On Sale But Is It Safe: Top Paw Neoprene Reflective Life Jacket

This is the first of a new regular feature covering pet products that are on sale at the big chain stores

On sale at Petsmart: Top Paw® Neoprene Reflective Life Jacket Item: 36-28367 Regular price $34.99 to $54.99, On Sale for: $27.99 to $43.99

With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, pools and beaches will begin opening. Many pets also take part in the water fun, though sometimes tragedy does occur. A recent safety trend is use of floatation vests on dogs that are allowed to swim.


In fact, there are many models available in a wide price range, some costing north of $80. Unfortunately, many of the models available are light on details and heavy on fluff. In particular, it is next to impossible to find any information about how many pounds of buoyancy is provided.

LIfe vests (or "personal flotation devices") for humans are required to provide this data - the typical range is 15-25 lbs. The reason for such a low number is that 80 to 90% of the human body is less or equally as dense as water. Somewhat counter intuitively, a person who is in great shape may require a more buoyant vest as they have less fat and more muscle and thus are denser.

It would be helpful to have similar information for floatation devices designed for our pets. Though the devices are clearly physically sized to fit your pet's body, that in an of itself does not mean the vest provides adequate floatation.

Top Paw

Looking at the Top Paw Neoprene Reflective jacket (please see the link above for photos at the Petsmart website) I immediately see a problem in that almost all of the floatation material is located high up on the dog's back. Only two small pieces are attached under the chest and neck.

On the positive side, there does not appear to be any range of motion issue. Some floatation devices for pets are too restrictive and can make it more difficult (and tiring) to swim. [Always try the vest on for size and see if your dog appears comfortable walking with it on.] The strap to help pull the pet out of the water, and the vest itself, is positioned closer to the head than the tail which is good - this helps prevent the head from dipping in the water when pulling upward.

The jacket comes in two colors, bright yellow and safety red, both with embedded reflective strips. Ideally the color would be life vest orange but forced to chose, I would select yellow as the better all around choice and to avoid issues that rescuers may have with red/green color blindness (yellow stays yellow). Contrast is important to visibility and bright yellow motion should be easier to pick up early and late in the day.

Is It Safe?

There do not appear to be any inherent safety issues with the product itself. However, I do not believe that it adequately fulfills the role that pet parents would believe it should provide, namely safety buoyancy. Even so, this jacket does provide valuable visibility to locate your pet in the water which is critical if the pet is in duress. From a value standpoint, even at the sale price, a pet parent may be able to find a better floatation device for $10 or $15 more.

Grade: MIXED

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