Here's how to decide, as suggested by veterinarians.

By Caroline Biggs
April 30, 2021
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If you have a dog or cat that struggles to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, a heated or cooling pet bed might be the solution. "A heated bed can work by warming a pet with an internal electric heating coil or can be constructed out of certain materials to capture the pet's body heat and self-warm," says Dr. Jessica Herman, DVM of Fuzzy the Pet Parent Company. "Cooling beds come in several forms, including raised mesh beds, plush gel beds, cooling memory foam beds, and water beds."

french bulldog wrapped up in gray blanket
Credit: Anne Duden / EyeEm / Getty Images

Your choice of pet bed for your four-legged family member can provide them with much more than just cushioning and coziness, according to Dr. Jamie Richardson, DVM at Small Door Veterinary, who says certain styles of heated and cooling beds can provide dogs and cats with orthopedic support on whatever surface they like to rest. "For instance, I have found that for dogs that really love that tile and hardwood floors, cooling mats that have a pressure-activated cooling gel that absorbs body heat while providing some cushion from the ground are the best choice indoors to convince older pets to lay on a softer surface," she explains.

Curious whether or not your pet could benefit from a heated or cooling bed? Dr. Herman and Dr. Richardson breakdown the benefits of heated and cooling pet beds—and when you should consider buying one for your furry friend—ahead.

Buy one if you have a pet that suffers from chronic pain.

Heated beds can be especially helpful for older pets with arthritic pain, or animals that suffer from a painful condition. "Heated and self-heating pet beds can help ease joint and muscle pain in senior pets suffering from arthritis or back pain," Dr. Richardson explains. "They can also be helpful for pets that have lost body fat in their older age and may not be able to thermoregulate to keep themselves as warm as normal."

Likewise, Dr. Herman says that cooling pet beds can provide comfort and support to dogs that struggle with chronic pain. "Cooling beds can be beneficial to dogs experiencing pain, inflammation, or cancer, as well as brachycephalic breeds (with condensed snouts)," she says.

Buy one if you live in an extreme climate.

Dr. Richardson says pets that are exposed to colder temperatures, particularly ones that spend a lot of time outdoors, can benefit from having access to a heated bed. "In colder climates, heated pet boxes can provide warmth to outdoor pets, and lifesaving protection against the elements for feral or outdoor barn cats," she explains.

On the other hand, Dr. Richardson explains that pets that live in warmer climates may enjoy a cooling bed that supplies a place to cool off outdoors. "For instance, the 'cot' style beds are great for outdoor use as they are easy to clean and take advantage of cooling breezes," she explains.

Buy one if you have pets that run warm.

Dr. Richardson says that cooling beds can work wonders for dogs that get hot quickly and seek cooler surfaces to lay on, such as tile and hardwood floors. "These beds can help provide support and comfort—and reduce the risk of pressure calluses or sores forming over the joints —while helping the pet stay cool," she explains. "These are particularly enjoyed by dogs that tend to run warm, such as large breed dogs, dogs with thick, heavy coats, overweight dogs, and brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs."

Know when to avoid a heated or cooling pet bed.

If your pet is an aggressive chewer, Dr. Richardson says they're probably not a good candidate for a heated or cooling bed. "If your pet chews or ingests parts of a cooling bed they can be at risk for an intestinal blockage or toxicity from the inner gel material that some of these contain," she explains. "For electrical heating beds, if your pet were to chew these they would be at risk for electrocution or thermal injury."

Additionally, Dr. Richardson warns that heated beds can be especially dangerous for puppies or kittens, as well as older pets that have significant mobility issues. "Electrically heated beds should never be used for puppies, or animals that cannot move around quickly, who may have trouble moving off the heat source when they become too warm," she says.

Consider your alternatives, too.

It's also important to remember that heated pet beds are often designed with an electrical component, which Dr. Richardson says can create a fire hazard similar to electric blankets for people. "You want to ensure that you never leave an electric heating bed 'on' while unsupervised, and always inspect the cords and bed regularly for damage, and ensure you are using a product that meets modern safety standards," she advises.

If you're worried about the dangers of an electrically heated pet, Dr. Richardson says there are safer alternatives that supply plenty of warmth, comfort, and support. "Keep in mind that most beds that are composed of thick memory foam, fleecy material, and especially those with bolsters on the sides can keep a pet warm without electric heat," she adds.

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