As the name suggests, Saratoga Horseworks is a company focusing on unique horse products. Their only dog-related products are the K9 Kooling Coat that we are reviewing now, and their K9 Kool Crate Cover made from the same material. All their products are made in the US with attention to all small details.
Some would argue that wolves or hunting/guarding/herding dogs never needed a colling vest or a cooling mat, and they were all fine, so all these products are just the result of the “dog mom culture.”
Well, if you think about it, there are many differences in our dogs’ lives these days compared to even a few hundred years ago. First of all, dogs used to live outside 24/7, so they had weeks/months to get used to the weather warming up at the beginning of the season. These days, most family pets spend most of their time in an airconditioned or at least a somewhat temperature-controlled environment, so it's much harder for them to handle the heat when they go out.
Another difference is that traditional working dogs used to sleep through the hottest part of the day - preferably in a hole dug under a bush - and they didn't venture out unless there was something worth checking out.
These days we might have to take the dogs for a quick walk in our lunch break, or we take them with us for a vacation to a sunny beach, or they sit with us on a boat/SUP in the sun. There are also service dogs and working dogs who need to work even when it's hot, and their owner can't choose to only walk them early in the morning and late at night when it's cooler.
There are also many widely different breeds with very different needs and limitations. Originally dogs were bred for practical reasons, but as we all know, in the modern ages, most breeds were more bred for looks which took them far from those original working dogs/wolves.
Dogs are involved in our lives in very different ways than they used to, and many of them need some help to adjust to the situations we put them in. Does that mean that all dogs need a cooling vest/cooling mat or another cooling product? Absolutely not, but learning about these products and knowing when and how to use them can save dogs’ lives.
If you want to read more about the pros and cons of many different cooling products, check out our article introducing many options!
Evaporation-based cooling vests work by creating a big surface for evaporation. They utilize the same process when humans sweat to cool down because when the water changes from liquid to a gaseous state, it pulls energy from its surroundings, creating a small temperature drop.
Other vests do not provide active cooling but help the dog by reflecting the sun. The advantage of this method is that you can use it anywhere, anytime, without needing to carry extra water or make the dog wet. The reflective vest behaves like a partial shade over the dog, which can be great if they have to wait on the sun during a show/competition or if you are doing long-distance hikes.
While this technology can be beneficial in many situations, it also has clear limitations that are very important to understand to keep the dogs safe! Although they are still called “cooling vests,” these don't cool the dog down and will not limit them heating up due to exercises; it only slows the temperature increase due to heat radiation. Imagine playing fetch on a hot and humid day in the shade: the dog will still overheat fast, although slower than they would in the sun.
Don't forget that a vest doesn't completely cover the dog either, so their head and neck are still warming up in the sun, and the material still lets 30% of the radiation through.
The K9 Kooling Coat is made of Oasis fabric that Saratoga Horseworks also used for their horse turnout sheets. This is a 100% polyester mesh that's durable, breathable, and reflects UVA and UVB radiation. Additionally, this rigid material feels somewhat cool to the touch.
For an ideal fit, you want the coat to cover the dog's back all the way. As you see in the photos, the size 18 coat was a little too short on Mia, but it was enough to test its effectiveness. There is some adjustability in the sizing because a buckle secures the front of the coat while the belly band is attached by velcro on both sides. If you would need a new belly band at any point, you can buy that separately. This also means that if you need a bigger or smaller belly band, but the coat itself is the right size, you can size up or down with the band separately.
For an additional cooling effect, you can submerge it in water, but the material is non-absorbent, so it will dry very fast, losing the cooling effect of the evaporation. Pouring water over it instead of submerging it is ineffective because most of the water just repels from the material.
To objectively test the vest's effectiveness, we used the thermal camera that we also used for the winter coat article. The idea was that we go for a walk in the sun and check Mia's coat's surface temperature when removing it. I wanted to see the difference in tempreture on the uncovered, “sunny” vs. the “shady” parts covered by the vest.
Looking closely at the third image below, her coat is a little less warm where the vest covered it, but the difference isn't outstanding.
We repeated the experiment on two different days, first walking for half an hour on a 28 Celsius (82 Fahrenheit) day, the second time walking for 15 minutes on a 34 Celsius day (93 Fahrenheit). The second time we also checked her coat temperature with an infrared thermometer and found a slight but consistent temperature difference when removing the vest showing around 1 Celsius/1 Fahrenheit difference. This is basically within the measurement error of the device. Still, since it consistently showed the difference in favor of the covered area, I am comfortable concluding that although the difference is small, the vest does help somewhat.
Although the reflective vests help slow down the temperature increase, it's hard to tell how much difference it actually makes to the dog, especially if it is worn for a shorter period. The results of this experiment were very similar to what we have seen with the Chillybuddy Aluminet Vest.
During one training, I tried soaking the vest and using it with a fan blowing on it. Although I haven't had any thermal measuring device on me, it seemed to help Mia cool down after working. The vest completely dried and was removed 15 minutes later.
This reflective vest can be helpful if you have no choice but to have the dog in the sun since it will provide some relief for them. However, it does not offer an active cooling effect, and it does not seem to make a significant difference in coat temperature. Therefore, having this coat on the dog will not enable playing fetch or running an agility course on a hot day since they would still overheat.
On the other hand, it can be beneficial when doing a through-hike where limited water access makes using an evaporation-based vest unreasonable. It can also provide some relief for dark-colored dogs on their short daily walks - but again, we have to keep in mind that if a dog is prone to overheat, this will probably not enable long summer hikes either. The Oasis material is very durable, lightweight, and packable, which are all great features if it is used for hikes or off-leash activities.
You can find it on Clean Run's website. For reference, Mia has Size 18, and as we discussed, it was just a tad too short on her, although the chest circumference was just right.
Many of you asked Mia's measurements to better understand the different products’ fit. Your best chance of finding a good fitting gear is always to measure (and remeasure) your dog. Even we grab the measuring tape before getting a new product - even though we tested a lot of them, and have a good feeling of her size by now.
I share her measurements below, but don't go ahead and order the same size just because your dog is similar to Mia ;)
• Shoulder height: 19.5 inches (50 cm)
• Weight: 37-44 pounds (17-20 kg)
• Widest chest circumference (where the most harness would have the chest strap): 25-26 inches (63-65 cm)
• Neck circumference for collars: 15-16 inches (38-40 cm)
• Back lengths: 22 inches (56 cm)