative cooling vests. 

These vests work by storing the ice packs in pockets within the vest. In order for this to work, the cooling/ice packs need to be in the freezer long enough to get cold. Otherwise, they’ll melt too fast!

Some ice-pack cooling vests will come with specialized cooling-gel packs designed for the specific vest that you bought! However, you do need to be careful with this kind of product. In rare scenarios, the cooling pack is too cold and can actually hurt your dog.

But, there is a way to fix this! After you take the cooling-gel pack or ice pack out of the freezer, wait a few minutes before placing it in the cooling vest and putting it on your dog. This way, the ice has some time to thaw out, it won’t hurt your dog, and it will still be cool enough to keep your dog cold for a couple of hours.

One of the only downsides to this kind of vest is if the cooling packs get warm while you’re out, there isn’t a good way to cool them down again. That is unless you have a cooler with you. But I’m willing to bet that the odds of you carrying a cooler while also hiking with your dog are pretty slim!

Anyway, that should not deter you from looking into an ice-pack vest! They still work well and get the job done.

dog cooling down on floor

Effectiveness Of Dog Cooling Vests

There have been studies on how cooling vests work and the effectiveness of cooling products on dogs. One study, performed by Canada’s Defence R&D department examined the cooling effect of evaporative vest usage on working dogs, specifically, Mine Detection Dogs (MDD). An interesting outcome is that the average breathing and average concentration of the MDDs improved when using cooling jackets (cooling vests). This data is represented in the chart below:

impact of cooling vest on concentration
impact of cooling vest on breathing

As a pet parent and having a dog with a thick coat of fur, I always want to make sure that my dog doesn’t suffer from excessive heat, heat stroke, or other heat-related issues. 

So my thought is…

If a cooling vest is good enough for military dogs that work under extreme conditions, then it certainly is a great added piece of cooling gear for my pup!

Signs That Your Dog Is Overheating

As dog parents, you want to be able to tell if the body temperature of your dog is rising due to hot weather. In order to prevent heat stroke, it’s important to be aware of some signs your dog might be showing you on hot days. In an article written by the Massachusetts Urban Search and Rescue Veterinary Group, they outline some early signs of heat exhaustion that you should know before it becomes a serious issue.

One of these signs outlined in the article is uncontrollable panting. As pup parents, we all know that panting sometimes causes our dog to “smile” and we find that super adorable and cute. But, in the case of excessive panting, you should work to lower your dog’s ambient temperature before it becomes a serious issue.

Also, if your pup is trying to find shade without any command, this is a sign that they want to prevent overheating. To prevent overheating, your dog may drag you to some shade. In that instance, you need to work to make your dog get significantly cooler before it becomes a medical emergency.

Related article: How Should A Dog Sweater Fit?

Other Ways To Cool Your Dog

So, at this point in the article, we’ve answered “How does a dog cooling vest work?” through the examples of evaporative vests and ice pack cooling vests. But, if it’s a really hot day and you’re out walking your dog for an entire afternoon, you should use some other methods to keep your dog cool.

One way is to find any shade possible. While this may difficult if you’re somewhere with no trees or no cover, any shade will help. Your dog will get to lie down for a minute and take a break.

reducing dog's temperature in shade
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

And while your pup is resting in the shade, make sure to give them water! Dogs need water just as much as we do. So, don’t forget to carry a portable water bowl with you and extra bottles of water specifically for your furry friend to drink!

Another way to cool your dog while you’re out exploring is to let them swim in a lake, pond, river, etc. if you come across one. Allowing them to swim, combined with wearing a cooling vest, resting in the shade, and water breaks will ensure a great day of adventures with minimal risk of heat exhaustion or overheating!

FAQs About Dog Cooling Vests

Are dog cooling vests safe?

Yes! Dog cooling vests are very safe. A cooling vest does not have any harmful chemicals or products in them that could harm your dog.

What are dog cooling vests made of?

Most of the time, they are produced with 100% polyester microfiber. When the microfibers are used in a dog cooling vest, it helps take water away from your dog’s body. As a result, evaporation happens!

Do I need to freeze the cooling vest itself?

No, you do not need to freeze the dog cooling vest itself. Freezing the entire vest may be dangerous for your pup. This could make the vest way too cold. For evaporation-styled vests, only soak it in cold water. For ice-pack-styled vests, only put the cooling gel packs or ice in the freezer.

Our Final Say Dog Cooling Vests & How They Work

We hope we answered your question about how a dog cooling vest works. If you’re thinking about doing so, it’s a good idea to invest in a new cooling vest for your pup! Dog cooling vests are undeniably an excellent investment for dog owners, especially when hot weather rolls around. I believe it’s a great product, especially since it’s straightforward to use. Dogs who need daily exercise, even during the summer, would surely benefit from it.

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